Tag Archives: Joy

Sailing Through Life – Part 4 – Staying the Course


It was the first day on board the ship. Outside it was cloudy and sprinkling. Yet as we looked over the sea it was quite a sight. Over the ship’s bow we saw very dark clouds. Looking starboard at about the 1:00 position there was a patch of blue sky; about the 4:00 position there was rain. Aft-ward it was cloudy. Port-ward it was partly sunny.

It struck me that the Captain didn’t point the ship towards the sunniest area nor change direction to avoid rain. Rather he stayed the course. He could stay the course because the route was clearly marked out for him and he was singularly focused on where we were headed. With his eyes on the goal he was not to be deterred. The important thing for him was not seeking sunshine or avoiding the rain. The important thing was to get where we were headed on time and safely. So he followed the course laid out.

It occurred to me that I’ve heard this before somewhere. Sure enough, in Hebrews 12:1-2.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus focused on a guaranteed future joy of reunion with His Father. That singular focus empowered Him to stay the course no matter what the weather.

With our cultural weather today it is getting increasingly harder to openly follow Jesus. We are easily tempted to back off, to become distracted, deterred or detoured. So it is increasingly important to focus on Jesus, no matter the weather. It was the same for the Hebrew Christians. so the author encourages them: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3) Stay focused.

Storms may strike, rain may pour down, clouds may darken, the weather may work against us. We will always encounter sorrow, grief, disappointment, trial, trouble, defeat, and failure as we sail through life. Stay focused on Jesus. Stay the course. Run with perseverance.

Because our Captain stayed the course we arrived at our first port safely and on time – and even with bright sunshine! Be assured the day is coming when we will arrive – safely and on time – in the Port of Jesus. We will see Him face to face. With that joy before us we can focus on Jesus. Stay the course.

G. A. Studdert-Kennedy penned it poetically (1) :

Sometimes I wish that I might do
Just one grand deed and die,
And by that one grand deed reach up
To meet God in the sky.
But such is not Thy way, O God
Not such is Thy decree,
But deed by deed, and tear by tear
Our souls must climb to Thee,
As climbed the only Son of God
From manger unto Cross;
Who learned, through tears and blood and sweat
To count this world but loss;

Who left the Virgin Mother’s Arms
To seek those arms of shame,
Outstretched upon the lonely hill
To which the darkness came.
As deed by deed, and tear by tear
He climbed up to the height,
Each deed a splendid deed,
Each tear a Jewel shining bright,
So grant us, Lord, the patient heart,
To climb the upward way
Until we stand upon the height,
And see the perfect day.

(1) ROUGH RHYMES OF A PADRE, “Patience”, Hodder & Stoughton Limited – Publishers, Toronto, Canada, p. 52-53, from https://archive.org/details/roughrhymesofpad00studuoft/page/n9

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ yet!

In the late 1800’s a little boy who lived in the country reached the age of twelve. He had never seen a circus. So when a poster went up at school announcing that the circus was coming to town, he ran home and asked, “Daddy, can I go?” The family was poor but the father knew how important this was so he said, “If you do your Saturday chores ahead of time I’ll see to it that you have the money to go.” On Saturday the chores were quickly done and the boy dressed in his Sunday best. The father gave the boy a dollar bill and cautioned him to be careful. The boy was so excited his feet barely touched the ground as he headed for the village. (1)

As he came near to the village he saw people lining up along the streets – they were preparing to watch the circus parade into town. So the boy joined the crowd and this was the grandest thing he’d ever seen. Caged animals snarled, bands played loudly, midgets performed acrobatics, and the clowns brought up the rear. As one of the clowns passed by the little boy reached into his pocket, took out his dollar bill, and handed it to the clown. With that he turned and went home. As far as he knew, he had seen all there was to see of the circus – but he had only seen the parade. Things are not always what they seem!

What do you see as you look at your life? Are you settling for only what you know, or are experiencing at the moment? Are you content with second best, ready to settle for the parade passing by? Read on. God wants you to know that no matter what you think you see – “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Psalm 126 is a jubilant psalm in which we discover, among other truths, that God transforms despondency into expectancy and tears of sorrow into songs of joy: “he who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” The Israelites were celebrating their deliverance from Babylon; their long 400 year captivity was over. The impossible had happened – a pagan king had released them. The unbelievable had occurred – they were going home! For so long they had barely dared to hope for this moment. So when it did happen they “Were like men who dreamed. (Their) mouths were filled with laughter, and (their) tongues with songs of joy.” It felt like a dream.

Perhaps you know the feeling of “too good to be true,” of pinching yourself to make sure something is really happening. It happens to the bride who is finally walking down the aisle – to the new president at his inauguration – to the members of the team when they receive the championship trophy – to the wrongly accused prisoner when he’s freed – to the infertile couple who’ve just had a baby. It happened to the disciples when the resurrected Jesus stood before them: “…he showed them his hands and his feet! And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…” (Lk. 24:41) It happened to Peter when the angel miraculously led him out of prison (Acts 12:29): “Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.” It’s always like a dream when God works! But He does.

