New Hope® Publishers P. O. Box 12065 Birmingham, AL 35202-2065 NewHopeDigital.com New Hope Publishers is a division of WMU®. © 2012 by Chandra Peele All rights reserved. First printing 2012. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise — without the prior written permission of the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Peele, Chandra. Joy(full) : God’s joy in a girls’ life : a 6-week study on joy from the series for teens and college-bound girls / Chandra Peele. p. cm. ISBN 978-1-59669-349-4 (pbk.) 1. Joy — Religious aspects — Christianity — Textbooks. 2. Bible. N.T. Philippians — Textbooks. 3. Teenage girls — Religious life — Textbooks. 4. Christian teenagers — Religious life — Textbooks. 5. Young women — Religious life — Textbooks. I. Title. II. Title: Joyfull. BV4647.J68P44 2012 248.8’33 — dc23 2012020856 All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked The Message are taken from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Cover and Interior Design: Glynese Northam Cover Photo: Elisa Huggins ISBN-10: 1-59669-349-5 ISBN-13: 978-1-59669-349-4 N124102 • 0812 • 2M1
Each time I begin to write a new study, the anticipation of where the Lord will lead me and how He will wrap it up is always exciting! Writing Joy(Full ) is extra special. Philippians is known as Paul’s letter of joy written to the church at Philippi, and Joy(Full) is very much my letter of joy written to you. In fact, get used to seeing exclamation marks! This study may prove to be an exclamation overload! Joy is my favorite word, and sharing the joy of Jesus is something I love! Webster’s says that joy “is dependent on a feeling of happiness that comes from success, good fortune, or a sense of well-being.” Umm . . . for those living outside a relationship with Jesus Christ, maybe. But for me, joy has a different meaning. As Christians, when we are: Confident in Christ; in Him, there is joy. Secure in Christ; based on God’s divine guidance and care— joy. Serving the Lord; seeing Him at work — joy. Empowered by Christ; knowing He has a plan for us personally — joy. Those who identify with Webster’s definition might think that with money we experience joy. Maybe you yourself have thought, Oh, if I just had money to do what I needed or wanted to do, I’d give to the poor, buy my mama a house, my sister a car, and be fulfilled in every way. Probably not! From superstars to the rich and famous, I’ve heard people say they would trade all their riches for real joy. Solomon wrote:
“Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy
in his work, this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). So while it is possible to have wealth and joy, please note that joy comes from knowing the Lord, not from being wealthy. Once, while I was speaking on the topic of spiritual and physical purity at a youth rally, I said, “Life is hopeless and meaningless without Jesus Christ — no matter how rich or poor you are.” The next day I received a phone call from a mom whose son had told her what I had said. Upset, she wanted me to know that she did not agree with me, and thought I should keep my opinions to myself:
“We are very wealthy and my husband is a very successful businessman. We have three boys who are all very smart. One is a doctor, one a student at Harvard and our youngest will soon graduate at the top of his senior class with an offer for a full scholarship to several prestigious schools. My husband and I are not religious, had sex before we were married, and live a very prosperous and happy life. Who are you to tell others that life is meaningless without Christ?” I wanted to defend my words, but the Holy Spirit seemed to cover my mouth. As she spoke, I listened — without saying a word. She hung up after she finished, so I wasn’t given a chance for a rebuttal. But somehow, I don’t think I needed to say anything; God’s truth is powerful, and I believe was already at work in her life. What I wanted to say to this woman is that when the money is gone, the diplomas fade, and the good life has been lived to the best of your ability, then what? Suddenly, that kind of happiness doesn’t sound so happy. Despair, anguish, and gloom can turn a once happy life into darkness, into hopelessness. But (yes, thankfully there is a
but) if you know Jesus Christ and have assurance of God at work in your life, your true joy trumps those feelings. “Stuff ” and prestige (gifts, clothes, making the A team, money) make us happy. But unfortunately feelings of happiness are temporary. When the stuff is gone and the prestige fades away, happiness turns into worry just as the physical stuff ultimately turns to dust. Everyone can be happy, but joyful? That can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord for His grace, His Word, and for people like Paul, whose written word, inspired by God, can teach us how to live the Christian life, how to treat others, how to give, how to share the gospel, and how to light up the world. Through His Word, we can look forward to heaven and learn how to keep on doing what we have learned with a joyful heart. As we dig deep into this letter, our eyes and heart will open, to identify things we once thought were so important, but are really of no value. Paul says,
“Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant-dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him” (Philippians 3: 8–9 The Message). As I write this study, my joy, like Paul’s, is overflowing. How will the Lord use my story along with Paul’s to deliver a transforming message to you? I don’t know the answer; however, I am confident of this: His plan is in motion and it will be revealed in His perfect timing. Imagine . . . a world where girls find real joy in a life dedicated to serving Christ, where they find contentment in every circumstance and discover how real joy comes from knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). Are you ready to be Joy(Full )?
