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Living with Joy

April 28, 2013

Sunday CantateSunday Cantate

In that day you will say:

“I will praise you, Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Isaiah 12:1-6

The topic for this Sunday is ‘the singing congregation’. I would like to share a somewhat unusual message with you from this text written by Isaiah. It is unusual because it is not frequently heard and because it is challenging. Today, I would like to talk about joy. What a word that is, isn’t it? If you are a person who frequently reads the newspapers or catches the news on the radio, television or even the internet, you know very well that the daily news emanating from the media is not known for bringing us joy. The news is better described as sad. On many occasions I listened to the members of my former congregations and there were people who lived alone and spent their time ingesting the news media. To put it in a more understandable way, their daily mood and faith was ruled by the opinion of the media: ‘Did you read what the newspaper said today?’ ‘Did you watch what happened on TV?’ ‘Did you hear the News?’ ‘Things are going from bad to worse’. Over time I realized that during my whole life, I never have found nor will I find good news in most media. I noticed that the media is, firstly, a good business. And as a good business, they have to ensure their sales if they want to make money. To do this, they have to keep people interested in and attracted to their news. It has been proven that bad news spreads fastest and gets the most attention. Unfortunately, people are more interested in accidents, deaths and the misfortunes of others than in the beautiful, positive and touching things in life. That’s why the media has chosen to publish especially the sellable News and, sometimes, depending on the quality of the broadcast, these negative stories are even sensationalized and exaggerated to heighten their effect.

After realizing this, I decided that I would read more books that can help me cultivate and improve myself and make me rejoice. Of course, the Bible is especially wonderful this way. As a result, my spiritual life and faith in God grew remarkably well, and yet always – I’m not sure how – I was also informed of the most important things. This has been my personal experience.

A good question to ask is: Should we read the newspapers and watch and listen to the news? The answer is: Yes, we should. But for Christians there is an additional condition: ‘As long as you have more faith in the Word of God, in His promises and the joy and satisfaction that comes from living by the good news of God.’ You can reflect: What do you believe in more – the predictions of the news or the promises of God? This type of reflection can be a good way to check whether or not you are being negatively influenced by the media. This negative influence could be robbing you of your joy.

But, as I said earlier, I would like to talk about joy today. Are you a joyful person? Can you find joy in the everyday things of life? If you cannot do so, ask yourself what is preventing you from experiencing joy? Do you know why I’m asking you this question? Because God has called us believers to be happy people that live a joyful life despite the sad things that happen in this world. The word says “Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” Can you sing? Some say they cannot sing because they don’t have an ear for music. Others say they have a problem with their voice. Others make the excuse that no one has ever taught them to sing and they do not know how. Still others do not sing simply because their mood will not allow them.

If you can sing, do it. But sing especially to God. We are not only talking here about singing folk songs, but also about singing to God as part of our praise. Singing is synonymous with joy. If you’re not used to singing to God, today could be your first day. I propose that we start doing it. You will be amazed to see how the simple fact of wanting to praise God with our voices, –no matter if you’re good at singing or not–, will change your mood. At church we sing because we want to honor, praise and glorify God. We want to show respect and honor Him. We want to show that he is our God, our Lord and we come once a week on the day of rest to show Him just that. We come to serve him, hence the name given to many of our meetings or times of worship: services.

But besides this, God desires that we come to worship through singing because singing is synonymous with joy. The person who sings does so because they are glad. But did you what’s interesting? It also works in reverse: The person who wants to be jolly has to sing, and then things will begin to go well in your life. Singing to the Lord gets us out of a state of fear and boosts our confidence and faith. Singing brings our heart into harmony with God, increases our confidence in God and gives the assurance of His presence and protection in our lives. If we want to be happy we must start practicing the things that bring joy into our lives. One of these is singing and praising God, another is focusing on the positives rather than the negative aspects of life.

Are we a congregation that sings? With this question I am not asking if we’re good singers, have a good choir or have good orchestra musicians. I am asking if we have a spirit of praising God every day. Do we focus more on the joy that God offers us or in other things?

Many people are looking for the secret to living happily, which is the same living joyfully.

Today, there are many who agree, –including scientists– that the thoughts we think are crucial for defining both our present and our future. Many are agree that changing our thoughts changes our essence, our spirit. That’s one of the great discoveries of the modern age. The problem is not that people do not know this, the problem is that many do not know how to change their negative thoughts – thoughts of fear and insecurity and their attitude when they say: “It’s easy to say I should change my thoughts when you are not gone through the negative experiences that I have.”

Did you know that there is a way to control and change your thoughts? It’s a method that I call ‘the clown technique’. It’s a pretty good, old philosophy that many have used, but few who have used it were aware they were doing so. You may recall, for example, that old saying: “A brave face.” This is the key:

You have to change your emotions, your feelings! Just as the actor who portrays a clown must begin their performance if they feel like it or not, even if they have had problems or negative experiences that day or not, they must exit the arena and appear to be happy.

We too should put on that face in our lives. Could you? I think so. The big question is: Am I perhaps kidding myself? The answer is: Yes! But do you know that the consequence of deceiving yourself is changing from negative to positive emotions? It changes your mood without you even realizing it. Amazingly, it will change your thoughts too. It is impossible to think negative if you feel good, try it! And best of all is that when you change your thoughts, you begin to convey a kind of energy so powerful that you’re only open to experiences of the same joyful kind in your life. It is a scientifically proven fact from quantum physics that our thoughts are energy and they can even materialize. And not just science corroborates this. The Bible states it in books as old as the Old Testament. Do you want a change of life, both in the present and future?: Change your thoughts. If you cannot change your thoughts, then change your emotions, your feelings and act like the clown. In a few days you will notice dramatic changes. In the book of Isaiah it says: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

We in the church have a very simple way to accomplish this as well, which is singing and praising God like you’re happy now. The simple act of singing and praising God in church and at home achieves a change in your spirit.

You may even sing alone. A song to start the day is like a ray of sunshine in the morning. Singing, so Luther once said, is the best medicine against sadness and melancholy. At the bedsides of the dying it is customary to sing songs that people know. These hymns, they reach their destination, even though these people cannot perceive our spoken word. The singing of a Christian does not depend on their mood or condition; much more is taken into account. As the poet Paul Gerhardt, hymn writer, said: “The sun that smiles at me, is my Lord Jesus Christ, that is, what makes me sing, He is, and He who in heaven is.”

Amen.

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