The Disciple and a Cheerful Heart
Imanuel G. Christian
The Word of God is very
practical. It deals with the natural human emotions that we all experience in
our daily lives. The Word encourages us to develop and cultivate good emotions
like joy, contentment, etc., and gradually weed out the emotions that are
harmful to our lives like hatred, bitterness, anger, etc.
One of the good emotions that Solomon is advocating in the Book of
Proverbs is cheerfulness, a joyful heart. That, I think, includes not just a
momentary burst of cheer or laughter, but a cheerful and positive outlook on
life, seeing the life as a glass half full rather than half empty.
Listen to what Solomon says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit”. “All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast”. “A cheerful look brings joy to
the heart”. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up
the bones” (Proverbs 15:13, 15, 30; 17:22).
Read those verses again! Note what the opposite of a cheerful heart
is. It is heartache, a crushed spirit, being emotionally oppressed and wretched,
dried up bones! Who would want that? We all want a cheerful face, a continual
feast, a joyful heart, a medicine that heals our inner being and nourishes the
How can we have that kind of cheerful heart? I think that is a gradual
process which is the direct outcome of our relationship to, and time with, the
Lord. Moses was in the presence of God for forty days and forty nights. When he
came down from the mountain, “his face was radiant because he had spoken with
the LORD” (Exodus 34:28-29). Similarly, in the New Testament, “When they saw the
courage of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated, ordinary men,
they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus”
(Acts 4:13). That was after the resurrection; they had been with Jesus “over a
period of forty days” (Acts 1:3).
For us, of course, it is not being in the visible and, in some sense,
physical presence of God. We can be in His presence by being in His Word. It was
the Word that was God that became flesh, and when we spend time in the written
Word, we are spending time with the Living Word.
Isaiah describes in beautiful poetry what happens when a person spends
time in the Word of God diligently and carefully, and God’s intended result is
accomplished, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains
and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will
clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12). In the previous verses, the Word is compared
to the rain and the snow that successfully produces grain. But it is not just
the rain, but the hard work of the farmer along with the rain that produces the
grain. Similarly, it is daily personal time and diligent study of the Word that
produces the joy and peace. It takes commitment. It takes effort. It takes time.
Now the second question. How do we display a cheerful heart? Actually,
a cheerful heart is a byproduct of a good and pure heart which is the result of
a regular time in the Word. True cheerfulness of heart is not just seen by a
smile on the face, but by the goodness of the heart. Cheerfulness comes from
inner goodness. I say this because, surprisingly, in Proverbs 15:13, 15, both
places the Hebrew words for “cheerful” are tob and yatab, which
mean good, moral goodness. So when Solomon says, “The cheerful heart has a
continual feast” (15:13), he is saying, a heart that is morally good is always
filled with joy.
The opposite is also true as David says from his own experience, “When
I kept silent (about my sin), my bones wasted away through my groaning all day
long. …my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4). So,
cheerfulness is first of all displayed in our good, upright and moral character.
Without that our cheerfulness would be only on the surface.
Secondly, cheerfulness of heart is displayed in our attitude of
gratitude even in difficult and unpleasant circumstances. A positive attitude
towards life is what makes the heart cheerful even when going through difficult
circumstances. That positive attitude is developed by having faith that comes
from a consistent time in the Word. Paul, while himself in a difficult
situation, commands, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
And, “…with thanksgiving present your requests to God”. And the peace of
God...will guard your hearts and minds” (Philippians 4:4-7). A cheerful heart
means being thankful rather than bitter and complaining.
Thirdly, cheerfulness of heart will be displayed in our relationship
with others. Not only will we always be in a cheerful mood brightening the
atmosphere around us wherever we are, but we will also have a positive outlook
towards others. We will be building them up instead of tearing them down. We
will be affirming them instead of criticizing them. We will be understanding,
instead of finding fault.
The Book of Hebrews brings this out clearly in 10:19-24 using “let us”
three times. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart” (V. 22); that is
personal moral purity. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” (V.
23); that is faith that does not waver in difficult circumstances. And, “Let us
consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (V. 24);
that is loving and building up others. And we can do all these three things
because we have a relationship with the Lord and have entered into the presence
of God (Vv. 19-21).
