December 19th

Believing for Joy 

36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." 37But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."  40When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?" 42So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43And He took it and ate in their presence.  Luke 24:36-43 NKJV 

24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
  John 20:24-29 NIV 

The account of the unbelieving disciples is almost as amazing as the account of Jesusí resurrection.  Even after Jesus appeared to them, showing them his flesh and bones, the disciples had doubts.  Thomas was perhaps the most stubborn to believe, as he had to have hands-on confirmation in order to believe.   

The phrase that struck me was ďthey still did not believe for joyĒ (41).  It resonated with something within me.  Iíve noticed reluctance in my own heart at times to allow myself to fully believe God to the point of getting joyful.  Iíve held myself back perhaps to keep from being let down by the Lord, or to keep from looking foolish.  I think this comes from pride and a desire to be in control of my life.  I suspect that such faith-restraint has deprived me of the fullness of joy, because as long as Iím holding myself back, God is restrained from lifting me up. 

If we can get to the point of willingness to trust God in childlike faith, weíll have a much better chance of experiencing the joy that God wants us to experience.  Jesus explained, ďTruly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all" Mark 10:15 NASB.  Iíve heard this described as ďLet go and let God.Ē  This will involve surrendering our desires for control and understanding of what God is doing in every situation.  It is not that we canít understand what God is doing, but rather that we can be content in knowing as much as he wants us to at that moment.   

Iím reminded of Abraham, who believed God for years and years without seeing evidence that God was going to honor his promise of a son.  During those years he didnít have much feedback from the Lord about the status of the promise, but he continued to believe.  In order for our faith to be true faith, there will be an element of the unknown involved.  Often the unknown part is the part that we donít see just yet.   

If you have been holding back from fully believing God in any area, I encourage you to consider how you might make changes, such that you can experience the full joy of the Lord.   

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus,  Thank you for the faith that you have inspired in my heart.  I repent from any times that I have doubted you and/or not believed for joy.  Please forgive me and renew my faith.  Please help me overcome any unbelief that still lingers in me.  I surrender my desire to be in control and/or to understand everything, and embrace a simple, childlike faith.  I trust in you and receive fullness of joy.  (pause for a moment to receive in silent prayer)  You are a holy God, perfect in goodness.  You are worthy of my devotion and worship.  I praise you and thank you, Jesus! In your name I pray, Amen.Ē