Are you hearing the deepening crescendo that I am? It’s the menacing roar emanating from our American culture. It’s the ever-expanding cacophony of the cancel culture, constantly “breaking news,” COVID-19 related impact on people and businesses, the eradication (or seeking to) of cherished books like those written by Dr. Seuss, name-calling, political chaos, rioting, gang-related shootings, abortion on demand, infanticide, escalating publicly expressed blasphemy, immorality, shaming, blaming, gaming….
It’s exhausting, and it’s disheartening. You may not agree, but I see a rapid erosion of the good and moral in our nation. I wonder where it’s headed and how quickly it will get there. Well, ultimately in the victorious return of Jesus. But, before that?
I don’t watch much news anymore, especially national network news. The consistently negative content is too draining. I watch or read just enough so that I’m not overly ignorant about what’s recently happened. Otherwise, too much of it affects my joy. And joy is something I believe God wants his children to experience on a regular basis. If that’s true, what do we do with all of the noise listed above?
Yes, as the church we must minister in the name of Jesus in the midst of the cultural dynamics in which we live—as noisy as it is. We must spread the gospel as much as we can, speaking boldly within our context about Jesus and what it means to truly follow him. But that isn’t the question I want to tackle here. It’s more of, what do I need to do as a follower of Jesus for my own soul, my own discipleship in order to retain my joy in the midst of an off-putting world?
Succinctly, I need Jesus! I need his presence. I need to be with him in quiet solitude. I need to experience the inner, quiet joy that the Holy Spirit brings even when things get ugly. I need to steadfastly worship, which is so much more than just singing. I need to remember his promises and that he’ll never leave nor forsake me. I need more of Jesus and less of the world’s howling drama. I need the energy he brings so that I have the God-given peace and fortitude to engage with and minister in this raucous age in which we live. If I don’t have that consistent time with Jesus, the world just stinks—and so do I.
Our USMB staff chooses a verse at the beginning of each year to be our collective focus verse. We use the chapter and verse as the indicator for the time when we each stop during the day to pray for our conference of churches and God’s blessing. The verses we chose for 2021 are Colossians 1:11-12: “Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (ESV). So, we stop and pray at 1:11 p.m. each day. Please join us!
His power brings us patience and results in joy. For us who are God’s children, the power of joy is never-ending. Although no one fruit of the Spirit is more important than another, joy enables us to more fully encounter the other fruits of the Spirit in the way that Jesus did. It’s not a faked joy. It’s a sense of overall well-being because of our connection with Jesus. A sense of “it is well with my soul.”
I need, I want, more joy in my life, or maybe it’s to experience it on a steadier basis. When I allow the din of the world to dominate my focus, it intrudes on my joy. I crave the kind of joy that is rooted so deeply in my heart that nothing can cause it to waver, not even the noisiest of noise that radiates from our world.
Don Morris is the USMB national director. He and his wife, Janna, live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they attend Cross Timbers Church.