Happiness, Joy And Eternal Life In Isaiah 55

joy, eternal life, Isaiah 55What brings you joy?  What brightens your day and lifts your spirits?  What has the power to encourage and move you above and beyond the place where you are now?  I want you to really think about what’s important to you and where the foundation for your happiness lies.  It’s an important question if we are to truly seek that which is eternal rather than that which eventually fades and leaves us empty.

Certainly there are worthy things on this earth that can bring us joy such as our families and cherished friends.  At times we may even find joy due to a special occasion and the shared warmth and camaraderie that it brings.  Joy may also catch us by surprise as we listen to a powerful piece of music or experience the splendor of a sunrise painted across the morning sky.  All of these and many more are good things.

But they are also temporary.  They fade away, sometimes in mere moments.

Because of this some of us spend inordinate amounts of time chasing joy.  We know what joy feels like and we want to be joyful again so we try to repeat the actions, thoughts or occasions that originally made us joyful.  But it’s never quite the same the second time around.  So on we go looking for other things, other people or other ideas that might bring us joy again.  And as we invest time and energy into those things, people or ideas and we don’t find the joy we are looking for we become disillusioned and cynical.  We become hard and broken and we give up on the idea that life could ever be more than it is right now.

That idea, however, is a lie.  Don’t believe it.

I am here to tell to you as humbly and as boldly as I can that there is real joy to be found in this life and it is an eternal and abiding joy!  How do I know this?  Because, with God’s help and provision, I am living it.

Consider Isaiah chapter 55:1-2 (NKJV)

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.

Even though this was written thousands of years ago it sounds like God might be talking to us and about us right here, today.  We spend so much time and effort buying and chasing things that don’t really satisfy us as they should and then going and looking for other things to satisfy us because the first things didn’t and so on and so forth.  It becomes a cycle that will quite literally kill us and damage everyone around us in the process.

But God says that we can “eat what is good” and then “let your soul delight itself in abundance”.  God offers us joy that does not fade and what he provides will always satisfy our deepest longings.

How do we get there?  Isaiah 55:3a (NKJV) gives us the first direction that we should follow:

Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;

Listening requires us to be quiet and to be still.  We have to focus on the person who is doing the talking and forget ourselves for a few moments to really hear what is being said.  This is the beginning of the Lord’s invitation to us.  To simply listen and hear what He has to say.

What else?  Isaiah 55:6-7 (NKJV) shows the way:

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

One of the most amazing things about the Lord is that He wants to show mercy to us.  Although He always allows us to choose our own path (and by extension, the consequences of our decisions) He is always watching and waiting for us to come to Him.  He loves us so much that He has a standing offer of eternal, abundant life.  His Word, the Bible, through study and prayer, can bring us that eternal life and that abiding joy, if we choose to base our life on it.

Isaiah 55: 10-11 says this about God’s Word:

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

What a promise!  God says that His Word will accomplish and prosper that which He purposes.  And there is nothing in this world that He loves more than you!  Will you let His Word do it’s work in you?  Will you let real joy abide in your heart as you listen and learn from His Word?  If you will, watch what God will do for you as written in Isaiah 55: 12 (NKJV)

“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

The result of a life that is lived according to God’s Word is joy and peace!  The picture we are shown in verse 12 is creation itself singing and clapping as you go.  In other words, the world itself rejoices in the life of a believer who seeks after God and listens to His voice.  That does not mean that life will be easy, we still live in a sinful, fallen state.  But God Himself has alleviated our sin problem and has provided a way for us to overcome death and break the bonds of the sin that once defined our lives.

Herein lies true joy, constant and eternal.  This is the free gift of God to all who our willing.  If you’ve lived up until this point chasing after everything else and you can’t seem to find peace and you’ve forgotten what joy really feels like then I invite you to turn to God.  Give your life over to Him, seek His presence and listen to His Words.  I promise, if you do, that you will never be the same and that His joy will never leave you.

The Secret to Peace, Joy and Purpose

There is a wonderful sense of purpose and joy in focusing our mind and heart on Jesus.  When He is the object of our affection and the goal in our mind all the cares of this life fall away.  There is sweet communion between us and the Lord and our faith grows as we become, day by day, more like Him.

peace, joy, purposeThis is not a natural state and does not happen easily.  Our inclination is to never seek God and to be completely self-centered.  Even for those of us who have been born again and have the Spirit of the Living God within us, we still struggle with quieting our mind enough to hear His still, small voice.  Our eyes remain full of the things we see in this life, our ears still hear those who call us away from God and our hands have a hard time letting go of all those things that seem so big but are actually so very small.  All of this is in competition for our attention and our focus and can completely stop us from growing in our relationship to the Lord, if we let it.

