Joyous Heart :: By John Lysaught

There is no doubt we live in dire times in this world. There is seemingly no end to the demise that we face each day and the marginalization we, as Christians, face. We are pushed down, shoved aside, and otherwise, to put it lightly, disliked by the world at large. In the face of this constant bombardment of negativity, we can be affected by such and can begin to have a sense of pessimism on our part as well or a sense of despair. And yet, this does not need to be so. Although we live in a fallen world, we are not bound to live this way. There is so much to be joyous about in our faith and in our Lord and Savior Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

In Isaiah 26:3 (KJV), we are told, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”

Doesn’t this verse just make your heart smile a little bit? When our minds are focused on God, there is not just peace, but perfect peace in our hearts. No matter what we are facing in our lives or how bad things have the potential to get, we can have perfect peace, and with peace comes joy. No one can take this from us. No one can rip it out of our hearts either. The joy and peace of God is ours to hold tightly and dearly.

When we have a joyous heart, we can’t but help to praise and rejoice in God. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”

Even in this horrid and fallen world, we can still rejoice and praise God. Salvation through the sacrifice of Christ is our greatest rejoice. Christ died for us. He died for our sins. Salvation through belief in Christ’s death and resurrection is momentous and should give us joy. When things are not going well, remember this: our future is not here in this fallen world. We are partakers of something greater and eternal as adopted sons and daughters of the Lord Most High.

In Philippians 4:13, we are told, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Regardless of the ills we face, there is hope, and hope only in Christ. He is our strength, not man. Man is doomed to fail us, and any hope we have in man is fleeting and misguided. Man cannot give us salvation. Man cannot grant us a ticket to heaven. Man can only provide temporary happiness, but Christ offers unlimited joy and eternal hope. Man cannot strengthen us the way Christ can. Man may motivate us but cannot give us the power and strength only found in Jesus. Jesus is our foundation. He is the eternal love we so earnestly seek but cannot find in man alone.

Romans 15:13 says, ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

When we believe, we are filled with joy and peace. Believing and having hope are not attached to grief or unsettled hearts. It is quite the contrary. Peace brings joy and visa-versa. And how are we reassured of our joy? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the reminder in our hearts of the promises of eternal life with Christ. The Holy Spirit, He is what motivates us to keep moving forward and maintaining our relationship with Christ. Nothing in the world compares to the power of the Holy Spirit. He cannot be substituted or replaced by anything the fallen world has to offer. The Holy Spirit is the only means to reassurance us of Christ’s sacrifice, grace, and eternity with our Father.

According to Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Holy Spirit “is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

When the Holy Spirit resides in us, all these things are at our disposal. We really should not be stressed out about the things going wrong in our lives or the temptations or trials we face, or what is going on in these end-times. We need to remind ourselves of this verse because it encompasses every aspect of our emotions and disposition that will lead us to having joy in our hearts for Christ, regardless.

When the Holy Spirit is deeply embedded in us, these attributes will reveal themselves in our lives and interactions with people. People will want what we possess and will seek us out because they don’t know, but want to know, how we can have such calmness and joy even when faced with dire situations that would knock the non-believer down.

Even in trying times we can have joy. James tells us in James 1:2-3, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

When we face temptations, it is hard. The power of our resolve in Christ is tested by temptations. There will be many kinds of temptations to face each day, but they are not uncommon to man; for Christ faced the same core temptations that we face, and He overcame. We can have resolve, hope, and joy knowing this fact. Resolve because, if Christ could do it, so can we. Hope, in that we will overcome. Joy, in that when we do overcome, our sense of strength and closeness to Christ grows, and this will give us more strength and power to face any temptations that come our way.

I could go on and on about this. Joy is given to us freely through our faith and hope; we just have to recognize it is there for us to partake in each and every day. Joy in our hearts is at our disposal through hope in Christ and through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We will face adversity by Satan and the world to curb our joy and hope. Satan will use temptations, trials, and tribulations in an attempt to cut off the joy we have in and thru Christ. Will Satan win sometimes? Don’t fool yourselves, because he will. But this should not stop us in growing in faith and hope to affect the level of joy we have in our faith. Regardless of the negativity around us, regardless of the woes of the world, neither can nor should negate the joy we have in Christ.

Christ is love; and through His love we have joy.

Fight the Good Fight :: By John Lysaught

Life can be wearing. Not about God of course, but of being surrounded by everything opposite of God. I can’t seem to get a break; and if I’m feeling this, then I know you are too. Everything around us is either anti-Christian or working towards it. Even in my little place in this world, I feel it and I feel it is getting worse.