hose who know me best know that my favorite word is joy. Most of the time, I’m a pretty joyful person. Recently, however, in a momentary me-me-me state of mind, the Holy Spirit reminded me of my joyless complaining words. “I don’t understand what God is waiting for,” I shared with several friends. “Lindsey (my oldest daughter) loves the Lord, so where is this Mr. Right we have prayed for? As though I knew what was best for her, my words were complaining, certainly not shining like a star or boasting in my Lord (Philippians 2:14–15). Who am I? Could my plan be better than the Lord’s plan? I don’t think so! He, God, not only created Lindsey, but He knows how many hairs she has on her pretty, little head. Let me explain.
Bruce and I have two daughters, Lindsey and Holly. I can remember praying for them before they were born. While rubbing my pregnant tummy, I would say (among other things), “Lord, bless this little girl. As she draws near to You, draw near to her. May she be a reflection of you as you prepare her to be a godly little girl, a teenager, a young woman, a wife, and a mother. And Lord, one day, when she’s ready, bless her with a godly husband. Wherever he is, keep him safe and in Your will. While they grow up loving You, prepare them to love each other.”
At 24, Lindsey had never dated, but it hadn’t seemed to bother her until she graduated from college. By that time, most of her friends had serious boyfriends or were getting married. For the first time in her life, Lindsey admitted that she was discouraged. Tearfully, she said, “Mom! What’s wrong with me? I pray and pray and still I haven’t even met anyone, much less gone on a date.” Someday perhaps you will understand what it’s like to be a mother. To want the very best for your children, to want so badly to fix whatever they think is wrong. Hurting for her, I cried out to God, “Lord. What’s going on here? We have prayed for Lindsey since before she was born. She loves You. And Lord, I have given my life talking to students about your precious gift of marriage, so why would You not have favor on my daughter in this area? You know she has been patient, and that her heart’s desire is to be a godly wife and mother. Lord, I can’t fix this, but You can, so please do something!” After a few months at home after they graduated from college, the girls rented a townhome together. They joined a new church, became involved with Bible study, hosted a small group of girls, hosted class fellowships, did mission projects in the community, played church league softball and went to social events with friends.
Looking back, I believe God allowed Lindsey to become desperate, because in her desperation she turned to Him, talked to Him, read His Word and then became satisfied in Him alone. She was joy(full) for the first time in a long time. With her focus more on Him and less on “finding Mr. Right,” He was at work, changing Lindsey’s heart. When she was mature enough, satisfied enough and confident enough in Him alone, that’s when it happened!
