If it was possible for a doctor to take the vital signs and do a thorough health check up of our nation right now I would venture a guess that the doctor would say that we have a serious heart condition and the amount of stress, tension, anger, hopelessness, emotional instability, and personal insecurity is a recipe for a major heart attack. This is a serious condition, and unless we take serious action to implement measures to reduce all of the above, a national cardiac arrest is possible at any time. This is a serious diagnosis and a grim prognosis, unless we get serious about some life changes.
Any good doctor would relay this information to the patient with a straightforward clarity that the patient would see must be taken seriously or dire consequences are imminent. Any patient wanting to get well would listen intently to what the doctor says next, as following the prescription the doctor will give is going to be the path back to health. However, many patients, in their quest for healing, will seek second and even third opinions and this can leave the patient in a state of confusion after conflicting reports point to different solutions. What’s a patient to do?
So what is THE prescription for this serious heart condition? Which doctor can we trust? How do we get back to health and stay healthy? I would like to propose the following, given by the greatest of all physicians, God Himself, Who calls Himself, “Jehovah Rapha” God, the Healer! He has given sick humanity a supernatural prescription that if followed, will bring a sin-sick, disease-riddled world back to a state of blessed health. God’s prescription is His Word, written for us and to us before He placed us on His planet. God’s Word is filled with “commands” that if followed, will release life. If rejected, will lead to death.
In our modern culture of personal liberties and freedoms where absolutes are absolutely archaic, commands are seen as oppressive and need to be cast off in the name of, “I know best what I want and need and no one is going to tell me what to do.” By saying this we feel that we are cutting the restrictive moorings of religion when we are actually severing our life line. What if the word “command” was not restrictive, but in truth was prescriptive? That is the essence of what the word command means. The commands of God are actually the prescriptions of God. He does not want to control us - His desire is to heal us. Humanity, for the most part, has been a non-compliant patient and is suffering under the weight of self-medicating remedies that don’t work. It is time to follow the Doctor’s orders!
The Bible is chock full of God’s prescriptions for vibrant physical life as well as secure eternal life. Nothing is left out. A great place to see a compilation of the wonderful remedies of the Word is in Psalm 119. This psalm is an acrostic in the Hebrew language, each letter starting off a new thought on the power of God’s Word. It is worth a detailed study. It is interesting and telling about God’s emphasis in taking His prescriptions to heart. The first verse sets the stage for how to appropriate and assimilate the healing power of truth: “Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts” [Psa 119:1-2 NLT]. The very first word in God's prescriptive answer for the ills of the word is - JOYFUL! Are you kidding me!
How can we be joyful at a time like this? It seems almost indifferent, if not denial, to express joy in the midst of such an awful, hateful, and divisive atmosphere. It seems so insensitive to express joy when heartache and pain are the banners that are flying in the winds of adversity. What does joy have to do with seriously seeking for solutions? How are we expected to be joyful at a time like this? Some explanations are in order…
First off, let’s define joy, as opposed to happiness. Happiness is an emotional feeling and response to favorable conditions in the world that I am physically living in. Joy is a state of being based on the favor of the Lord in the spiritual world that He lives in invading my physical world. In other words, joy is living from Heaven to Earth, rather than from Earth to Heaven. Happiness is focused on control, joy is focused on surrender. Happiness is a temporary state of bliss based on limited resources. Joy is an eternal state of blessing based on infinite resources. In essence, joy is the description of how Jesus lived his life in the midst of this sin-saturated, hostile world. Consider this powerful truth:
You love justice and hate evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else. [Psa 45:7 NLT]
This verse of scripture is pointing to Jesus, who was God in human form, who came to Earth with a passion for justice and righteousness. The scripture states that He was anointed with joy to get this job done. The word “anoint” means to smear or rub over the entire surface. Jesus didn’t get just a dab of joy, He was dripping with it! Think of rubbing sunblock over your entire being so the harmful UV rays of the sun will not burn you. Joy is UV (Ultra Violence) protection but it is also UV (Ultimate Victory) assurance. Being totally covered with this oil makes you so slippery that the enemy can’t get a grip on you!
Consider also, this powerful truth: “It shall come to pass on that day [that] his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil” [Isa 10:27 NKJV]. This verse of scripture is speaking of the power of the anointing of the oil of joy to break off yokes of oppression. The more literal translation of this verse says that the yoke is broken off because of “fatness.” This verse speaks about this anointing of joy actually making us fat, so fat in fact that the yoke of oppression just burst off of us. If we keep gaining this kind of spiritual weight, no yoke of oppression will ever be able to fit! Jesus came to Earth full of God’s glory. Did you know that the word “glory” carries the meaning of being heavy? Jesus gave us this glory before He left the planet. This is truly healthy fat!
Now, the scriptures also say that Jesus was a man “...of sorrows and he was acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3). This does not mean that Jesus was in a constant state of low-grade depression. It means that He was able to understand and emphasize with the pain and suffering of humanity, but without succumbing to the pitfalls of hopelessness. He had the weight of the world (literally) on His shoulders but He remained in a constant state of joy. Is this even possible for the average Mary or Joe Christian who is just trying to maintain a level of faith on a sinking ship?
Most Christians are familiar with the oft quoted scripture, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” We use it whenever we are feeling the tug to give up or give in and need to put on the happy face to keep up appearances or keep our mood presentable for public consumption. Understanding the context of this verse may shed some light on what this means and how to activate the strength that comes from joy. The verse is found in Nehemiah: “And Nehemiah continued, ‘Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!’" [Neh 8:10 NLT]
The citizens of Jerusalem had just finished a massive rebuilding project after being exiled for 70 years in Babylon. At the dedication of the finished project, the Word of God was read aloud to them and they then realized that all the pain and suffering that they endured was caused by rejecting God’s Word. They were so struck with sadness and shame that they began to weep. Nehemiah, their governor, saw what was happening and immediately told them to turn their mourning into joy (prophesied by Jeremiah while they were still in exile, Jer. 31:13) and go celebrate!
So what does this have to do with the joy of the Lord. They were being instructed to enter into what Almighty God was doing at that moment. God was rejoicing over the repentance of His people and their completion of the rebuilding task. The joy of the Lord is a permanent state of being for God, and therefore, should be a permanent state of being for His people. Weeping may last for the night, but joy MUST come in the morning! We may have our moments of serious reflection, weeping, and mourning, but joy must be the prevailing attitude of our heart that informs our actions in life.
When all seems grim, chaotic, and dark we must push aside the nay-saying reports of doom and the harbingers of gloom and catch sight of what God is doing in the midst of it all. Here is another picture scripture paints for us and one that we are invited to enter into: “The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” [Zep 3:17 RSV]
The word exult is a picture of someone dancing and twirling in celebration. What is God so excited about? He is excited to shower His love, grace, and strength on you. He is excited because He already is victorious. He is excited because He wants to share His victory with us. He is so excited that the best way He can express it is to sing at the top of His lungs and invite you to dance with Him. Sounds crazy!
So, in the midst of all this mess, I can see your Heavenly Father walking across the dance floor with His eyes peeled on the droopy wall flowers sitting in the shadows just wanting for this dance to be over. He extends His powerfully loving hand to you and asks, “can I have this dance?” I say we take it. Just get up and dance!
by Pastor Jim Anan