Using myself as an example of what not to do, I have been a Christian for more than thirty years and yet it is only in the last year that I have really started to get serious about training my mind to seek God to the exclusion of everything else.  I can’t help but think about all of the time that I have wasted and all of the blessings I have missed out on because of my lack of discipline.  Even so, God is patient and merciful and has never forsaken me.  I sit and write today as a testimony that it is never too late to commit all your ways to Him, and that He is utterly worth it.

You might not be in the habit of quieting your mind and turning your spiritual eyes towards Jesus.  If you are like many of us, you were saved but not necessarily told exactly how to go about growing and nurturing your salvation.  Even when we are encouraged to have a “quiet time” and read our Bible, unless we have first sought the Lord in Spirit and in truth, with our whole heart, our relationship to the Lord is not going to grow like it should.  We will very quickly realize that something is missing and that there should be more to this new life in Christ.

I suspect that for many Christians, this is exactly the root of their problem.  They know they should be excited about spending time with God but they aren’t and can’t quite figure out why.  For them, the relationship is not a real and dynamic thing with a hugely personal God but a series of steps to be performed on a daily basis.  And that is a tragedy.  God is real and He is with us always.  But unless we train ourselves to really seek Him and decide that we want Him over and above everything else, He will only be as big in our life as we let Him be.

What do I mean by “training” ourselves to seek God?  I mean that we must focus, by an act of will over and over again, to praise, honor and pour out our hearts to our Savior.  The more we do this, the sweeter the relationship grows and the more we want to know God and to put our trust in Him.  We find that there isn’t anything that we can’t take before His throne and in place of our weakness, worry and confusion He gives us peace, joy and purpose.  This is the secret that every Christian should know.

The “Stop Playing and Look at This!” Moment

stop playing, turn to GodOver a decade ago and not too long after Vicki and I were married, she said something to me that we still chuckle about to this day.  At the time, it was somewhat surprising and unexpected but it was also exactly what I needed to hear.  It made an impact on me then and even now it serves as a reminder of the wisdom of my wife and the need to keep my priorities in order.

In college, I had gotten into a routine that consisted of studying, socializing and spending my free time in front of a computer.  I was an avid internet gamer and unfortunately I carried this habit (truthfully it had become an addiction by this time) into our marriage.

One evening, as I sat in front of the computer playing, Vicki came in and began to speak to me and seek my input on various topics.  Being quite distracted and trying to divide my attention, I gave short, one word answers and grunts.  As she continued to try and communicate with me I continued to play and give her less than my full attention.

Finally, she came and stood in front of me and said “Stop playing!  Look at this!’  She was holding something in her hands that she had been desperately trying to show me for several minutes while I sat there obliviously.

Her actions worked wonderfully for a couple of reasons.  Vicki almost never raises her voice and almost never makes demands of anyone besides herself.  She’s the sweetest person I’ve ever met and probably the most selfless as well.  For her to interject herself in front of me and verbally command me to put my attention where it should have been all along was eye opening and very effective.

I immediately realized what a jerk I was being and how unfairly I was treating her.  I had let bad habits from my past creep into our new relationship and life together and they were jeopardizing the marriage that we were tying to build.

Needless to say, “Stop playing!  Look at this!” became a rallying cry for me to remember that the relationship between Vicki and I is the most important relationship that I have on this earth and is second only to my relationship with the Lord.  As long as I am on this earth it is my privilege and responsibility to honor my wife with my time and full attention whenever she needs it.

I wonder how many of us take a similar approach in our walk with God.  We bring bad habits and old ways of doing things into our new relationship with our Heavenly Father and when He speaks, we only half listen if we listen at all.

Brothers and sisters, this ought not be so.  God not only deeply desires our undivided love and attention, He truly deserves it.  Don’t let it come to a “Stop playing!  Look at this!” moment between you and the Lord before you decide to love Him with your whole heart and give Him everything you have.  There is deep joy and abiding peace in full surrender to the Lord Jesus.  Come willingly, come gladly and come before it is too late.