Choosing Joy

This Sunday, in our December series Christmas Behind the Seen I talked about choosing Joy, even in our disappointment and in light of God’s promise of restoration. As part of the message, I talked about Alan and Heidi Matthew who are going through the fight of their lives as Alan was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the esophagus and lungs. In the midst of this incredibly difficult trial, Alan and Heidi are choosing joy. Here’s the unabridged version of Alan’s note he sent last week as we’ve been talking about joy, faith, and trials.

Oh Jonathan, I so much appreciate you my brother and pastor. You have truly been a new and positive influence on me as you took over for Jan. My life experience holds lots of choosing joy in trials but I must tell you it is so different this time. You see, this time I am truly focused on the Lord and what He has planned for me. With the faith in what is to come – promised by Him – I am free to choose His Joy. I cannot control my own life and have not been able to. Once I really grabbed onto that concept and it became real to me, I can surrender my cares to Him. This time it is not as conceptual, however, it has consumed me to follow what He wants me to do: look outside my own trials and reach out to others. That means sowing the seeds of Truth and bearing spiritual fruit. This lesson squares with James 1 because it grounds me. I am not tossed by the waves but can focus on God’s truth and share it with others. The test of trials makes me stronger when I have this confidence.

It has been very exciting to have non-Christian people ask me about positive attitude in the midst of trials. What they are asking me is, “What is it that allows you to be positive?” My response about having faith in the unseen future puzzles them. What they are really looking for is how they can share that confidence in facing their trials, their heartaches, and their failures. Doubt is what holds us back and throws us back into the waves (just like Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus when walking on water). I was pleased to have 9 guests to attend two RainCity Lounge performances because people were open to my invitation… because they saw something different in me when I responded to this great trial in my life.

So what is the result? Perseverance in Faith. And how does that happen in my trial? I have to ask for it. I have to ask Jesus with faith to supply it to me without doubt. This is what differs in my life today. I can ask without doubt because I believe it.

Finally, God is good. He wants the best for us, not the empty trials that enter our lives. He wants us to be stronger and more productive (John 15 – my Father prunes the branches to make them stronger and more fruitful) How am I pruned? How is it that trials make me stronger and more confident in my faith? How is it that my Lord went through all trials and more than I will ever see, yet without sin?

I can therefore come boldly before Jesus knowing He went through trials much worse than mine and can help me overcome mine with mercy and grace in my time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

So how is this practical when facing a trial? True faith brings joy. Joy overflows when you reach out beyond yourself. People see that in you and respond. They want what they see in you. It isn’t the trial that brings the joy. It is the response to the trial that people see. My prayer is to respond to trials by asking Jesus for the extra measure of faith I need – without doubt or reservation. Believe me when I say that it is not easy to do and requires focus on Him to deliver it to me because I don’t have that kind of strength. He develops perseverance in me to make me mature and complete, and He uses trials to do that. Bless you my brother!

That’s how you choose joy, even in your disappointment because God has promised ultimate restoration in and through the Christmas gift of Jesus Christ.

9 Replies to “Choosing Joy”

  1. What an awesome testimony of our Lord’s presence and faithfulness! I too battled cancer. I survived I believe through much prayer as God’s plan for my life is still unfolding. I had many times to share God’s Love with my Oncology doctors/nurses……what else are you going to do hooked up to chemo for hours?

    He has a plan for us all who believe & trust in Him. Keep on going brother! He will never let you go.

    Your sister in Christ,


  2. Also, I think if more Christians really understood what awaits us in heaven we’d all be clamoring to get there faster 🙂

    Have you read Randy Alcorn’s book titled Heaven? It’s awesome !!!

  3. Our Northshore Spiritual Family,
    We are so grateful for your prayers and support you have no idea. Trials are so much easier when you have such a loving and generous group of Brothers and Sisters to back you up. We are trusting the Lord to give us strength and an extra measure of Faith but we feel your loving arms and sweet spirits every day.
    Alan and Heidi

    1. alan and heidi! thanks for giving us the great privilege and joy of walking alongside the matthew family in prayer and support. we love you guys and are praying for you!

  4. Alan,

    I shared your testimony with the founder of Cancer Comfort Ministry, of which I am an active volunteer member. We affectionately call ourselves, “side kicks”, coming along side those suffering from cancer to offer comfort, practical support and mostly hope in Jesus. As a fellow cancer survivor myself my heart and prayers go out to you.

    I have been asked by Dianne West, founder of Cancer Comfort Ministry, if you would consider speaking at our annual spring event. We are a Christian non-profit and hold a private auction/dinner each spring. We would consider it an honor to have you give your testimony. Please give this prayerful consideration. We will pray for you in the meantime.

  5. Pastor Jonathan – thank you for sharing this, and to Alan and Heidi – thank you for sharing your joy amidst trials with all of us. My husband and I began attending Northshore this year, and our story includes some similar themes (as I believe every human mjst choose joy in trials – some physical, emotional etc.) my health is a continual struggle and it is so encouraging to see the testimony of others walking through physical pain and illness with eyes for eternity. I began a blog this year with a focus on living God-honoring and joy-filled lives in the midst of chronic health struggles and pain. I’m going to try and link this blog to my blog (if i can figure it out since I am kinda new at this).
    God bless each of you and I am praying for you Alan and Heidi.

    for His Smile,

  6. I too am a Cancer Survivor. My husband and I continue to try to give people hope, strength and faith when they are in the midst of this terrible disease. I am praying for Heidi and the Children.

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