Within a few months after I’d whined to my friends, Lindsey was at a Grey Street (the name of their singles class) beach retreat, and not a second before the Lord had planned it their eyes met. The rest, as the saying goes, is history! Lindsey and Bryan went on their first date shortly after, and seven months later this godly young man asked Bruce to go to dinner with him. Over dinner, Bryan expressed his love for Lindsey and told Bruce, “I love Lindsey and I want her to be my wife.” When Bruce came home he told me everything! As he spoke, I was humbled as I realized in the midst of my complaining, the Lord’s plan had already been set into motion and was beginning to unfold! Almost audibly the Lord said to me, “Oh daughter . . . all that needless worry and I had it under control the whole time.” I’m so thankful that God is in control and I am not. A few weeks later, Lindsey was engaged! The tears in my eyes the night of their engagement were both of great joy and of repentance. In the midst of my joy I needed to confess my lack of faith during the past year. If only I had been more patient, and trusted Him completely, perhaps I could have been more encouraging to my daughter. Instead, she could sense my anxiousness for her to meet someone too. When I consider some of the boys I hoped would ask her out, I have to say, Thank You, Lord! Forgive me for wanting to take control.
With a heart of repentance, the Lord began to bring to mind all the ways He had been working throughout her life. He had shielded her from hurt and heartache. If she had said yes to some of those young men who showed interest in her, perhaps she would have let her guard down, would have regret or settled for less than Godâ€™s best. I realized that night that God had answered all our prayers.
Do you ever complain that God doesn’t answer your prayers? Perhaps my story will give you a new perspective. You see, while I was praying all those years for the Lord to guard Lindsey’s heart, to bring a godly man to her in His perfect timing, Lindsey was praying too. She was asking the Lord to guard her heart in the area of relationships with boys, praying specifically that she could date one man and marry him. She prayed for a godly, loving, responsible man; someone like her daddy with whom she would live happily ever after according to God’s plan. God answered both our prayers, but in His perfect time, not ours. Do you understand now why in the midst of such joy, I had a heart of repentance? While being desperate for God’s help is a good place to be, my attitude towards Him was not respectful but bossy and demanding. In my extreme anxiety, my faith was lacking and fear crept in. I began to have thoughts like, “Oh no! Will Lindsey ever get married?” Praise God that He loves me in spite of myself and that His plan is always the best plan. (Side note) We learned in Power(Full) from the study of 2 Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and selfdiscipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). And in Philippians 4: 6–7, Paul urges us with the following:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I recently read about a scientific experiment that gives a great analogy for fear. When scientists put a mouse in a cage with a snake, instinctively, the mouse did not move because he feared the snake would eat him. Don’t you and I do the same? Fearful that we might not make the grade, get picked for the softball team, make cheerleader, become first chair in band, get the job, not have a boyfriend, never get married, yada, yada, yada. It’s as though Satan sounds the alarm at the hint of our fear and sends his army to kick us when we’re already down. In fact, Satan loves it when Christians become anxious, because in our fear we become paralyzed like the mouse. We lose our confidence and our joy, and in this paralyzed state we aren’t helpful, hopeful, or peaceful. The bottom line: we aren’t living out our purpose. Are you fearful about something? If so, pray. If you don’t know what to pray, simply talk to Jesus and say, “Dear Jesus, I don’t want to be fearful, I don’t want to be anxious; I want to give you my cares and worries. My desire is to know you better, to talk to you more, and depend on you more so that I can trust you more. Amen”
In the next verse we see the only One we should fear is the Lord.
To fear the Lord is to have the highest reverence for Him; to respect, worship, and honor Him. Do you fear the Lord? The lesson learned is that when we pray, we should trust the heavenly Father and wait patiently. Be confident. He knows best. Let’s read Jeremiah 29:11–13, one of the most beloved verses in the Bible.
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.’” Stop. Read it again. Circle the word you. This is personal and speaks to why we shouldn’t compare our lives to others’. The plan He has for us is one-of-a-kind, unique to us! We do ourselves a huge disfavor when we compare our lives to others’.
When we believe that God is who He says He is, and we believe the Bible is the true inspired Word of God (inspired by Him), then we should live with confidence. I think we really want to believe, but often our hope, our peace, and our confidence don’t reflect that. The truth is that while I had been praying and seeking Him, what I really wanted was for Him to give me what I wanted, and do it my way. Ouch! That is hard to hear. It’s even harder to admit. This is why you can’t miss this point. God hears us. He answers our prayers. God is good and He loves us! Read this aloud. God is the One True God. I cannot see what He sees or know what He knows but I can trust His plan. Now do you really believe what you just said? Because when we believe this statement, we are empowered by its truth. Write a description of what your life would be like if you lived it free of fear and full of joy.
