Our home in New Kent, Virginia is within a short drive of two wineries. When out-of-state guests visit us, we like to take them to tour one of these companies nursing a process that’s about 8,000 years old. As we previously stated, we’re not wine connoisseurs, nor do we drink alcoholic beverages of any type; but we do cook with it. And we find the history and process of winemaking an interesting subject. For instance, God created winemaking.
Take a deep breath and relax. When God designed the grape, He impregnated the skins with a microorganism known as yeast. This microorganism occurs naturally on every single grape that ever grew on a vine — and it’s the key ingredient needed to jumpstart the fermentation process, which produces wine from plain juice. So, if you crush grapes and leave the juice to it’s own devices, sooner or later the fruit sugars will ferment to alcohol! Hence, it was inevitable that God’s people discovered a process that God in His wisdom engineered.
Grapes are an excellent source of antioxidants, and regular consumption of the fruit may yield several potential health benefits, such as the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. But wine made from grapes seems to intensify these health benefits, and its alcohol content has a medicinal affect. In fact, the Apostle Paul, instructed his protege Timothy to “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and frequent illnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:23 NIV) No doubt, the stress of shepherding a sometimes contrary congregation was beginning to take a toll on Timothy in the form of an upset stomach, and a little wine can be soothing. Note, however, the keywords a little!
As with several other wonderful things created by God, many people have abused alcohol and reaped the destructive effects of doing so; but God actually intended wine to be a comfort. Psalm 104:14-15 declares, “You make wine to cheer human hearts, olive oil to make faces shine, and bread to strengthen human hearts.” (GW) The fermented drink was consumed during all of “The Feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:1-2) which most people now refer to as specifically Jewish holidays. And Jesus made it the object of His first public miracle when He turned water into wine at a wedding feast.
Wine is furthermore linked to joy in a dozen Bible verses, such as, “[God’s people will] cry out with joy … over the Lord’s goodness, over the grain, the new wine, the fresh oil….” (Jeremiah 31:12 ISV); and “Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound….” (Psalm 4:7 NIV) “Joy” is defined as a sense of well-being, gladness, or exhilaration of spirits — despite one’s circumstances. It’s the inner conviction that everything is going to turn out for the best, even in the midst of adversity. Joy is listed among the fruit of the Spirit, in Galatians 5:22; and it’s cultivated by “abiding” in God (John 15:5). See also yesterday’s post, “New Wine.”)
Joy is one of the main themes of the Book of Philippians. In expounding on the theme, Dr. David Jeremiah writes, “The reason for Paul’s joy was his relationship with Christ! …We will observe the testing of that joy in the crucible of Roman imprisonment. If Paul’s relationship to his Master could bring joy under those conditions, then surely we who also love the Savior can learn to rejoice in our difficult times as well.” (Turning Toward Joy, p.13)
Extended periods of sorrow, and a gloom-and-doom attitude can make you sick! On the other hand, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22 NASB) So no matter what happens, no matter what someone says, it’s far better to stay filled with the spirit of joy than to munch on sour grapes! Sour grapes will do nothing but pucker up your mouth, but maintaining your joy will actually empower you!
The Prophet Nehemiah stated, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10 NLT) The prophet wrote this to his people during some truly tough times. But he was admonishing all of us that joy and strength are connected: they flow from the same divine wellspring.
Charles Swindoll states in his book Laugh Again! (also based on Philippians): “I know of no greater need today than the need for joy…. When that kind of joy comes aboard our ship of life, it brings good things with it — like enthusiasm for life, determination to hang in there, and a strong desire to be an encouragement to others…. There is nothing better than a joyful attitude when we face the challenges life throws at us.” (p. 19)
Joy is like strong wine! But how do you keep your joy, and hence, your strength, in the midst of a fallen and often negative world? First, you make a conscious decision to be joyful, because joy, like love, is a choice — not a feeling! That’s why Paul wrote, while sitting in a dirty prison cell, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) Train your mind to focus on the positive, because you are what you think! (Proverbs 23:7) Continually count your blessings; focus on God’s love and acceptance; and be glad to be alive!
Don’t get stuck in yesterday’s disappointments. Each day is a new beginning with new opportunities. Declare each new morning, “This the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 Holman)
Stay in God’s presence, because “…In [His] presence there is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:1 ESV) How do we stay in God’s presence? As we wrote last week, by abiding in Him. Remember, Christ said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me … bears much fruit….” (John 15:5 ESV) We abide in Christ by staying closely connected to God, the source of our strength, through prayer and daily Bible study. Give God a little quality time each day, and let Him guide you in all things; and in return, He’ll give you the strength to overcome life’s challenges!
No matter what comes your way, you’ll lead a fruitful life characterized by contagious joy! Declare to God, “You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests … and new wine.” (Psalm 4:7 NLT) “The Lord is the strength of my life!” (Psalm 27:1 KJB)