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TITLE: Stealing The Joy
By Marilyn Klunder

This article was written upon hearing the grumblings of a generation of church-goers who did not want to see change. This generation was content to grumble and be the "Church of Sit and Listen."
She perceived that no one who finds herself up on the slopes of the Kingdom of Love can possibly dogmatize about what is seen there, because it is only then that she comprehends how small a part of the glorious whole she sees. All she can do is to gasp with wonder, awe, and thanksgiving, and to long with all her heart to go higher and to see and understand more. --HINDS FEET ON HIGH PLACES by Hannah Hurnard (pgs 205)

Inside this wonderful book, by Hannah Hurnard, is a beautifully written allegory about the transformation that takes place as we give way to our own desires and accept the will of the one perfect King. The above paragraph describes the first thoughts of a transformed being who sees, for the first time, her surroundings through the eyes of her surrendered will.

For those of us who have taken this journey we can relate to the astonishing joy and awe and beauty of looking through the eyes of Perfect Love. Do you remember that feeling? I do. Do you remember feeling great peace, the “inexpressible and glorious joy” and a burning desire to share this with others? I do. Do you remember the endless energy you had in completing your tasks in service and ministry? Do you remember the joy of fellowship with the community of Christ? I lift my hands and say, I do.

But what happens when all of a sudden you realize someone has stolen your joy. It happened like a thief in the night! You just wake up one morning and realize that you don’t see the same beauty anymore and the peace you once knew has given way to worry or anger and your desire to share with others has been replaced with dread of rejection. Your energy is zapped and the thought of community of any kind leaves you nauseous. Again, I lift my hands and say, I do!

I remember the very first time my joy was stolen from me. The daycare director at our church and myself had decided to sponsor together a parenting program called “Raising Positive Kids.” We had decided to split the cost of the program, guest speaker and refreshments and invite not only our church members but also the surrounding churches and the parents of the daycare and preschool. I did most of the administrative work, making up flyers and getting the information out to the public. I did everything I knew how to promote this event. We sat up tables and chairs and made refreshments. We greeted our guest speaker and waited for the participants to show. NO ONE CAME! (except an Elder who came in dressed in his mowing/painting clothes looking to borrow something from the church) I can not express to you the devastation I felt. I cried for days. I was so let down by the actions of other Christians who gave no thought to the amount of work or money that went into providing this program or the embarrassment of how our church looked to the guest speaker. I was so crushed, instead of joining in the fellowship after Sunday service I went and sat in my car. I could not even force myself to be in their (the community of Christ) presence. I was embarrassed and ashamed and just plain angry. I could not understand their actions.

Anyone working in ministry, whether paid staff or not can probably relate to that experience. Week after week, month after month, year after year, there are countless hours put into events, programming and classes by servants who feel a passion to reach another lost soul for the Kingdom of Christ. A passion to grow God’s kingdom one soul at a time. And to the shame of the church, there are also week after week, month after month, year after year, those who walk out of a service, event or program and steal the joy of the other servants with their words of ridicule, complaints and opinions.

Our churches today have been accused of being driven by opinion (and everyone has one) instead of the mission of Christ. How do we fix this? I suggest we start with prayer, and in that prayer we petition for the forgiveness of our sin of stealing the joy of other servants and pray for the renewal of our hearts and minds to the love of Christ; His holy and perfect love.

We then must also surrender our thoughts to the lordship of our Savior. We should always measure our thoughts and actions to the mission we profess to serve and always bring our thoughts under the full submission of Jesus Christ. Before we speak we must consider if we are speaking the truth in love or are we just expressing a personal preference. Test yourself in this. Compare your thoughts to the Word of God and then ask God to bring your thoughts under His control.

Also we must choose our words wisely. James, the half brother of Jesus, addresses the use of our tongue. He describes it as “a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts,” and compares it to a small spark in a great forest. “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”(James 3:5-6 NIV)

That last sentence sends a shiver of fear through me. To think any part of my body can be touched by the flames of hell is unacceptable to me. If I use my tongue as a sword may it not be controlled by the flames of hell but by the word of God; the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17 NIV).

With our thoughts and tongue under the submission of Christ we then will be able to fulfill His command to “love one another deeply from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22 NIV) and to build each other up in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you haven’t let other servants of the Lord know how much they are appreciated; maybe now is a good time to do so. And the next time your thoughts are consumed with complaints instead of encouragement; take them before the throne of our Lord and place them under His perfect will.
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