If you have read any of my other books, you may recall that God finds a place to use my life verse, Psalm 37:4â€“7, in each. Take a moment to open your Bible and read it. The key words are: delight commitment trust righteousness wait 1. When we delight in Him, it means that we get to know Him, we spend time with Him, and it is our joy to be in His presence. Then our desires become His desires, and in His perfect timing He will give us the desires of our heart. 2. Commitment means longevity. The Christian life takes endurance. 3. Since Godâ€™s timing is beyond our comprehension, we have to trust Him. 4. When we choose the path of righteousness (right living), then He will answer our prayers. 5. Being still: We must be patient as we wait for Him; we willingly give Him control.
When I got married, the trend was to keep your wedding dress as an heirloom. This process would protect the wedding dress; it preserved it with hopes that one day your daughter would wear it. Well, over time I knew neither Lindsey nor Holly would want to wear it, but still I looked forward to opening the box as soon as one of them got engaged. Excited, Bruce got the box out and almost ceremonially we opened the large box that had been sealed for 30 years! Waiting anxiously for the big reveal, I finally opened the gold box with a smile, but it quickly turned to a frown. My beautiful wedding dress, once the brightest white, was now tea-stained brown. Have you ever been shocked, upset, and sad all at once? Well, I was! I had paid $200 when I was 18 years old to have the dress preserved as an heirloom, and had worked overtime to pay for it — all for nothing! My girls probably wanted to laugh; not at me, but at the dress. Instead they ooed and awed as we looked into the box at the design, pearl embellishments (now brown), and delicate lace. Obviously the dress had once been beautiful, but on this day it resembled a stuffed corpse in a coffin, minus the body, of course. Tears puddled in my eyes as I held the shoulders and lifted the dress out of the box. Suddenly, while placing it up to my body, the shoulders and sleeves remained in my hands as the bottom half tore away from the frail tulle. There I stood holding two lace shoulders with sleeves as the rest of the dress fell to the floor. You can imagine how disappointed I was to see the dress. In that moment, like pressing a rewind button in my mind, I recalled my dad’s words. “Chandra, Mom and I think this one (a $250 Cinderella-looking dress) is beautiful on you and it is in our budget. If you want the $1,500 dress you will have to pay the difference, but if you want our opinion, the $250 one is beautiful!” My parents were right. I should have gotten that dress and given
my parents the pleasure of buying it for me. But instead, I probably made them feel bad that they couldn’t afford the one I really wanted. I chose the extravagant dress that was out of my price range, bought it myself, and had it heirloomed so one day my daughters (if I had them) could have a beautiful dress to wear. Oh boy. I sure wish I could have a do-over. For what it is worth, lesson learned, Mom and Dad. As I stood there with two sleeves in my hands, I realized the leastexpensive and the most-expensive stuff all ends up the same — dust! I realized what a significant moment this was. Not because of the dress but because of what it represented. The vows Bruce and I had made to God and each other on February 28, 1981, are what matters most. The longevity of our commitment, our consistent will to honor God, the family He blessed us with, the lessons learned, what He has provided, and the blessings we have enjoyed together are more valuable and more precious than a silly dress. Our greatest joy was that all four of us have a relationship with Jesus, and now God has blessed us with a soon to be son-in-law, Bryan, who also loves the Lord! Through sickness and health, good times and bad, for richer, for poorer, till death do us part — we count it all joy! The dress will forever be a spiritual milestone in my life. With a grateful heart, I’m joy(full)! God has done more in 30 years than I could have ever imagined. Bruce and I are more in love today than ever before, we have two precious daughters who have brought us much joy, and now we are stepping into a new season of life. We are grateful for the sweet memories of the past and excited for things to come! At the end of the day, it all comes back to Jesus! He is our rock and our salvation. Our joy is found in our faith. The things of this world are temporary. They will disintegrate and turn to dust. But He is constant. He never changes. His love is everlasting! He is our hope. He is our joy!