In a way, I feel tired. It tires me out to see the world in disarray. I mean, I don’t stress about it because it must happen, but it still wears me out. There is just a feeling of impending negative pressure to be a Christian now. I can’t explain it or put my finger on a specific example, but it is there; and I think you know what I mean.

I feel we are a dying breed in this world. Christians are being wiped out in the Middle East, they’re being put to the side for Muslims in Europe, and I feel that same fate is coming home to us here in the U.S. It seems like it is going to be death-by-a-thousand-cuts kind of thing. I just pray we are home with Jesus by this point. Though it makes me wonder how bad things will get before we are taken up or how much we have to endure before then.

I’m not greatly schooled in prophecy, but rely on you other smart people for that; but I do wonder how bad it will get, really get before Jesus comes to get us. How much can we endure? How persecuted must the Church (not just the U.S.) face before we go home? It troubles me. It troubles me to think of whether what is happening to Christians in the Middle East will happen to us – maybe not physically, but being politically murdered instead.

1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

Fighting the good fight is tiring. If you’ve ever done sports or have been in the military, going beyond what you are used to, or being pushed to the limits is so tiring. When this happens, you just want to stop, but you can’t because others may be relying on you to do your part. This is what we need to do for our faith – fight the good fight.

I remember once, as a police officer, I was in a fight along with my partner against some gang members. We were outnumbered six to two. As tired and exhausted and stressed as I was, I could not stop because my life and my partner’s life depended on it. As tired as I get with being in this fight for our faith, I can’t give up either because the eternity of others is at stake. If I give up the fight, how will I be an example to others or do the work of God for others. We all need to hold strong, no matter how tired we feel from the evil that confronts us.

Ephesians 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

There is no doubt that the enemy is working overtime in our era. He thinks things are aligning for his victory, but we all know that is a farce – he has already lost the war. The battles are what we face each day though.

Recently, I have seen, in political circles, that the name Jesus is being invoked to further their agenda.  With the immigration debate, I saw a post on a social media site that said “what would Jesus do” about the border wall and how Jesus would be against it. I was taken aback by this. I answered the post with an evangelistic response with hopes it would at least touch a few people who saw it.

Our job is to not fight against people, but the evil that they believe and the lies put out by Satan through men. We should not fight evil with evil, but we need to fight evil with love and truth. There are many people who have been so blinded by the enemy that they can’t see past their noses. This is fighting the good fight, and we need to do so to the very end. We need to do our best, through love and compassion, to take the blinders off those deceived so they can see the true light of Jesus and the promises of His saving grace.

Is this easy? Nope, it sure isn’t. We live in a politically charged time that is greatly opposed to the truth of God. They believe in anything but God and do their best to silence us through the justice system and society. What are we to do? Stay silent? Bow down to those who detest us? NO! We must stand and be strong in our faith and beliefs.

1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

We are not alone in this world in our battle with Satan. There are countless others facing the same or worse than us here in the U.S. We all hold tight to the Truth of God, regardless of where we are from. We are all bound by the same faith and hope in Christ. We cannot shelter in place and hide in the shadows of the world. We need to spread the Word and the love of Jesus to the world.

Personally, I get a sense that there are a lot of folks who hide their faith from others for fear of offending others or being attacked by others who don’t believe or know the truth as we do. We can post memes on social media to proclaim our faith or put bumper stickers on our cars, but what about face-to-face with others? How can we fight ignorance if we are unwilling to give truth to others?

Once, a fellow church member of mine told me that he spreads the word of God through his example of living a good Christian life and that this was good enough for evangelism. Shoot, there are many unbelievers that live good lives too. Where are the interpersonal interactions with others? How many opportunities have we all missed to insert the love and truth of God into the conversation?

Opportunities abound to share the hope of Christ to others. I’ve missed them only to beat myself up afterwards because I didn’t think I could be a good spokesman for God. My boldness in Christ was weakened because of a lack of self-confidence, not in God, but in myself. These moments missed are regretful, but I can only work to do better next time and let the Holy Spirit speak through me to others.

How do we fight the good fight? Through constant prayer and study of the Word. A soldier can fight without training but will not be effective without training. For us to be effective, we must train. We train through study of the Word and through prayer. When we do this, we are strong in our faith, and our confidence will be greater.

Fighting the good fight is difficult. We live in trying times, and the fight will not end until we go home.  Through the Word and through prayer, we can help open the eyes of others for the Kingdom of God.  Don’t hide in the shadows but live boldly and proudly for Christ. There will be resistance, and you will face hate; but there will be those who respond, and they will see the light and will respond to the calling of our Father.