”Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Romans 12:2)
"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven" wrote John Milton. This echoes the truth of Romans 12:2 which highlights the importance of letting God transform our lives by reprogramming our minds. There is a tremendous power of Love that is in each one of us. All of us have the potential to change the world. We don't need unusual training or ability to change the world. All that is required, according to Matthew Barnett, is "a heart that cares, a mind that’s determined, a spirit that’s willing, a cause that matters, and a person to help."
What we need is a radical change in mindset to recognise and understand the critical difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a transient feeling of pleasure that depends on our external circumstances. Happiness has been described as the “unseen dollar” and is increasingly seen as an important factor for the health, well being and progress of the people.
Bhutan is seen as the “poster child for happiness” but many Western journalists fail to recognize and understand the underlying spiritual foundation of happiness in that country. Joy is an inner state of being that we can experience even in pain, suffering and sorrow. We can try to find happiness in hedonistic pursuits but we can only receive joy for it is a gift. In fact, it is through pain, suffering and sorrow that we often receive the gift of joy. In a world that is increasingly becoming hungry for money, the people are experiencing a famine of joy,
Happiness is when our desires and wants are met but joy comes through what we have given of ourselves to others. When we pursue happiness, our energies are spent on earning external and materialistic rewards for ourselves. When we seek joy we embark on a journey to discover the potential for love that is within each of us. As we become channels of God's love, we receive the inner rewards of joy, hope and peace. The gurus of the world promises us many ways to find happiness but Jesus Christ came to bring joy to the world. Hence we sing the Christmas carol:
“Joy to the world! the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing”
We may experience happiness in this world but we can only find joy in the Kingdom of God. Our struggle is to live in both the world and in God’s Kingdom. But the good news is that when we confess Jesus as the Son of God, we have God living in us and we live in God (1 John 4:15). How then are we living out this good news?
Unfortunately, many of us Christians often end up becoming Pharisees who “crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden." (Matthew 23:4) We read the bible and focus on the rules on how to please God instead of reading God’s love messages to us so that we will be witnesses of the reality of having Christ in us and sharing the love of Christ with others.
In her devotional, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young makes the very important observation that when we feel driven to serve God we may see Him as a harsh taskmaster instead of a loving Heavenly Father.
We often forget that God is sovereign and that His ways are higher than ours. Our love for God becomes lukewarm and we lose our desire for His loving Presence.
The worldly attitude of seeking happiness will lead us to lose our love for God. It is only when God is our first love that we will filled with His goodness and find the blessed assurance of the inexpressible joy of being lost in the wonder of God’s love. Before we can change our feelings, we need to change our behaviours. To change our behaviours, we need to change our thought patterns. And to change our thought patterns we need to change our beliefs. Psalm 13:5-6 gives us the secret recipe to cope with the times when God seems far away:
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.”
When we are born of the Spirit and truly believe that we are the children of God, we will learn to trust God when we face the storms of life. As we put our trust in God, we will change our responses to negative circumstances in our lives from complaining to thanksgiving. And when we are filled with thanksgiving, we will be filled with joy.
The hymn, We’ve A Story To Tell To The Nations, spells out our calling to change the world by sharing the message of God’s love through the story of our lives. Our lives are to be the songs of God’s love that will conquer evil and to lift up the cross of Christ. When we do so, all the world’s great people will come to know the wonderful truth of God’s Kingdom of peace and light. We have the potential to change our world but it all begins with the inner journey into our own hearts. May our Lord reprogram our hearts so that we can sing:
“For the darkness shall turn to dawning and the dawning to noon day bright
And Christ’s great Kingdom shall come on earth, the Kingdom of love and light.