Transforming into the Image of Christ
Remember that old saying "The Lord works in mysterious ways"? I was reminded of that today. A friend from my childhood posted on social media a song. She sang the song herself and it brought a smile to my heart. She was singing for her husband who passed away in 2020 at Christmastime and for my sister, her best friend, who died last week. Strangely enough it was the same song I posted in my blog the other day. To say that God works mysteriously is an understatement. It is more like he works Miraculously.
The miracles that we often ask for are not always the miracles that God has in mind. He could have healed my sister or Teresa's husband, but what if the greater miracle was through their passing thousands were reached with by watching the faith of those who mourn? Someone needed to see Teresa praising God today. Someone needed to read it in my post. Teresa and I both needed to know God was listening to our hearts and that those we love are safe in His arms. The miracles will continue, because the lives we live connect to thousands of others. How we deal with the loss will be remembered by those who just might need a little strength of their own some day.
My mother's favorite verse was "The Joy of the Lord is my strength." So I was thinking about that today as I often do. I finally asked the question, what brings Joy to the Lord? Our praises, our obedience, our love for others all bring Him joy. So how does that strengthen us? I've been given a phrase that I've said a lot lately, Praise Now, Cry Later. I thought at first this was going to become a cliche', however I was thinking about why it is so important to praise first.
We go through a lot of different things. All of them require strength of one kind or another. The emotional strength required to go through another day after losing a loved one can be immense. The psychological strength one needs in overcoming addiction is a daily drain on your mind. The physical strength of a person going through illness can sometimes be a challenge when they have been fighting for weeks with no end in sight. We get knocked down, then we get back up again. Over and over we go through this cycle. When we stop getting back up is where we give up. I've been close to that place myself a time or two, but God always reminds me that He is there.
Now try this. When you get knocked down say Praise God, and mean it. The joy God feels knowing that you are earnestly praising Him even when there is no obvious reason to do so, is the kick starter. Hit it again. Praise GOD! Say it louder PRAISE GOD! His joy then becomes the strength you need to get through and will pick you up. You don't pick yourself up when you are praising Him. He lifts you up in your spirit, your mind and your body.
THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH!
So, if we are obedient, or praising God or serving others the struggle becomes easier. The more you practice praise instead of dwelling in the mire of the situation, the easier each day becomes. Your God has strength enough for every situation. The coolest thing about all of this, and perhaps the most mysterious part, is it draws you closer to the heart of God. You depend more on Him for everything. It is less of you and more of Him.
Paul wrote about it in Romans 12:1-2. It is how we are transformed into the image of Jesus. Imagine Jesus laughing out loud when you praise him with all your heart. His joy is so full that it spills over to your very being. It is like Popeye eating spinach. With each gulp of the joy of the Lord we can feel the spirit of God strengthening us in our entire being. Sometimes that joy makes us laugh out loud. I love those moments of spontaneous laughter. I know they come from God. You can't be sad when you are laughing from your heart.
Imagine Jesus when you are obedient to Him, grinning from ear to ear and saying, "that's my girl" or "that's my boy". He is joyful at your service to others. It fills him with Joy when you walk in faith.
Christians don't change by chance, we change out of love for God and a deep desire to please Him and walk in His love in all that we do. It is a sacrifice of praise, a renewing in your mind. Taking a different approach. It doesn't mean we are perfect, but when we live in faith it pleases God and has a transforming effect on our lives. This transformation is what Paul was talking about and what we should all strive for. It is a great mystery, but also a wonderful miraculous gift.
Let the mystery of the joy of the Lord transform you into the image of Jesus. You will find strength for everything you must endure. The practice of praise and obedience will become second nature as you renew your mind. So praise him in the storm, the heartache, the pain, the addiction and watch the transformation from death into life. See how many people are drawn to Christ because of your obedience. The mysteries will never cease to amaze you and the Joy of the Lord will carry you through it all.
Romans 12:1-2 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Nehemiah 8:10 "Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Hebrews 13:15 "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name."