Alittle boy was pestering his father. who was desperately trying to get some paperwork done. The father thought he'd distract his son by giving him a piece of paper, a pencil and asking him to draw a dog.
Two minutes later, his son returned with the picture of a dog. The father then asked him to draw an elephant. The same thing happened. The dad then asked him to draw a lion, a frog, a dinosaur - all projects with which the little boy quickly complied. Finally, the father came up with an ingenious idea.
"OK, son, draw a picture of God," he said, believing he'd outwitted the boy at last. But two minutes later, the little boy returned with a picture of God.
The father was astonished. "No one knows what God looks like," he said.
The little boy responded, "Well, they will now!"
Imagine this: Thirteen men embark on the adventure of their lives. One is the leader, the others follow Him. Together, as close friends, they see and experience things never heard of before - food is multiplied to feed thousands; people walk on water at night in a storm; dead people are raised to life again; sick people are healed and sinners are given hope.
One day, after walking together and witnessing these tremendous events for several years, everything takes a drastic turn for the worse. The leader is betrayed and brutally murdered, and his betrayer - one of his followers - takes his own life. At least that's how the rest of the followers perceive it. One day, they're on an amazing adventure with the hope their leader will become the king of their nation, and the next, He's dead, their hopes are dashed and they're afraid for their very lives.
Suddenly, the leader they'd seen die - Jesus - appears among them, back from the dead and asks them, "Why are you troubled?" And then He begins to eat, as if their isn't a worry in the world.
Not only that, Jesus is full of joy - and He means for His followers to be full of joy, too.
Jesus' attitude is radically different than that His followers had at the time. Jesus was full of joy, despite trying circumstances.
Jesus drew a picture of God for us with His flesh and blood. It was drawn perfectly, an exact replica of God's image.
If you picture God in your mind, what expression is on His face? What do you see? Is it disappointment? Is it a regal somberness? Is He young, old, middle-aged? Is He playful? Is He smiling, laughing?
It's important to realize that whatever picture you have of God, it is affecting your relationship with Him. Is it possible that someone else has drawn a picture of Him for you, and it's missing the key element of joy?
Something happened when I was driving east on U.S. Highway 12 to a meeting I was not looking forward to. In fact, I was complaining to God and explaining to Him all the reasons I had to be discouraged. As I did this, suddenly, a picture appeared in my mind's eye of Jesus laughing. He seemed to be the happiest person I have ever witnessed. I learned right then that Jesus is not nearly as worried about our circumstances as we are.
Jesus desires us to be full of joy, real joy, even when things seem difficult. After all, He told his disciples, knowing full well that He was on His way to the cross, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:11.
Many people live with a counterfeit "joy" no different from the canned laughter prompted by a "laughter" sign flashed to the studio audience at the taping of a TV show. Jesus promises that only He can provide us with joy that is heartfelt, not teleprompted. And the joy Jesus offers us is real. Jesus wants to replace our counterfeit joy with His.
Our sense of joy comes and goes, if we aren't careful what we listen to or think about. Jesus wanted His joy in us to be full, and to remain. The clearer, more accurate picture we have of God, the fuller our joy becomes and the more it remains. The next time you picture God, try picturing Him with a smile on His face. If you are really brave, picture Him bending over, laughing uncontrollably.
"The LORD your God, in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17.
The Rev. Bob Grimm is senior pastor of Life Church in Walla Walla. Contact him at 509-526-3450. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should call Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.