And If the Devil Doesn't Like It

Each summer as a child, I attended a week long "Vacation Bible School" with hundreds of other children from several churches in my hometown. It should come as no surprise that my favorite part of each day was the music. I remember singing this song a lot. Do you know it?

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Down in my heart.
Down in my heart!
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Down in my heart to stay!

It has many verses, but I'm quite sure my favorite (and many other kids' fave, no doubt) is this one:

And if the Devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack.
Sit on a tack!
Sit on a tack!
And if the Devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack.
Sit on a tack today!

Oh my.  I just love the ridiculousness of that verse. Good stuff.

We've started a new message series at church, based on the book of James. I love the way that he (James) blends both encouragement and conviction into his words for the Church. There is so much good stuff there! So much I need to work on, too. Right off the bat, I'm reminded to check my attitude with the first four verses:

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3because you know that the testing of your faith
develops perseverance.
4Perseverance must finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4 (NIV)


I do not have it all together. Far from it! Truth be told, I've altogether been having a rough time of it lately. There's just so much going on in our lives, and having a newborn is just plain hard, no matter how you shake it. Errr...perhaps I should clarify. The "shaking it" was referring to life in general, not my infant. Just so we're clear. In case, you know, you were wondering. Which you probably weren't.  


I've decided to be more joyful. And I picked a heck of a time to start, too. Seriously, I'll have plenty of opportunities to practice! Without going into detail, suffice it to say circumstances are not making life a cake walk presently.

In the midst of it all, it's easy to focus on why I can't be joyful. But why should I let my circumstances define who I am? By allowing them to define how I go about my day, I am doing just that. Instead of choosing how to act in spite of those circumstances, I am simply reacting to them

You know those people who are joyful whenever you see them, all the time? The ones who just have a bright outlook and contagious positive attitude? They're attractive, aren't they? Not in a physical sense. Attractive as in, you simply want to be around them. So does everyone else. Don't misunderstand me; it's not a fake-y, happy-go-lucky-and-smiling-no-matter-the-circumstances sort of attitude. That wouldn't be attractive, because I doubt anyone could pull that off and still seem authentic. Not for long, anyway. The attitude I speak of isn't always happy, but it is continually joyful.

That joy springs out of a choice, not a personality. It's a discipline. And if you practice being joyful long enough, it becomes part of your personality. Our disciplines guide the decisions we make and how we respond to the circumstances we face. Eventually, if practiced long enough, they help shape who we are.

And so do tough circumstances and trials of many sizes: 

17For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all.
2 Corinthians 4 (NIV)

These "momentary troubles" give us the opportunity to practice joy. And joy gives us strength to face our circumstances:

Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." 
Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)

See? It's circular. We respond to our troubles with joy, and that joy gives us the strength to respond to our troubles. "Ah-ha!" you say. It's really not all as crazy and nonsensical as it sounds.

So! I'm redoubling my efforts to make joy a discipline in my life. And you can help by keeping me accountable, please. I want to be more joyful!

And if the Devil doesn't like it (and I'm quite sure he doesn't)...

He can sit on a tack.

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