I don't know where the inspiration came from that day as I sat in class in the fifth grade, but it zipped into my brain and motivated me. I had felt a sneeze coming on and the thought pricked my mind, 'Why don't you see if you can hold this sneeze?" Honestly folks, for once it wasn't in the name of entertaining my friends that I decided to try to dominate it. It was more scientific curiosity. Was it possible to hold a sneeze? Can you hold a wild horse? My experience lasted about half a thought. The sneeze grew and as I held it beyond the normal time suddenly it had to get out. I exploded like a volcano emptying its pent-up power from the bowels of the earth. 'Ah-CHOOOOOOOOOO!” Note, it wasn't just 'ah-choo.” like some of the dainty sneezes that you ladies do. 'Ah-CHOOOOOOOOOO!” is a much more accurate representation of the event. Some of my classmates turned towards me in surprise, a slight smile on their face. They couldn't quite tell if I was trying to be funny or if that really was a genuine sneeze. The teacher glanced at me too and I think if she'd seen any hint of a snicker on my face, I would have been dead. All she saw was the slightly sheepish expression of a fellow whose scientific experiment had gone bad.
I thought about that the other night in a small service we do twice a month in the town of Epernay, France. We meet in a community building at the same time that other associations meet. This particular Thursday, there was some sort of a course being taught in the room next door and the lady asked me if we could hold it down a bit with our music. So, I told the folks to sing, but with only half the normal volume. Praying quietly and speaking quietly was easier but how can you sing half-volume? It's like trying to hold a sneeze. Especially if the joy of the Lord is in your heart. This joy is our strength. It's our inheritance from the Lord.
A fellow wrote from prison instructing other Christians and over and over he told them to be joyful (the book of Phillipians). You can be joyful in prison? Yup. This same fellow was so full of joy that another time he had been beaten and chucked into the slammer with his buddy Silas. Those guys, they were warbling their praise at midnight! The Bible says the other prisoners heard them. I imagine! The Bible doesn't tell us what the other prisoners said but guys, you can't hold a sneeze and it's hard to hold back your joy when you're aware of the presence of the Lord Jesus ... even in prison at midnight.
So, are you dominating your sneezes lately? Have you put joy on the backburner? Here's what to do: Get full of God's Spirit.
'Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!” (Rom. 15:13, The Message)
If you don't have joy, sing until you do.
'... but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Eph. 5:18-20, KJV)
Here's Eugene Peterson's rendering of these verses in the Message: "Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ." Think about the promises and the truth of His word until joy bubbles up.
"When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty." (Jeremiah 15:16, NIV)
If joy is missing, in thankfulness to God, go serve someone until it comes.
"Because you didn't serve God, your God, out of the joy and goodness of your heart in the great abundance, you'll have to serve your enemies whom God will send against you." (Deut. 28:47, The Message)
And if your joy is suppressed, start praising Him until it bursts forth.
'My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips ..." (Ps. 63:5, KJV)
I hope it doesn't bug you but I like to give you a bit of advice: when it comes to sneezing, just let it rip. Same goes for joy. You'll be much healthier for it (though your neighbors may be slightly irritated). ______________________________
Hmmm ... 'The only trouble with doing nothing is you never know when you're done.” Groucho Marx.