“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice!”
–Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
“As the newly-appointed mayor of our town, I would like to welcome you to the official ground-breaking ceremony of Rejoicing Falls.
“In order to address the facts that are most important to you, I will field questions as we go along. Before going any further, though, I want to thank the ladies who prepared our delicious feast. Later in the evening we will have games and fireworks, and we’ll provide a tour showing the proposed layout of the town.
“First, if you will allow me the privelege, I would like to make a few remarks. By doing so, I will give you some of the background that you may not be aware of.
“My older brother is really the brains behind the town of Rejoicing Falls, but He is the King of another country now. He is alive and well, and He lived down here at one time.
“My brother has traveled the same path that we all walk, and He founded this town before He left. I am simply His ambassador now, but that wasn’t always the case.
“When He first came to me and asked me to become His partner, I shrugged Him off. I said I would have to think about it.
“In the meantime, I tried to build an empire of my own. My brother learned of my attempts. He told me to call Him when I came to my senses and the road grew too rough. When the worst finally did happen, my brother and I talked late into the night, and He helped me to lay my burdens of greed and ambition down.
“I became a new person, and I could now see that my older brother only had my best interest at heart. I had a lot of questions, but when I really listened to what He had been trying to tell me all along, everything made sense.
“Over the years we have grown very close, and He has encouraged me to help others by carrying their burdens. In this way, I have tried to point them to the same peaceful rest I found in Him, and the town of Rejoicing Falls has blossomed as a result.
“in spite of all my brother had done, I am ashamed to say that I still had my own dreams. He was moving too slowly for my taste, and once again I grew impatient.
““Rejoicing Falls is just an out-of-the-way hole in the wall!” I shouted one day. I decided to go my own way for the second time.
“I mentally shouted at my brother, “The land developers will never find this place! I thought you knew what you were doing. If you didn’t want to build a big city, at least you could build a resort town and make some money from this place. What do you expect us to live on?”
“I will always remember His answer. “Where your treasure is, your heart will also be. I am not interested in developers. I am looking for disciples. I envision this town as being built around the hospitality industry. Therefore, your desire should be to serve all the weary people who find it. They are travelers like you on the road of life, and you can provide encouragement and refreshment to them free of charge.”
““And just how do I do that?” I asked.
““If you are going to be my ambassador, you need to listen carefully and follow me. My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not yours. If you will live in me and teach my commands, my joy will become a part of you.”
“Now before I go on, I see that there is already a question from someone in the back. Yes, please come up here so everyone can hear what you have to say.”
“Mr. Mayor,” a man asks, “I know what your brother said, but I still can’t help but wonder why Rejoicing Falls is so hard to find. If you’re all about being so helpful and hospitable, it seems like there should be more road signs so people can locate us.”
“This young man has asked a very important question,” the mayor replies. “The short answer is that my brother left very clear instructions in His manual. But in order to answer this question completely, I’d like to tell you a bit more about my own journey, for in disgust I have asked a similar question: “Why on earth didn’t you at least pave the road before you left?”
““People often have a hard time finding us, because they don’t pay attention to my instructions,” He replied.
“As far as the roads are concerned, however, I believe my brother would say this: “I did pave them before I left, but the way is often hard because people don’t seek me. Instead, they choose to go their own way.”
“After I did just that for a while, I hit bottom and came back to my brother. I attempted to follow Him, but all of my efforts were in my own strength. When I tried to follow Him alone, I fell on my face. So, giving up, I threw up my hands in despair. My brother did much more than welcome me back. The moment I opened my mouth and surrendered to Him, I rediscovered a new sense of freedom and joy.
“But living the lifestyle that my brother told me about is challenging, and He says that all of us need to count the cost. My life had been empty, but when I exchanged my plans for His, I found purpose and meaning. He gave me a kind of joy that I can’t express, and He also guided me into a peace which passes all understanding.”
At this point in the mayor’s speech, the silence of the crowd is interrupted. “Joy? Peace?” a man in the crowd calls out, as bedlam erupts.
“Yeah!” shouts another voice. “Everything is falling apart in my life too!”
“If you would please quiet down,” the mayor tells the crowd, “I would like to explain what I mean.
“I am not foreign to that overwhelmed feeling either, and I don’t mean to sound like I’ve arrived, because I certainly haven’t. But I would like to tell you what I have discovered.
“Sometimes, all of us are like the disciple Peter, who started out great. Peter loved Christ with every fiber of his being, and he was the first to confess who Jesus truly was. He was often outspoken, and he was a member of Christ’s inner circle.
““Okay,” you might say, “that’s nice. But where does joy fit in?”
“We don’t generally talk about Peter’s loss of joy, so let’s do that today. If you read what led up to Peter’s denial of Jesus, you will see at least three things that are often overlooked, but these things are all true in our lives.
“Remember when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, and He asked His disciples to watch and pray? Being tired, Peter and the others immediately fell asleep. This is huge, because you and I do much the same thing. We often deceive ourselves into believing we are watching when we aren’t, and then we wonder why we fall into tempation. But the Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
“Jesus told us that the Spirit is willing, but the flesh–our old nature–is weak. The only place we can find this strength and joy, then, is by abiding in Christ.
“That leads to our second principle. Although Peter followed Christ when He was being tried, he did so at a distance. It is the same with you and me.
“Many times, when we go through various trials, our focus is on the stormy waves of life, instead of the One who can calm them. Again, without realizing it, we tend to follow Peter’s example.
“In other words, when following Jesus at a distance, we usually end up warm ourselves by the fires of life. These fires can be kindled when we entertain the wrong things, or by the company that we keep. The result is a loss of peace and joy. It all comes back to watching, through prayer and study of the scriptures.
“Let me emphasize what Jesus had to say. “In a fallen world you will have a great deal of trouble, but cheer up and be joyful, because I have overcome this world.”
“Let me close with a little vignette that illustrates the point I am trying to make. A man and his wife had just moved to a new community. After his first day at a new job, he drove home, extremely tired. Everything seemed so strange, and he kept swerving to miss other cars. When his cell phone rang he didn’t want to answer it, but looking at the caller ID, he saw that it was his wife.
““What do you want?” he said gruffly.
“His wife replied, “You’re late, and I was worried about you. I was watching the news, and they’re saying some crazy driver is going the wrong way and causing trouble.”
““Every single person on this road is going the wrong way,” he snapped, “All these drivers are crazy, but I’ll come home as soon as I can.”
“Like that man, we often go the wrong way on the one-way road of life. But instead of pulling over and re-examining the directions, we forge on. Then we lose our joy, and we wonder where God is when things get messy. But that doesn’t have to be the case, for although we might not understand His plans, He will direct us if we are willing.
“So if you are going through a storm, just remember that God longs to be your umbrella of joy in the rain today. But He also wants to be the one who holds it above you.”
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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