Have you ever heard that annoying knock or ring of the doorbell in the middle of the afternoon right in the midst of a project that your working on… and really don’t want to be disturbed? Then when you swing open the door there stands a nicely dressed, college age young man with a squirt bottle in one hand and a leaflet in the other. You say hello and the salesman, if he’s been doing this for a while, will return your greeting with a big smile and hand you the leaflet that explains all the wonder-working attributes of the cleaning product that he wants to personally demonstrate on your toughest carpet stains in the house.
Does any of this sound familiar? This event seemed like a regular activity when the kids were growing up back in California. Come to think of it… we still get them occasionally in our country neighborhood out here as well! The difference between then and now is that we have a storm door between us and the porch and a 67-pound, exuberant Australian Shepherd who has a very deep and ferocious sounding bark… and stands close to five feet tall when he jumps up and leans his front paws on the door.
Most times he only wants to greet them and have them play with him… although there have been a couple of times that he definitely was not playing around when someone came to the door! His bark changed tones and he meant business… as he must have sensed something not quite right with them and wasn’t going to let them near the inside of the house!
But in the past, Piper would always smile at the interruption of her homeschool class and answer the door with her perky, upbeat personality that could charm a fresh caught salmon away from a black bear. I think her upbeat approach to those interruptions during her day came from a word from the Lord right after our first child was born.
One of Piper’s biggest concerns when we decided to homeschool or kids was that she would no longer be working out in the community where she had daily contact with unbelievers (she had played the piano for the Santa Rosa Ballet Company while attending Jr College, worked as a preschool teacher for almost four years, spent some time working in an office at the Santa Rosa Junior College and then was working at Hewlett Packard when she had our first son). The church that she was raised up in was strong in their teachings about evangelism and over the years she came to take her responsibility to help others come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ very personally.
As she began to plan for Joshua’s education she also prayed diligently about her desire (mixed with a little guilt, I would say) to minister to others. Then one day in prayer the Lord clearly told her that our neighborhood was her ministry grounds and that He would bring people in need of Him right to her front door… So, I think that she saw everyone who came to our home as an open opportunity to share the JOY of her life with them.
So yeah… much to my chagrin, she tended to invite most of the salesmen in to demonstrate their products… unless she spiritually sensed something wrong and then NO-ONE would get passed her into our home! She would give the folks a fair shake at giving their sales pitch and tended not to purchase anything unless she really felt it had some merit and could meet a need in our household. I do recall one cleaning product that really caught both of our attentions years ago.
I happened to be home when the young man came in and cleaned a few tough spots on the carpet that I had never been able to remove. Both Piper and I were impressed and we bought a container of the “highly concentrated” mixture. Supposedly it only took a few drops of the product mixed with water to clean any tough job. Well, you know… I tried it according to the instructions and had no-where near the results that the young man had. So, I kept increasing the amount of product mixed with water and it still didn’t clean as well as demonstrated.
Finally, I used it FULL STRENGTH and experienced better success than when watered down. The product actually worked really well on normal everyday stains in the carpet and marks on the walls and we had it around for a few years until it finally ran out. But there were still a couple of dark stains… like the time our sheltie ate a whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips while we were out and then proceeded to throw it all up on the carpet, right in front of the front door! I guess she wanted to make sure that we saw her mistake as soon as we opened the door to come in that day! To this day, we are still not sure how she got the bag off the back of the counter where Piper had put it for safe-keeping!
My point of all this reminiscing is the lesson we learned from that particular cleaning product. Mainly that most times, in order to do the job right, you have to use the FULL STRENGTH of whatever product your employing for the task at hand! And you know what? We’ve also discovered that the same goes for our Christian walk in this life!
I think that Pastor James was also aware of this natural and spiritual fact. He told his congregation and all the other Christians that his letter reached to “count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of temptations,” (James 1:2 MKJV) I would think that his advice here might easily have been taken as a typo or some similar slip of the tongue when the young church first read his words. Who in their right mind sees troubling times as a joyful situation?
But James was a gentle and wise shepherd to his flock and knew what they would be thinking, so he explained what he meant in the following two verses. He told them that we could respond in this way because we know that God has a plan for each of us. He said “that the trying of your faith works patience” and that we need to “let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (James 1:3-4 MKJV)
You see, when we act out in JOY according to our trust in God and His Word, in difference to the way we may be feeling and/or the hopeless way in which the situation may look, we come through in a better, more fulfilled, perfect and entire place… lacking nothing! But let me point out the measure of JOY that Pastor James speaks of in these tough situations…
He specifically says “to consider it ALL joy…” Not just a little bit, not in a sarcastic manner, not faking it so that people around you will think that you have it all together, but with EVERYTHING you’ve got. I think you might even be able to say FULL STRENGTH!
As far as I am concerned… why mess around with a diluted measure of JOY that is not going to get you in the right place to build your patience that will make you stronger, more complete and lacking nothing? When problems arise, jump into the FULL STRENGTH of JOY which gets you into the place of God’s refuge much faster and on the road to recovery!
A perfect example of this is found in 2 Samuel 6:14 when King David “danced before Jehovah with all his might…” when he and his army were finally able to return the Ark of the Covenant to its rightful place in Jerusalem. He was so excited about the events of that day that he wanted to express his trust in and thankfulness for the Lord… and he didn’t care who saw him or who might criticize and/or judge him for the FULL STRENGTH of his actions toward Jehovah!
A few verses down the story relates that David’s wife was one of those who complained about his outlandish behavior in front of the crowds. The Word says that she “saw King David leaping and dancing before Jehovah. And she despised him in her heart.” She was rather blunt in her open disdain for his actions and declared without reservation, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Samuel 6:16 & 20)
David was unflappable though and simply related that He did it in honor of the God who chose him over her father and his family to be ruler over Israel and that “I danced before Jehovah.” In David’s eyes, his response was between him and God and that other people’s thoughts or concerns didn’t really matter to him… although I bet that most of the folks in attendance that day were blessed by his reverence and commitment to God’s wisdom for their nation.
So, what will it be for you? Will you try a watered-down approach to your expression of JOY to see if it is good enough for God and not to offend anyone… OR will you go with the FULL STRENGTH of your effort and dedication to our heavenly Father and the truth of His Word?
Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What measure of JOY am I expecting to give to God when times get tough?”