So, remember, “A cheerful heart is good (yatab) medicine”
(causes good healing), not only to yourself, but also to others around you. Not
only our own joy, happiness and health depends on it, but also our testimony and
impact as believers depends on it. And remember, a cheerful heart is a result of
our consistent and diligent time with the Lord in His Word.
I think a banner of a believer should be a good, happy and joyful
demeanor, a broad happy smile on his or her face! Don’t let anyone see you
without a smile that is the product of the goodness of the heart. And always
give your smile especially to someone who does not have one! Let your
cheerfulness be good medicine for someone else.
The Psalmist says in 126:2-3, “Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy. (Are they?) Then it was said among the
nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them!’ (What a testimony!)
The LORD has done great things for us (Hasn’t He?), and we are filled
with joy”. (Are you?)
Disciple and the National Day of Prayer
delivered at a National Day of Prayer Breakfast; May 6th)
Imanuel G. Christian
The Second Thursday of the month of May has been declared the National Day of
Prayer in the United States. Recently a federal judge declared it
unconstitutional. But there is nothing unconstitutional about the people of God
praying for the blessing of God on their nation. No president, judge or any
other human authority can stop them from doing that.
3000 years ago Solomon was doing just that at the dedication of the Temple.
God’s response to his prayer was, “…if my people pray…I will heal the land” (2
Chronicles 7:14). There is a certain promise here: “I will heal their land”. But
this is a conditional statement, “If my people who are called by my name, will
humble themselves and pray”. The obvious question is, Do we pray? Yes, we do
pray. But the other question is, Who do we pray for? For ourselves! What do we
pray for? For our individual needs. Maybe we also pray for our friends and
relatives. But, again, what do we pray for them? The same things that we pray
for ourselves: jobs, healing, some other concerns for our day-to-day life on
earth. Do we ever go beyond that? In our prayer life we usually have a frog in
the well attitude that is happy in its little circle and wants to live an
undisturbed and comfortable life and has no idea of the vast world outside.
Book of Habakkuk presents an ideal that we can follow, not only for the Day of
Prayer, but for every day of our life. The book begins with a prayer, actually
with the prophet’s complaint to God. But he is not concerned for himself or for
any of his needs. He is concerned for his nation. He is concerned for God’s
honor and for God’s glory. His complaint is,
Why do you make me look at
injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and
justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is
perverted (Habakkuk 1:3-4).
Wow! What a
contemporary picture! The Word of God, no matter how ancient that may be, is
always contemporary. The prophet lived in a situation that is very similar to
ours today. He saw violence, injustice and evil all around him, and he took his
complaint directly to God in prayer.
God answered the
prophet’s prayer. God told the prophet, just look around you and you will see
that I am not inactive. “Look at the nations and watch… for I am going to do
something in your days” (1:5). “I am raising up the Babylonians” (1:6) who will
tear your nation apart. That is like saying, “I am raising Al Qaida that will
destroy the United States”. Think about 9/11 and how it has impacted our normal
lives. That hardly answers the prophet’s complaint. “How can you allow those who
are even more evil to succeed?” he asks. God answers his second question that
satisfies the prophet and he ends the book with one of the strongest statements
of faith found in the entire Bible (3:17-19).
What moved the
prophet from the depth of despair to the mountain top experience? First of all,
the prophet becomes freshly aware of God’s sovereignty. Evil, although it may
seem rampant, is under God’s control, and He is using it to accomplish His plan
and purpose. God’s ultimate purpose is, “…that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11;
Cf. Psalm 2).
Job in his utmost distress, Habakkuk saw the glory of God. “His glory covered
the heavens and his praise filled the earth” (3:3). It made a deep impact on the
whole being of the prophet. “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at
the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled” (3:16). Evil
exhausts itself for nothing and its labor is only fuel for the fire that will
consume it. But, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of
the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (2:12-14).
prophet’s only response, and ours too, is, “I will wait patiently for the day of
calamity to come on the nation invading us” (3:16b), the day when God will take
care of the evil and establish His righteous rule. Until then, “…the righteous
will live by his faith” (2:4); live life totally pleasing to God no matter what.
