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A Simple Joy
Life can be complicated. There are growing responsibilities for family and work, mounting financial and social pressures, and a seemingly infinite to-do list. These increasing demands often prompt us to seek out ways and means to simplify our lives and reduce the stress by returning to some basic convictions--don't spend more than you make; work hard, but leave time for play; pay attention to details, but don't stay up nights worrying about them.
The same malady occurs in the spiritual domain. We grow older, but not necessarily wiser in our faith. We become busier in our service to the Lord, but not particularly happy. We spend time in the spiritual disciplines, but we do so reluctantly, not cheer-fully. We lose the joy and simplicity of childlike faith. The passion and spontaneity of knowing Christ as our "first love" dims. No formulaic answers exist to recover our joy, but the prophet Micah gives us some realistic guidelines that can help us keep our faith uncluttered.
Instead of approaching and relating to the Lord based on demanding rules (Micah 6: 6-7), the prophet summarized what God expects and endorses: "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (v. 8). Pleasing the Lord and enjoying him forever is not complex. God did not design it that way. We throttle out the simple joy he intends by adding too many jots and tittles. Micah's message almost 1, 800 years ago is incredibly relevant today.
"Act justly," Micah says. Do the thing you know is right. Don't compromise the truth. Don't develop a belief system founded on rationalization. Just do the right thing as the Spirit and Word of God instruct. Obey the few things you know to do and quit worrying about the rest for right now. Love your family. Give a tithe to the Lord. Don't quarrel; be a peacemaker. Obedience to the truth revealed is the principle. Obedience to God's truth brings freedom, and freedom breeds simplicity, uncluttering our lives from the confusing maze of too many options and choices. The cellist who practices each day is freer to perform in concert than the person who dreams of the stage, but never prepares.
"Love mercy," says Micah. Instead of insisting on your own rights, give them up to the Lord. Put others first, not yourself. Don't treat others as they deserve, but extend mercy as God deals mercifully with you. Love mercy, that is, make it a priority in your life. Give God the credit, be gracious to others, and let God take care of your reputation and rewards.
"Walk humbly with your God," Micah encourages. Esteem God and have an accurate view of yourself. Remember that all things good and great come from him. He is the source of all blessings. Acknowledge him in all your ways and keep Christ at the center of all you do.
Think on these things. When the pressure is overwhelming, put these principles into action. It won't be easy, but it sure will keep your faith basic and will make room for a simple joy.
Somehow, I know, Lord, that my life doesn't need to be so complicated. I ask for your quiet confidence to fill my heart and, from that stillness and surety, o direct my steps and order my thoughts. Teach me what is important to you and help me to keep you at the center of all I think and do. When I am distracted and frustrated by the busyness of it all, stop me just for a moment and speak your peace to my soul. Then let me move on in your strength.