What steals your joy? How do you get it back?

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By Larry Short

Did you know that Jesus wants us to experience joy? In His “high priestly prayer” in John 17:13, as He was getting ready for a torturous crucifixion and departure from this earth, Jesus prayed in the hearing of His disciples: “I say these things while I am still in the world, that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”

Christ’s desire for us is that our lives be overflowing with joy! But we too often allow that joy to be stolen away. In our May 27, 2012 worship service (MP3) we looked at one thing, and a very subtle thing, that frequently steals our joy: distraction.

In the parable of the sower, Mark 4:18-19, Christ warns of the serious danger of distraction: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Did you know that “the worries of this life” are one of the distractions that has the potential to choke out the word of God in us and make us unfruitful? Like Martha in Luke 10, we might feel we are only “merely distracted,” but Jesus looks at our fixation on busyness and our worries and our upsetness, calls it what it is, and warns us that it can derail us. Distraction can rob us of the joy that He desires us to experience as we abide in Him.

Those of us with this addiction to busyness might think that happiness comes from much activity. But the reality is the opposite: True joy comes when we learn how to release the “good things” in order to focus on the “best thing.”

So, what’s the alternative to distraction? It’s a choice, according to Jesus, and it’s the choice that Mary made in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was preparing her home for a special guest, and Mary came over to help her. But when Jesus arrived, Mary left her sister working and went and sat down at Jesus’ feet, listening to him.

After Martha complained, Jesus revealed that what she had seen as mere distraction was in reality a far more serious problem: “Martha, Martha! You are upset and worried about many things. But few things are needed — indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.”

Mary sat quietly at the feet of Christ and let His Word wash over her. That alone had the potential to transform her life.

When confronted with such a choice, what do we need to do? First, count the cost. As with finding freedom from any addiction, there is a price to healing. In order to focus your attention on the best thing, you may have to give up a good thing or two: a hobby, a favorite TV show, three cups of coffee in the morning, perhaps even a ministry task. None of these are bad things. But sometimes we must give up a good thing in order to find the best thing. Jesus told the rich young ruler to “Go, sell all that you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me.” He knew that was the bitter medicine that young man needed to find freedom from his distractions, and to focus his all on following God.

With Christ, it’s all or nothing, isn’t it? The man in the parable who found the pearl of great price, went and sold everything that he had to obtain the field it was buried in. God’s grace to us is free: but it’s not cheap. It cost Him everything to purchase our freedom. We must be willing to give up everything for Him.

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