And so the book ends with the most beautiful and strongest statement of faith.
How can we have
that kind of faith. Three things. First, we have to be people of the Word.
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17; NASB).
Nothing else gives us the solid foundation for our faith. “On Christ the solid
rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand”, said the hymn writer Edward
Mote (1834). Through our regular time in the Word we come to know God, His
nature and character, see His glory and realize His plan and purpose, and
develop that faith like Habakkuk that cannot be shaken. What this nation needs
is people who are grounded in the truth and living it out in their daily lives.
have to be people of prayer; not with the frog in the well mentality, but with a
global perspective, praying that God’s plan and purpose will be fulfilled. Pray
for our nation. Pray for our leaders that God will guide them and use them to
accomplish His plans and purposes. Pray for world leaders. Pray for missionaries
working in every part of the world spreading the good news that the solution to
all the problems in the world can be found only in the King of Peace.
Bible may be prohibited in the public schools. Prayer may not be allowed in
public places. And the National Day of Prayer may have been declared
unconstitutional. We may complain about all that. But what prevents us from
studying the Word and praying in our homes? We have no right to complain about
the absence of prayer and Bible studies in public places if we are not using
that privilege in our homes. Are our children being raised in Christian homes
today in a way that they will become God-fearing leaders of our nation tomorrow,
leaders that will change the culture of our nation?
Thirdly, we have
to be people who show their faith through their good works. As Jesus said, “Let
your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your
Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We have to be light in this dark world and
salt that prevents the decay in our culture. We need to get involved in groups
and activities outside our narrow circle of friends.
God’s promise on
this National Day of Prayer is very clear, “If my people who are called by my
name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their
wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal
their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
The promise is
certain. But the conditions must be met!
Imanuel G. Christian
Kibroth Hattavah! Sounds strange,
doesn’t it? Naturally! Because these are not English words. No, not Gujarati
either! These are Hebrew words transliterated, not translated, in most of our
English versions, with the meaning provided in the marginal note. Kibroth means
graves, and Hattavah means craving. Kibroth hattavah means graves of craving. It
was the name of a place. Numbers Chapter Eleven provide the history behind this
name. The Israeli people were passing through the wilderness. They numbered more
than 3 million. How do you provide food for such a large number of people? If
you have ever been involved in arranging a party even for 200 people, you would
have some idea of how difficult it could be to provide food for such a large
group of people. And that too not just for one meal, but breakfast and lunch and
dinner, and not only for a day or two but almost forty years. That too in the
wilderness. That would need a miracle. Only God can do that. And God surely did!
And what kind of food! Heavenly Manna! It rained every morning from the sky.
People can gather whatever amount they wanted. Eat as much as you want! No
problem of saving for the next day. Fresh every morning! You can boil it. You
can fry it. You can mix it with milk like cereals or you can make a spicy mix.
Make whatever you want to out of it!! (Num. 11:7-8).
But the strange thing was that the
people were not happy with it! They started grumbling! They were not satisfied
with the heavenly food! They started wailing, “If only we had meat to eat! We
remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks,
onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but
this manna!” (Num. 11:4-6). What can poor Moses do? Whenever something like this
happened, he would go to the Lord. Here are Your people! You take care of them!
I can’t handle them! I am really tired of them! They are asking for meat! Where
can I get meat for them? I cannot handle them! They are just too much for me! I
would rather die! (Num. 11:11-15). But the Lord told him, Don’t worry! Do they
want meat? Meat they will get. And that too not for a day or two or a week. Thy
will get it for a whole month. Until it comes out of their nostrils and they
loathe it! (Num. 11:18-20). And that is exactly what happened! Quails came down
from somewhere. Lots and lots of them! It was all around the camp. The people
went crazy! They got busy gathering them. For a day and night and all the next
day, for 36 hours, they kept gathering the quails. Did not sleep at night nor
rest during day! Gather as much as you want! Eat as much as you want! No limit!
