I’d just spoken and shared my testimony for the first time to a room of a hundred women. I’d been planning this conference – and my opening night talk – for months. Leading this conference had been quite a challenge, way out of my comfort zone, and had been quite an inner struggle to get to this night.
Through all the weeks of planning and preparation, my prayers had been filled with more tears and cries of desperation than words of gratitude and worship. I was way out on a limb and God was doing hard work in my heart.
After I spoke that night, though, all the gratitude that had been building up in my heart came flowing out. I was overwhelmed with joy and celebration as we were singing to close the night.
Though the months prior had been hard, I was grateful for the work God was starting in my life. That night was a reminder that even though our dark and difficult seasons, God still wants us to celebrate in him and experience his joy. It was a night of celebrating God and rejoicing over his presence in my life.
“Faith in its celebration sometimes becomes a delirious joy coursing through our bodily being, when we really begin to see how great and lovely God is and how good he has been to us.”~Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
Celebrating God through Jubilee
In Leviticus 25, God decrees that every fiftieth year would be a Jubilee year. He’d already decreed that every seventh year was a Sabbath year, a year when fields were left fallow to rest and recover. God promised to provide enough in the sixth year to fill the stores and carry them through the Sabbath year.
Now, every seven cycles of Sabbath years, the Israelites were to leave the fields fallow for another second year in a row. Two years of trusting in God’s provision.
Leviticus 25 – Year of Jubilee (NIV)
11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. 12 For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
18 “‘Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. 19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. 20 You may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?” 21 I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. 22 While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.
The year of Jubilee was to be a celebration, but this celebration required full trust in God. This was a hard year to survive, depending on the size of the crops in the prior years. It was also a year of releasing slaves and indentured servants and giving property back to its original owner.
So, in a year of great fear for survival, much change giving up your land or moving from where you’ve always lived, God called his people to joyfully celebrate.
To find true celebration and joy, you must fully trust and obey God. Only through that trust and obedience can you know true joy, letting go of all your cares because you trust that God is in charge.
The Hebrew word used for Jubilee is yobel, which is also translated as ‘ram’s horn’, the kind used to make trumpets. The shophar is the trumpet made from a ram’s horn that was used to announce a celebration. It was also the trumpet blown as the Israelites circled the city of Jericho.
Sound the trumpets, announce a celebration, even as you face a season of greatest challenge, for the Lord can do great things and conquer all with your celebration.
“Celebration heartily done makes our deprivations and sorrow seem small, and we find in it great strength to do the will of our God because his goodness becomes so real to us.”~Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
Spiritual Discipline of Celebrating God
God commanded the Israelites to gather three times a year to celebrate and be joyful. Jesus entered the world with cries of hallelujah and great joy. (Luke 2:10) He entered ministry by publicly proclaiming the year of Jubilee (Luke 4:18-19). His first miracle was performed at a wedding celebration. Throughout his ministry, we see people celebrate and utter cries of jubilee and hallelujah after experiencing Jesus.
Joy and celebration are an essential part of following Christ.
Even when life is hard, we are called into worshiping and celebrating God. The spiritual discipline of celebration is to bring focus on your celebration, make sure you take time to celebrate. Do things that bring your heart joy and that bring joy to others. Don’t get so busy in the planning and preparations that you forget to actually celebrate.
How to Practice Spiritual Celebration:
- Sing and dance, worshiping God and finding joy in the everyday.
- Do something special to celebrate a holiday, birthday, special event with your friends and family.
- Do something you enjoy, that makes you smile and laugh and have fun. Allow yourself to enjoy it, thanking God for the gift of joy and laughter.
- Spend time with someone who brings you joy.
“Without joyous celebration to infuse the other Disciplines, we will sooner or later abandon them. Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong.”~Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Spiritual Discipline of Gratitude
Gratitude is being aware and giving thanks to God for all his blessings upon your life. It is living with a thankful heart.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Gratitude isn’t just thanking God for what you have and what he’s done for you. It’s thanking God for who he is and his presence in your life. It’s a choice to be thankful and to find the good in each day, rather than focusing on the challenges.
As you practice the discipline of gratitude, you’ll draw nearer to God and notice how he is all you need.
“Holy delight and joy is the great antidote to despair and is a wellspring of genuine gratitude – the kind that starts at our toes and blasts off from our loins and diaphragm through the top of our head, flinging our arms and our eyes and our voice upward toward our good God.”~Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
How to Practice Gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal – noting all the blessings you see, all the ways you’re thankful for God. One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, is a great resource for this (affiliate link).
- What makes you the most frustrated during the week? Instead make that a practice of gratitude.
- Sitting in traffic or at stoplights? Make that a time of naming as many blessings as you can before you start driving again.
- Hate waiting in line? Make that a time of writing out a list of all the ways you’ve seen God that day. Don’t stop until your turn is called.
- Each day or each week, write a letter or email to someone in your life tell them ‘thank you’ for how they have blessed you.
- At the end of each day, thank God for at least one thing that day. Make this your daily thank you card to God.
How Will You Worship God through Celebration and Gratitude?
How are you worshiping and celebrating God in your life today?
Do you find yourself focusing more on the difficulties in your life? Wondering where God is in each day? Feel too overwhelmed by what’s going on in your life to smile or enjoy yourself?
Try putting some focus on practicing celebration and gratitude.
God wants you to celebrate and experience joy, even in those difficult seasons. Make sure you take time to celebrate. Try some of the suggestions here and worship God with a thankful, grateful heart.
“The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!”~Augustine of Hippo
Learn more about Spiritual Disciplines:
Interested in learning more about spiritual disciplines? Want to find another one that may be a better fit for you right now? Click here for more spiritual disciplines and how to use them to grow your faith. Also, below are some books I highly recommend on the spiritual disciplines. (These are affiliate links.)