Experiencing Happy Part 1- Meekness

Joy, true joy, is a difficult thing to come by. Most of us just act like we are happy while we are in front of people. When we get by ourselves, our minds are scary places to be, wrought with depression, anxiety, worry, and we spend all of our time trying to solve the problems that we perceive. That’s not real joy.

We see it often on the news when someone commits suicide or when a gunman goes into a public place and begins shooting. In the interviews, especially with the family, all we hear is, “That person couldn’t have done this. He was always smiling. We had no idea that he needed help.”

Even though we present images of joy as we interact with people, there are real things burdening our hearts and weighing us down. We worry about tomorrow and yesterday. We know how to let loose and have fun because it distracts us, but the happiness we experience only lasts as long as we are distracted. Then, we go back to the real world with our real problems. Over the next two months, I want to consider joy. What does it mean for us to experience true joy in this world and forevermore? We will look at the story in 1 and 2 Samuel. Be sure to check out the daily devotionals, which will walk through the entirety of the books. Let’s learn from our Lord together. Let’s let the Scriptures be exposed to us and expose us so that we might walk in the light.

1 Samuel 2:1-11

Hannah prayed:

My heart rejoices in the Lord;

my horn is lifted up by the Lord.

My mouth boasts over my enemies,

because I rejoice in Your salvation.

There is no one holy like the Lord.

There is no one besides You!

And there is no rock like our God.

Do not boast so proudly,

or let arrogant words come out of your mouth,

for the Lord is a God of knowledge,

and actions are weighed by Him.

The bows of the warriors are broken,

but the feeble are clothed with strength.

Those who are full hire themselves out for food,

but those who are starving hunger no more.

The woman who is childless gives birth to seven,

but the woman with many sons pines away.

The Lord brings death and gives life;

He sends some to Sheol, and He raises others up.

The Lord brings poverty and gives wealth;

He humbles and He exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust

and lifts the needy from the garbage pile.

He seats them with noblemen

and gives them a throne of honor.

For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;

He has set the world on them.

He guards the steps of His faithful ones,

but the wicked perish in darkness,

for a man does not prevail by his own strength.

Those who oppose the Lord will be shattered;

He will thunder in the heavens against them.

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

He will give power to His king;

He will lift up the horn of His anointed.

Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy served the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.

Our estate

In the first chapter of 1 Samuel, we read the story of a woman, Hannah, who was unable to have children. Year after year, when her family came to bring their offerings to the Lord, she would weep before God and pour her heart out to the God of the universe asking for His blessing. There was another woman, Peninnah, who had children and would provoke her bitterly because she did not have any children. In the first chapter, we see two different women. One woman had not been blessed by the Lord with children. The other had. The one who had not been blessed was greatly distressed because she did not have a son. The one who had been blessed in this way was so prideful that she caused the distress of the other woman. She had become a bully.

Neither woman was satisfied or content or full of joy. Both felt a need to be something more. Neither was truly happy despite the blessings that the Lord had shared with them. Their joy was based on external circumstances. In this life, there are many times when our external circumstances are simply not sufficient to provide us with joy, only momentary happiness. My son is eight months old. He hasn’t learned to crawl yet, which isn’t a big deal. He likes to stand on his feet and tries to run when we prop him up. When he is back on his stomach, the bliss he had when pretending to run is gone and he struggles again to try and move. He just can’t figure out how to get his legs under him to crawl. He is frustrated when he cant be more than he is. We are the same way. Only, we can’t learn how to be more than human. My son will eventually, God willing, learn to run and become more than an infant.

Thus, we come to a realization of our estate. We come into the world having nothing and we depart carrying nothing of what we have gained. Nothing truly belongs to us. When we think about it, we have no power and no real influence. We are subject to the hand we are dealt and to the things that happen to us. We are of humble estate. This is one of the most important truths for us to realize in this life, but one that is often ignored because we would like to think that we are kings and that we have much. If we don’t have, we are prone to think that we deserve those things that we want. People feel and act entitled by nature. This is the way that we are.

The reality is that we have nothing, and nothing is ours to own. Hannah recognizes as much in her prayer.

We have nothing and nothing is ours to own.

God’s estate

How do I know that we have nothing and that nothing is ours to own? How do I know that our estate is so humble? If there is a God, and I believe there is, then everything belongs to Him and is His to own. Let’s listen to Hannah’s prayer again as she praises God after God finally blessed her with a son:

There is no one holy like the Lord.

There is no one besides You!

And there is no rock like our God.

Do not boast so proudly,

or let arrogant words come out of your mouth,

for the Lord is a God of knowledge,

and actions are weighed by Him.

The bows of the warriors are broken,

but the feeble are clothed with strength.

Those who are full hire themselves out for food,

but those who are starving hunger no more.

The woman who is childless gives birth to seven,

but the woman with many sons pines away.

The Lord brings death and gives life;

He sends some to Sheol, and He raises others up.

The Lord brings poverty and gives wealth;

He humbles and He exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust

and lifts the needy from the garbage pile.

He seats them with noblemen

and gives them a throne of honor.

For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;

He has set the world on them.

He guards the steps of His faithful ones,

but the wicked perish in darkness,

for a man does not prevail by his own strength.

Those who oppose the Lord will be shattered;

He will thunder in the heavens against them.

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

He will give power to His king;

He will lift up the horn of His anointed.