They even cut the meat into strips and laid down in the sun to dry so they can
store it for months to come! (Num. 11:31-32). But then what happened? “But while
the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the
anger of the Lord burned against the people, and struck them with a severe
plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattavah, because there they
buried the people who had craved other things” (Num. 11:33, 34).
Kibroth Hattavah means graves of
craving. Graves of craving does not mean graves where their craving was buried,
like for example, when we say this is a grave of my grandfather, which means
here is where my grandfather was buried. But in those graves of craving, the
people who craved were buried. Their craving buried them and those graves became
their monuments. These people became the objects of God’s wrath because of their
craving and died in the literal sense. In the town named Kibroth Hattavah, there
did not live any living person. The residents of that town were the graves of
the people who had died because of their craving. But how often the residents of
the town of Kibroth Hattavah are not the people who have literally died, but are
the people who do not really experience the life in its fullness because of
their craving of life under the sun!
Running after the things of this world,
instead of the eternal things; enjoying the life here and now, instead of
spending time, energy and resources on things that really matter. Buried alive
in graves of craving! No joy in this life and nothing gained at the end of life
(Eccl. 2:4-11). I suppose all the people reading this article, do not have that
problem, do you? But we all can do little better. How about simplifying our
lives so that we are not buried under the clutter of the material things and
busyness of activities and can enjoy the life that is life indeed? How about
spending more time with the Lord in prayer, in studying His Word, in knowing Him
more and in giving up some of the unnecessary things and activities that hinder
us in our goal of enjoying Him and glorifying Him alone? Most of the things, I
suppose, we are involved in are good. But sometimes the good is the enemy of the
best. There is always a craving or two that can burry us, if we are not careful.
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul gives a personal application from this Old
Testament event; They “were all under the cloud, and all passed though the sea;
and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the
same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were
drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low
in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should
not crave evil things, as they also craved” (1 Cor. 10:1-6, NASB with emphasis
added). Their craving buried them. But what if they had buried their craving
instead? Then it would have been graves of craving in the real sense. The best
way to avoid being buried in the graves of craving, is to burry the craving in
its grave. Either we burry our craving, or our craving burry us. No other
alternative. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves
the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the
cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and boasting of what he has and
does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires
pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17,
NIV), because he would not have been buried in his Kibroth Hattavah.
Imanuel G. Christian
While growing up in a small village in
India. I and my older brother used to roam for hours in the farms and fields;
sometimes going around collecting fallen mangoes from under the mango trees and
sometimes collecting firewood in the forest. Many a times, especially while
collecting firewood, we would come across a small honeycomb. We would shake the
branch with the honeycomb to shake away all the bees and then grab the comb and
eat honey directly from the comb. That honey was so different from the bottled
honey that we get in a grocery store today. This honey we can chew and savor its
sweet taste for a long time. Recently I was reminded of that sweet experience
while reading a portion of the Scripture. Did you know that the Bible advises us
to eat honey; honey from the comb? Read proverb 24:13; “My son, eat honey, for
it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.” It even speaks
of eating “honey from the comb.”
What I did as a boy growing up in rural
India is very commonplace experience of every boy growing up in those
environments. Similarly, it was, and most probably still is, very commonplace
experience for the people in the Bible land. For example, Jonathan poked a stick
into a honeycomb and licked some honey (2 Sam. 14:27). Samson while walking on a
trail through wilderness finds honeycomb in a dead lion’s carcass and picks up
the comb and eats it (Jud. 14:8-9). In the New Testament wild honey was a part
of John Baptist’s diet who lived in the wilderness of Judea. Honey in Israel was
considered something special and was a symbol of best and most satisfying food.
When someone went to visit an important person he would take honey as a special
gift to honor that person (Gen. 43:11; 1 ki. 14:3; 2 Sam. 17:29). It was a
symbol of prosperity and having everything in plenty. That is why the promised
land is described as “a Land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8,17;
Lev.20:24; Num. 13:27; Deut. 6:3; Josh. 5:6; Jer. 11:5; Eze. 20:6,15; etc). It
was a symbol of best and most satisfying sweetness. Therefore a lover would
compare his beloved with honey; “Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my
bride; milk and honey are under your tongue (S.S.4:11; also 5:1). For this very
reason Solomon advises to eat honey in Proverb 24:13. However, when he advises
to eat honey, he is not really speaking of the literal honey found in a forest.
