Today is the last day of 2018, and everywhere you look you can’t help but see messages and hear invitations to make 2019 a better year. A year to be happier than last year. We probably easily agree that all of us want to be happy. Most of us would even say that we want to live a full and satisfying life, a life of joy.
Isn’t it great then that God wants us to experience that? Jesus said “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”– John 15:11 So, if we want joy, and Jesus offers us joy, why then does it seem that consistent happiness often eludes us?
Consider that the earning power of the baby boomers and Gen X’ers, increased dramatically over that of any previous generation in history before them. They have more money, more leisure time, more access to sports, travel, and entertainment than any society has ever experienced and yet these two groups are experiencing a tenfold increase in depression over previous generations. It would be logical then to surmise that if the attainment of stuff and fun experiences did ‘it’ for us, then Canada and the US should be like Disneyland – “The happiest Place on earth”. But it’s not. Why is that?
I’m convinced that it’s because in this pursuit of joy, we have made it all about ‘me’. We feel that it’s unconditional and doesn’t matter how I live as long as I can keep filling my basket full of goodies. But God says that it’s conditional based not so much of what we do but of what we don’t do.
In Psalm 1 we see that the blessed man is described by what he avoids. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” – Psalm 1:1
Don’t Walk With The World
The problem with most of us is that we have this habit of walking alongside those who try to give us a different message than what God wants us to hear. Our culture is good at that. The culture pounds into us messages that are anti-God and pro-self everywhere you look. So many messages are bombarded at us, messages that begin to sound so good if were not rooted in God’s word.
Here is an example of a statement that I abhor being used. Ever hear the words, “just follow your heart”? That phrase is used in social conversations, movies, songs, and the average person quickly nods their heads in agreement as though it is the deepest of truths that the cosmos could provide. However, Jeremiah 17:9 says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
If that’s true then how could we trust our own heart to be able to follow it in any matter let alone someone else’s? Yet this is one of the messages that so many of us, even in the church, have swallowed and accepted as fact. The truth is that a blessed man doesn’t walk in that type of council – in other words – doesn’t listen to those messages. And by not listening to the messages a blessed person doesn’t stand with the world.
Don’t Stand With The World
We are in danger of beginning to believe the messages that come at us from all over when we stop walking and we begin to listen more deeply. When we do that we are beginning to pause, stop and stand with the world in their anti-God sentiments. The facts are that standing is much more of a commitment than walking. Walking gives us that chance to keep on going, but standing is a picture of rooting oneself in the world system.
Don’t Sit With The World
We move from listening to standing with the world and then ultimately to sitting. We move from listening to doing what we are counseled to do and then we become like the scoffers themselves, sitting and offering man’s advice to others through scoffing the truth. Maybe not in words but certainly in actions, which might simply be in not being willing to walk away from the world and stand up for truth.
Delight In God’s Word
”But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:2
Is that you? When God’s Word is read does that brighten up your life? So much so that you can’t help but meditate on it?
Do you realize that the average family has the television on for over 7 ½ hours a day? And most of us don’t spend more 10 minutes a day in God’s word, and maybe 40 minutes a week attending a worship and fellowship gathering Sunday’s and then we wonder why we’re weak.
Ponder this question. What if we had to hand in a time sheet to God that showed the time spent with him and time spent elsewhere? How would we do? Would you be embarrassed or ashamed?
It says here that a blessed man delights in the law and meditates on it all the time. So much so that it not only becomes a part of him but it produces a delight in his or her heart, or in other words, a deep satisfying itchy joy that can only be scratched by the hearing of more Word.
Don’t Just Read the Word, Be Grounded In It
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:3
A blessed man or woman has their feet ‘grounded’ by thirst quenching water and nutrient enriched soil. If you have ever seen a satellite picture of river systems you will appreciate this picture here. The land is richest and lushest with life along the banks of the flowing river, but as you move away from the water, life becomes scarcer and scarcer until soon all that’s left is desert unless there is another source of water.
Throughout history, civilizations were built up around water sources. A herd of deer will risk life and limb to gather around the watering hole in spite of the alligator or lion ready to have it for dinner – water gives life.
The picture we have here in this psalm is of a continual flowing of refreshing waters that give the tree life. The water flows 24/7 and the tree is able to suck up all it requires to live and not only to live but to produce fruit.
What burdens my heart though is that I know people who will leave after their 40 – 60 minute fix of God’s word on Sunday and will be so excited about living for Jesus but by that same evening will be drunk or high or back into pornography or fighting with their spouse – again. Maybe they have a complacency with anything to do with spiritual things or maybe it’s simply that they continue to struggle with the things that they were so sure were conquered after getting excited at church on Sunday morning. And they want to change but don’t. Why???
It’s because you can’t be watered 40-60 minutes each week and expect to be strengthened, there must be a continual watering. A tree will die without being watered. That is why we need to get involved in reading Gods word, or gathering one or two others who are actively growing in relationship with God to challenge us and keep us accountable and grounded. Don’t expect to grow if you are isolated from others who can speak into your life. The Christian life isn’t a Sunday thing – it’s a lifestyle.
Don’t be Chaff
In contrast, look at how the wicked are compared to the blessed man. The comparison is that instead of strength and life the wicked are like chaff. Chaff is the husk around the wheat kernel, or the brown skin around a peanut. It is like ‘nothing’ and a quick puff of your breath would simply blow it away.
That’s why in vs. 5 we see that the wicked can’t stand before God in the judgment or sinners in the congregation of the righteous. “Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” – Psalm 1:5
Imagine standing before God – perfect & Holy. I think we don’t think about that often enough. And in the world that thought is made light of, “Oh I’ll just deal with the man in the sky when the time comes”. But the problem is that you can ‘deal’ with God as easily as you can ‘deal’ with standing before a nuclear bomb as it goes off. You’d lose – every time.
Imagine standing before God and all you have to show for your life is chaff, nothing to stand on. Well, the wicked can’t stand before God in the end no matter how confident they are today. So, don’t be chaff.
Our world has an expectation about what makes us happy. For that matter they have an expectation about how we are to behave, how we are to act, to think, to be. But it goes against how God has created us to be. We can conform to the world and think that we will be happy and find lasting joy, but ultimately, we will only find that true happiness and joy comes from placing our feet where God has created us to place them, grounded in him.
And one of the most effective ways we can be rooted in him is to immerse ourselves in his word. When you read and study Scripture, remember that it is a lifeline to the Godhead. You are striking your roots deeper and deeper into good life-giving soil and drinking from the living waters. These truths are part of the living water that flows into the roots of our lives.
Be A Rooted Disciple
So, as we enter a new year, make your New Year’s resolution to be a rooted disciple. Someone who grows deep as you meditate on the word made flesh, Jesus Christ day and night. Causing you to grow so that you bear the fruit of Christ-exalting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). This is the source of our ‘joy’ in 2019 and beyond.