Friday, February 23, 2018

Playing With Joy

"The fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22).

One of our sons, Brian, is a high school basketball coach and his team, as I write, is threading it’s way through the Washington State Basketball Tournament bracket. Well-meaning folks around town ask, "Are you going all  the way?" Both players and coaches feel the pressure, so Brian adopted a mantra: "Play with joy!"

I thought of Paul's last words to the elders at Ephesus: "That I may finish my race with joy..." (Acts 20:24 NKJV).

Some of you, if you look up the verse, will find that the words "with joy" don't occur in the text. That's because some of the earliest manuscripts of the Acts of the Apostles omit it. I leave that argument to the scholars but for myself I take the words as they stand and have made them my mantra and my prayer: "May I finish my race with joy." Or as Brian might say, "May I play with joy!" 

One of the worst concomitants of aging is a tendency to grow ill-tempered and out-of-sorts. An old friend told me his grandkids call him grump-pa for that reason. I don't want to be that way.

Old folks have a lot of good reasons to get grouchy: conditions inhere in aging that make it difficult to be sunny and serene. Nevertheless I believe God can give us old folks a joy that transcends these conditions if we ask Him. We can have what Jesus called, "My joy," as we round the bend (John 15:11).

Joy is the "fruit of the Spirit" of Jesus. So I must remember each morning to ask for it: "May I play with joy!” "To pray is to change. This is the great grace. How good of God to provide a path whereby our lives can be taken over by joy..." (Richard Foster).

David Roper

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