See the context of that verse. Read the next verse; “Know that wisdom is thus
for your soul” (Prov. 24:14). What Solomon is saying in these two verses is that
if you have ever tasted honey from a comb, you would have some idea that just as
the honey from a comb is sweet to your taste, wisdom is important for your soul.
Just as honey is a delight to the taste and satisfies man’s physical hunger;
wisdom satisfies your soul. Just as you would look for the best food to satisfy
your hunger, you would do well if you would strive to achieve wisdom to satisfy
you soul. And so the Scripture compares the Word of God, the source of true
wisdom, with honey, even honey from the comb.
David who has tasted the Word of God
writes from his own experience; “The judgments of the Lord are more...desirable
than gold, yes than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of
the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:9-10). Also, “How sweet are your words to my taste! yes,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Ps. 119:103). When the prophet Ezekiel ate the
scroll of the Word of God he says, “it was sweet as honey in my mouth” (Eze.
3:3). Actually, the Word of God is far more satisfying than honey, than anything
else that we can find under the sun. With the honey too much of it and you would
loathe it; “A sated man loathes honey” (Prov. 27:7); and, “Have you found honey?
Eat only what you need, lest you have it in excess and vomit it” (Prov. 25:16).
And so Solomon says, “It is not good to eat much honey” (Prov. 25:27). However,
with the Word of God, more you eat, sweeter it gets; more you devour it more you
would want it. Also, honey or nothing else can compare to the satisfaction, joy,
fulfillment that we receive from the Word of God. The blessings of the Word of
God is from out of this world ..literally! God blesses us with every good thing
of this world to satisfy us (Ps. 104:28; 81:16; 114:14). However, nothing can
satisfy us like the Word of God, the fellowship and communion with God through
our time in His Word. As David said, “O God, you are my God. I shall seek you
earnestly; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for you, in a dry and weary
land where there is no water.” And he says, in God “My soul is satisfied as with
marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips” (Ps. 63:1, 5).
The temptation is always there, even for
us who would consider ourselves as mature disciples, to seek satisfaction in the
things of the world; to consider ourselves “blessed” when God provides us with
far more than just meeting our needs. We too need to respond the invitation;
“why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the
richest of fare” (Is. 55:2). My prayer, and your prayer, like David, should be;
“O Lord...deliver my soul...from men of world, whose portion is in this life;
and whose belly Thou dost fill with Thy treasure; they are satisfied with
children, and leave their abundance to their babes. As for me, I shall behold
Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake”
(Ps.17:13-15, NASB) “Eat honey, for it is good, yes, the honey from the comb is
sweet to your taste,” because if you have tasted this honey, you would know how
satisfying to your soul it is.
Are you eating this honey? You can never
have enough! I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than
riches untold. He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey
from out the comb. (Rhea F. Miller, 1922)
God has given God has given us the world
as our playground. God has given us the opportunity to find out who we are. Like
children, we find out who we are by experimenting with different aspects of who
we are not. We are allowed to roam free doing as we choose, but after traveling
in circles, our spirit speaks. With its soft gentle urgings, the soul motivates
us to step up to the next level. We wish to be enlightened and guided as we seek
personal growth, but we get angry with God for not providing us with the proper
directions. When we open our eyes we will see the many guideposts God has placed
along our path. These guideposts can be people, books, movies, songs, etc.; yet
they will only come into focus once our perceptions have changed. By providing
us angels, God has given us the ability to reach our true potential. Great men
and women have walked the earth trying to show us the way to the mountaintop.
Most of us attempt to blaze our own trail up the peak, refusing to follow the
paths of these angels. After many failed attempts, we usually look for a guide
to show us the way. Why do we delay in seeking direction? Must we suffer the
pain and humiliation of repeating the lesson? We are like spoiled children who
go kicking and screaming until they get their way. When we let go of our own
pride and are able to ask for help, then the answers are provided. God has
supplied us with all we need, yet our perceptions keep us blind to the truth.