Go to the flock and get me two healthy young goats so I can prepare them as the delicious food your father loves.
-- Genesis 27:9
The H.B. Reese Candy Company is a subsidiary of Hershey Chocolate Corporation and the holder of the best-selling candy brand in the United States. Best known for its peanut butter cups, Reese produced a series of TV commercials in the 1970's and 80's depicting unlikely situations where a chocolate bar would become embedded in a jar of peanut butter. "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" exclaimed the peanut butter lover after his collision with the equally careless owner of the chocolate bar. "No," his adversary responded, "you got your peanut butter on my chocolate."
Both parties then took bites of the peanut butter-smeared chocolate bar, exchanged knowing glances and nodded in approval. For them, this accidental mixture of two simple ingredients had turned into a recipe for sweet, tasty joy.
A similar principle applies to our journey as Christ-followers. That's because we need certain ingredients in our faith-walk to experience the joy-filled life that our Creator desires for us. But before we look at that, let's define the word joy by explaining what it's NOT.
First, joy isn't the result of a particular action like buying a car, getting a job or receiving jewelry. Those are nice and can make us happy (for a while), but they're external made-made things that have little to do with authentic joy. Instead, joy is an internal source of gladness and thanksgiving that helps us persevere though the most difficult of circumstances. As Christ-followers, our relationship with Jesus grants us literal access to our Creator--a loving Father who hears our prayers and looks for ways to bless us. So no matter how bad things get for us, we can rest assured that ultimately, our story will end on a very positive note. And that's something to feel joyful about.
Nothing can bring us down when we're filled with joy. The Apostle Paul, perhaps Christ's greatest follower, spent years in prison chained to his guards while under constant threat of execution. But he always prayed with a spirit of thanksgiving. And instead of feeling sorry for himself, he used his circumstances joyously to change the lives of fellow prisoners and his jailers alike--and all while writing much of what we today know as the New Testament.
What's the recipe for a joy-filled, Christ-centered life? The Bible tells us that it's one part unity with other Christ-followers and a measure of regular prayer. Then mix it well with a heaping helping of discernment--the ongoing intentional functions of living, thinking and acting constructively. It's all about habitually looking for the good and dwelling on the positive.
Want to cook up some tasty joy in your life? The right ingredients make all the difference.