God is Not Santa Claus

By Linda Tancs

One of the most misconstrued and misapplied Bible verses is undoubtedly John 10:10, where Jesus is recorded as saying that He came so that we might have and enjoy life and have it in abundance. For many this verse has come to imply a promise of “the good life.” Certainly, many folks do enjoy a good, earthly life. But the Lord doesn’t promise you a Cadillac or a nice house. What He promised to show you is the Way. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). Enjoying life isn’t about enjoying things; it’s about enjoying Him. In God’s economy, the good life is our ability to experience His joy and delight—to the full, until it overflows (John 15:11).

When we live His way, we reap the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). Those fruits and any other blessings (2 Corinthians 9:8) are meant to be shared.

Joy to the World

By Linda Tancs

Joy is the essence of a Christ-centered life. Indeed, Jesus reminded his followers that He came for us to have and enjoy life (John 10:10). Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, an attribute of the Christian life (Galatians 5:22). It’s good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). So how do you acquire it? One way is to avoid fear, worry and control. What do you fear? Abandonment? Failure? Death? Fear is sometimes instinctual but often learned behavior. Paul reminds us that God did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Worry is closely associated with fear. But why worry when you can pray (Philippians 4:6-7)? As Matthew pointed out in his gospel, worrying won’t add one cubit to your life (Matthew 6:27). Another joy-robber is a need for control. Are you a control freak? Don’t be a slave to your own agenda. It’s not about you (1 Corinthians 6:19). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to advance God’s agenda, the common good, which is to look to the interests of others above your own (Philippians 2:4). Imagine how joyful you’d feel contributing to the needs of others, especially the poor and needy.

Are You Afraid to be Happy?

By Linda Tancs

Does happiness seem elusive to you? Do you go about daily life “waiting for the other shoe to drop”? Like Job, do you fear that something will come upon you (Job 3:25)? You’re not alone. According to a study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, people across 14 different cultures identified with statements like “having lots of joy and fun causes bad things to happen.” Clearly, there’s a universal need to control bad thoughts. Such thoughts lead to bad words and bad, unhealthy actions. Jesus came so that we might have and enjoy life, not fear it (John 10:10).

So what are some steps you can take to control your thoughts? Second Corinthians lends imagery of taking thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Imagine taking bad thoughts and banishing them to a prison cell. Envision locking the cell door. Now replace each bad or negative thought with a biblical thought. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God’s plans, or thoughts, are for our welfare. That doesn’t mean we never have a reason to be unhappy; rather, we should look to God to turn our trials into triumphs in due season. What can you focus on that’s pure, lovely, praiseworthy, commendable, honorable or excellent (Philippians 4:8)? Accentuate the positive, as the old song goes. Maintaining a positive focus will renew your mind (Romans 12:2) and bring God’s peace (Romans 8:6). You can’t be both peaceful and unhappy.

The Stuff of Life

How many times do you think or say distasteful things about the “stuff” of life, those daily things like washing the dishes, driving to work or grocery shopping? Spend a day tallying up all the negative words and thoughts you have about daily chores and ordinary activities. You might be surprised how often you find yourself musing over what you hate or detest or just can’t stand. But life is made up of the little things: making the bed, shopping, dressing, cooking, driving in traffic and all the rest. When you hate the stuff of life, which comprises the act of living, then what part of life is left to love?

As the old saying goes, don’t sweat the small stuff because it’s all pretty small. In everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). After all, Jesus came that you might have and enjoy life (John 10:10).

Zechariah 4:10 warns not to despise the day of small things, so be mindful how you think. As you think, so you are (Proverbs 23:7).