If you have taken a drama class, you know how important it is to have a smooth transition from one act to the next. Today as we transition to scene two of this chapter, from my story to Paul’s, I’m prayerful that you will see how the joy of Jesus connects our narratives. Speaking of scenes . . . you might say Paul had an abrupt transition between act one and act two of his life. In the first act of Paul’s life, he was a fanatical Jew who believed wholeheartedly in Jewish teaching. He wasn’t just a religious Jew who occasionally went to synagogue; he was highly educated in the Torah and in Jewish teaching. So when Christianity began to spread, Paul felt it was his duty to snuff out this new religion (Christianity) which he felt would be detrimental to Judaism. Paul, determined to wipe out Christianity, searched out, persecuted, and killed early Christians until one day he experienced an abrupt transition. While on the road to Damascus, Paul met Jesus and was changed forever!
If you have ever wondered how God hears all our prayers, pay special attention to the next two verses. Verse 10: In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision. In verse 11, Jesus said,
“Ananias! Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” We can observe the following from this passage: 1. Jesus knew where Saul would be and that he would be praying. In other words, Jesus knew the future. 2. Jesus gave Ananias a vision of what Saul would be doing at that exact time and told him to go and place his hands on him to restore his sight. Talk about a divine appointment! 3. Ananias could have said, “Lord, there is no way I’m going to do this.” Or he could have ignored the Lord completely and passed the vision off as a dream. Or he could have said, “No,” because
he was confused at why the Lord would choose a man who killed Christians to be His instrument. You have to admit, this is radical! Obviously, the Lord knew He could count on Ananias. This is why He appointed him to do the job.
If you’ve ever wondered how God can hear the prayers of all His children at one time, here is the proof! He knows when we pray and where we are when we pray — now that’s a deep thought! He also knows who is willing and who is not. Read verse 22 again: “Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.” People believed Jesus was the Messiah because the evidence was standing in front of them. Paul, who was 100 percent Jew, who studied the Torah and lived according to Jewish law, was now a Christ follower; he was a changed man! It was God’s plan and obvious for all to see.
Question: Can someone be a Jew and Christian? Yes. A Jew is any person, no matter their religious beliefs, whose mother was a Jew. A person is born a Jew. (Acts 21:31) Being Jewish, however, is to establish a relationship with God — a choice. Why was everyone so upset with Saul after his transformation? Because Saul’s ethnic identity was that he was born a Jew and lived according to Jewish law. Now instead of persecuting Christians, he was preaching Jesus Christ is the Messiah to Jew and Gentile alike. Let’s just say the Pharisees weren’t too happy about his transformation. It was confusing the Jewish camp for sure. After Saul’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity, he also changed his name to Paul. Pharisee: 1. a member of an ancient Jewish sect noted for strict observance of rules and ceremonies of the traditional law. 2. A self-righteous or hypocritical person (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary) Think about your heritage. How might your family react if you changed your religious views, or changed from your particular denomination? For example, from Catholic to Baptist, from Methodist to Lutheran, or from Baptist to Assembly of God; for some families it might not be that big of a deal, but for others it could destroy the hope that the family would continue the tradition of a specific denomination. Break it down. Webster’s says: Denomination: A religious organization uniting local congregations in a single body. Congregation: Flock, worshippers, parishioners, and people who worship together
Now consider this. Paul wasn’t preaching a denomination (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, etc. . . . ); he was preaching a relationship with the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior, Jesus Christ which would assure a change, a transformation in lifestyle. There was no second-guessing with Paul.
“Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:18–20). Besides Jesus Christ Himself, no one has shaped the history of Christianity like the Apostle Paul.
Published on Oct 31, 2012
Today’s teenage girl needs to understand and embrace the difference between a life controlled by joy and one driven by happiness. Well-loved...