Learning About Joy

Elisabeth Elliot referred to discipline as “joyful surrender.” Otto Koning observed that a Christian would accomplish more through surrendering and rejoicing than through begging and pleading. Jim Berg observed that God made us “dependent by design” and that it is frustrating to live in opposition to this reality. More than just the platitudes of idealistic theologians, Jesus told us the same principle in John 15 that the way to have peace and joy was through a dependent and abiding relationship with Him.

This is this much easier said than done, and it is completely backward of our human tendency and current culture. We are inclined and encouraged to go “our own way,” to independently make life work, not to let anyone tell us what to do or how we should behave or even warn us of danger. Temptations even arise for those that are pursuing good, noble, or spiritual things to do them their own way in their own strength to accomplish their own goals.

The challenges are no different for any missionary. For those of us on deputation the constant temptation is either to play a numbers game, or see every addition of support as your personal accomplishment and every church that does not take you on as your personal failure. Where is the joyful surrender in that? While we should constantly be desirous to grow and mature as faithful servants to what God has called us to pursue, we must be careful that we do not go from dependent discipline to self-assertion. Since starting deputation in September, I have observed times in my own life of struggling to be diligent while not getting the results I wanted when I wanted them.

The Faithful Shepherd will not let us go too long in this state of self-reliance before He graciously works on our heart about eternal reality: joyful surrender is the way to grace for wherever God leads and for however long. We cannot have fellowship with God without dependence on God. We cannot grow in Christlikeness without growing in faith-filled endurance. We must be willing to lay even good dreams at God’s feet and continue in what He has graciously given to change us.

It is at the place of joyful surrender that we find the truth of Paul’s reminder in II Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” Are there things in your heart and life that need surrendered? Are there things you grasp to make life work your way? Are you bitter because things have not turned out the way you expected? The joyful fruit of fellowship with God is well worth the seemingly steep price of surrender.

This past month of January has been one of learning different elements of rejoicing when circumstances did not go as planned. Through cancelled meetings, different accommodations every week, and a full month God has worked! He has actively showed us more about joyful surrender. We have been in ten different churches this month in four different states (PA, MD, DE, and VA). We have seen our promised support jump from 43% to 52%! Even more exciting has been watching God lead through closed doors and others’ recommendations to get us to the right place at the right time to encourage other believers and witness to a hotel worker! God has used the ups and downs to show us more of our need of Him and His faithfulness to us. Thank you so much for your prayers for God to show Himself strong on our behalf!