Did you notice those two ideas? God has everything under His authority and we have nothing except by His mercies and grace. God’s estate is all-encompassing. It includes all things. He owns life and death. He owns knowledge. He owns justice. He owns social status. He owns the food of the earth. He owns Sheol (the place of the dead). He owns the place where people would be raised up to. He owns the wealth of the world and distributes it. He owns authority and distributes that authority. He owns the foundations of the earth. He has created the world. He owns those who are faithful to Him and He guards their steps (that is called perseverance, or rather preservation, of the saints). He owns those who are wicked and brings them to destruction. He owns morality and He will judge the ends of the earth. He is the one who gives power and anoints and no one has any power to do anything apart from God’s working all things together for His own glory.

This is God’s estate. He is creator; we are created. That is our proper place. This truth is humbling.

God owns everything and everything is His to own.

An epiphany

There are some people reading this or hearing it that hadn’t thought about it in these terms before, yes even people who have been professing Christians for years. This is the most basic truth about our relationship with God. We have nothing. Everything is from Him, through Him, and to Him. If we struggle with this truth, we will struggle with everything else presented to us in the text of Scripture. We only struggle with this truth because in some way we desire to be kings or, dare I say, gods. That is unhealthy human pride. That is entitlement.

If we feel entitled or are overcome with unhealthy human pride, then we will never be satisfied because we seek a position, some authority, or ownership over things that isn’t ours. I want to practice some honesty, here, some transparency because I don’t believe that there is any other way to be. We must be genuine with one another. I am no better than anyone else. I am convicted by this text of Scripture. I have dedicated my life to the Lord and to His service on this earth wherever He would lead and in any capacity that He would lead. Often, I still find myself asking why He would allow certain things to happen. The sense of entitlement creeps back in. It is one of the greatest things we all deal with in the sinfulness of this world. Thank the Lord for His grace.

When I think that I am entitled to something, I will worry and I will never be satisfied because I am striving to be something that I was not created to be. Thus, we arrive at the idea of meekness. Entitlement and pride steal joy. Meekness brings joy. So, I want to consider meekness.

Meekness is defined in most dictionaries as the condition of being “quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive.”

Our culture does not value this sort of demeanor. No one, not even most preachers, talk about this sort of demeanor. We puff out our chests, make sure others know how powerful we are either in our perceived authority or by trying to win arguments. Most Bible studies will talk about how we are strong enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, or simply enough. In Scripture, we are revealed to have nothing. Our estate is humble. We are not enough. We might look at how people are described throughout Scripture. Don’t run off, these are the words of life. This is good news!

“When I observe Your heavens,

the work of Your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which You set in place,

what is man that You remember him,

the son of man that You look after him?

You made him little less than God

and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him lord over the works of Your hands;

You put everything under his feet:

all the sheep and oxen,

as well as the animals in the wild,

the birds of the sky,

and the fish of the sea

that pass through the currents of the seas.

Yahweh, our Lord,

how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9).

 

“The God who made the world and everything in it — He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him” (Acts 17:24-27a).

 

“Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

 

“…the dust returns to the earth as it once was,

and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

‘Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher. ‘Everything is futile’” (Ecclesiastes 12:7-8).

Meekness is simply us recognizing how truly bankrupt we are economically, socially, politically, and every other -ally. Entitlement and unhealthy human pride are us trying to make ourselves out to be more than we are. This is what we do on social media, isn’t it? This is what we do when we tell stories. This is what we do in the marketplace of ideas. This is what we do in business. This is what church leaders do as they get together and brag about their ministry victories (if they can be called victories). We are frustrated when things aren’t right according to the way we think they ought to be. Entitlement steals our joy.

Here is the “aha moment.” When we recognize that we have nothing and that, as we see through Scripture, everything we have, including every opportunity or lack thereof, is from God and only by God’s mercy, grace, and will, and when we actually live like that, we won’t pretend to be entitled to anything. This realization, this aha-moment, and we read it in the psalms, produces absolute, genuine, and unadulterated praise- absolute euphoria that is not dependent on the circumstances of this world. John Piper refers to that type of joy as Christian hedonism. This is a taste of what life will be like in Christ forevermore!

Practically, if we want to experience joy we must realize our place in relationship to the all-powerful God of the universe. That knowledge brings about a spirit of meekness. This isn’t all. That joy is a picture of an eternity with Christ. When we place our trust in Christ as children, trusting in Christ to deliver us fully because we cannot deliver ourselves in any degree, we are saved from our unrighteousness (which produces unhealthy human pride and the sense of entitlement). We consider, again, what the Scriptures have to say, we let them pierce our soul and divide our bone and marrow.

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:19-26).

Did you catch that? The works of the flesh revolve around unhealthy human pride, the feeling of entitlement, and strife; but the fruit of the Spirit are qualities of meekness and joy. People are not just meek. Meekness is a good quality that is produced in a person by the Holy Spirit. That is what it means that these qualities are fruit of the Spirit, they are produced by the Spirit. This means that those people who are truly following Christ will have a meekness produced within them. This doesn’t mean that we don’t stand for what is right or point out the things we think to be wrong. It does necessarily mean that we do so with gentleness and respect. Such is the character produced when we live in relationship with Jesus. Genuine joy is a product of that character.

If we are not experiencing joy or contentment regardless of the circumstances in life, it may be the case that we have not recognized our true place in the created order, our humble estate. It may be the case that we are striving to achieve or gain what is not ours to achieve or gain. It may be the case that we are puffing out our chests in pride or that we think that we are in some way entitled. It may be that we haven’t surrendered to Christ or that we try to resist God’s convicting work in our lives. Let our lives be marked by meekness in all things. By this, we no longer conform to the ways of the world. In this we get to experience genuine joy, and still it is only a taste of what is to come in the resurrection.

In Christ, we are meek and receive great joy.

 

We have nothing and nothing is ours to own.

God owns everything and everything is His to own.

In Christ, we are meek and receive great joy.

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