It’s just that God works in his time. And we are not in His time zone! Over time God transforms despondency into expectancy and tears of sorrow into songs of joy. So it was with these Israelites – their captivity had been great but their deliverance was even greater. They went from exile to ecstasy, from banishment to bliss. In His time, that’s always what God does for His people.

Remember Jesus talking with his disciples the night before his crucifixion? They were deeply concerned about his ‘going away.’ (John 16:19-22): “Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this,

so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, `In a little while you will see me

no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (2)

So maybe you’re tired and teary because your life is making no progress, you have all you can do to stay even – let alone get ahead; maybe your life is bearing no fruit; or you’re worried about your children; or you’re wrestling with unanswered prayers; you’re grieving those who are no longer with you. Believe this: God will work in His time; He will transform despondency into expectancy and tears of sorrow into songs of joy.

How can we be sure? Because by doing so God is honored. “Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” As John Milton penned, “Let us with a gladsome mind, Praise the Lord, for he is kind; For his mercies aye endure, Ever faithful, ever sure.” God will turn people’s thoughts away from self to Himself. And one of the surest ways to do it is for God to transform despondency into expectancy and tears of sorrow into songs of joy – in His time. Whatever the parade you’re watching today, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

(1) http://clownalley.blogspot.com/2009/07/keith-crary-great-circus-parade-2009.html
(2) www.Storyblocks.com

A Word About Tribulating

One of my favorite stories has a devout servant agonizing excessively over a certain experience. She was asked by her mistress, “Why do you agonize so long and so deeply over your misfortune? After all, you’re a Christian and you have the grace of God to help you over times like this.” The servant responded, “Well,

when the Lord sends me tribulation, I tribulate!” Boy does that ring a bell with me – I, too, have often tribulated. How about you? How do you handle the stress of life?



The Apostle Paul handled it this way: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”. (Philippians 4:4) It’s important to know that Paul was in prison awaiting a verdict on his life – if ever he had a right to be stressed out, this was it. Yet 17 times in this letter he mentions rejoicing and joy. There are no loopholes or escape clauses here – just always rejoice. Look at your circumstances and shout a defiant “Nevertheless!”. “Nevertheless, ‘Rejoice.’” The truth is our circumstances need not determine the condition of our hearts.

Rather our hearts can be conditioned by a relationship: Paul says to rejoice “in the Lord.” Rejoice because of what Jesus has done and is doing for you. Never forget that “The Lord is near (at hand.)” Think of a classroom of students. The teacher goes out of the room and remains out for some time. Chances are the atmosphere of the classroom in her absence is different than when she is present. Her presence changes everything. So with Jesus – His presence changes everything. And He is not a teacher standing by us – rather He is the Creator of the world who came to earth to be with us and who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). No matter what we’re going through, no matter how heavy the load, no matter how hard we’re tribulating, we are not alone. Jesus is at hand, ready to help us.

In light of this, says Paul, “Do not be anxious about anything…” The Greek word for ‘worry’ means to tear apart, to distract, to come apart at the seams of a garment. The Latin word for ‘worry’ suggests a violent agitation and turmoil inside a person. The Anglo-Saxon word describes a power gripping a man by the throat. Get the picture? Anxiety and worry tear us apart, create inner turmoil, and grab us by the throat. The reality is anxiety and stress have adverse effects on our muscles, heart rate, blood vessels, and our glands. It is, therefore, important to live by the principle, “Do not be anxious about anything…” It’s a choice we make. Since the Lord is at hand, and since all things hold together in Him, we can release ourselves from the compulsion to tackle our circumstances by ourselves.

I appreciate how a poet penned it:

“Don’t you trouble trouble Till troubles trouble you,
Don’t you look for trouble; Let trouble look for you…
Don’t you borrow sorrow You’ll surely have your share.
He who dreams of sorrow Will find that sorrow’s there…
Don’t you hurry worry By worrying lest it come.
To flurry is to worry, ‘Twill miss you if you’re mum…
If care you’ve got to carry Wait till ‘tis at the door;
For he who runs to meet it Takes up the load before…
If minding will not mend it, Then better not to mind;
The best thing is to end it – Just leave it all behind…
Who feareth hath forsaken The Heavenly Father’s side;
What He hath undertaken He surely will provide…
The very birds reprove thee With all their happy song;
The very flowers teach thee That fretting is a wrong…
’Cheer up,’ the sparrow chirpeth, ‘Thy Father feedeth me;
Think how much more He careth, O lonely child, for thee.’…
’Fear not,’ the flowers whisper; ‘Since thus he hath arrayed
The buttercup and daisy, How canst thou be afraid?’…
Then don’t you trouble trouble, Till trouble troubles you;
You’ll only double trouble, And trouble others too.” (1)

Tribulate or rejoice – the choice is yours! (2)

(1) Quoted by Roy L. Laurin in Life Established: A Devotional Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, Van Kampen Press, Wheaton, IL., © 1948 by Van Kampen Press, p. 46-47

(2This Blog comes from a sermon by Pastor Curry, “Living a Joy-full Life: Control Your Stress” based on Philippians 4:1-9.