This week begins our sermon series on seven decisions that impact our lives. This decision ... I will be joyful ... might just be the most difficult yet the most relevant decision to daily life. In the places I have lived I have met many people. I have a tendency to be pretty trusting and give people the benefit of the doubt, even if a few red flags appear in their countenance and demeanor. This trait has gotten me burned a few times, but I think I will not over-correct and become totally distrustful ... that just isn't me. But, the one character trait I have learned is a red-flag to be avoided is the trait of negativity.
Andy Andrews (writer of the book The Traveler's Gift ) asks if you have ever met someone whose life seems to be getting worse and worse? They tell you the sad story of how each day brings a new negative and they don't mind keeping you engaged for the whole sad story. They will tell everyone who is available how the world, a relative, a friend and life in general has mistreated them. Hee-Haw (the old show from the 70's) even had a song about it called "Pain, Despair and Agony on Me." Then Andy says something that I never thought about until he said it. He says that because of the constant talk about is how their life is getting worse and worse, that person's life really does get worse and worse. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People avoid them. People who would otherwise employ them, relate to them, enjoy them run screaming in the other direction. People who could buy their product or become their friend avoid the negativity. Why? Because they are toxic to relationships, commerce and to what Jesus called "life abundant." Jesus said "I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10, The Message)."
There are two parts to this passage. The second part, "eternal life" is the one we always are fixated on and we look for this in the land 'over yonder.' But Jesus also came so that we can have "real" and abundant life in the here and now. That life won't be found in the negatives or in the Hee Haw song. That life WILL be found in Paul's exhortation to "rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4, NIV)." That life WILL be found by appropriating Jesus' promise from John 10:10 (above). That life WILL be found in choosing joy when it is difficult ... even when we have to search for it.
Last weekend Lee and I saw a movie in which the actress has been pulled underwater and is struggling toward the surface. Her lungs are bursting, she is down pretty deep, and things are not looking good. But she pushes her body and the limits of her lungs toward a surface she knows is up there somewhere. As her face breaks through the surface she draws in a huge breath of air and her face exhibits something that leaves the despair of her circumstances behind (after all, she is marooned, she doesn't know where she is, she has no one waiting to rescue her, and she has no food or provisions). Her face is a picture of pure joy ... thankfulness for the joy of that one breath that will give her life and sustenance. I will work on being joyful. I hope you will join me. Randy