Mercy Hope: Joy, tell me a little bit about your family.

Joy Williams: I grew up in a very wonderful Christian household. My parents are both in full-time ministry; my dad the executive director of a Christian conference center, on the West Coast called ‘Mount Hermon’. Which has been a facility for lots of homeschool conferences. Basically it is a family center where Christian families can come hear various speakers, and spend time together and bond together as a family. So that’s my background from West Coast California.

Mercy Hope: Even though you grew up in a good Christian home, I am sure you’ve been through some hard things nonetheless. What is the hardest thing you have had to walk through, and how did that build Character, and help to develop who you have become?

Joy Williams: That is a great question; it’s also a loaded question. I think you are right, just because you are a Christian doesn’t automatically guarantee you that you’ll get a “get out of jail free” card. There are obviously things that come, as Paul talked about in James 1, to “consider it joy when you experience trails of many kinds” saying that you will have trouble, but at the same time, with those issues and with the hardships of life comes the power of Christ and the ability through His Spirit to allow you to be able to transcend all of that and to move through it and to be healthy about it. Grieve if you need to, but always with that hope of the Lord and in the future.
One of the hardest things for me probably within the last few years has been asking the Lord to really re-arrange my heart and my hearts desire. And having God be the one to really shape that for me. It’s been a process of laying down my life for the destiny that He has for me. I always thought that I would graduate high school, and go to college, and get married, and have the white picket fence with the dog and the average 2.5 kids that all American families have. (Laugh) But that has been very different, and God has been stretching me and testing me, and really asking me “How badly do you love me?” because if you love God you will go anywhere He tells you to and do whatever it is He wants you to. And this is apparently what He wants me to do right now. Which is something that I never dreamed I would ever be doing. So that’s been an interesting thing, definitely stretching, and there are times when I say “God, I would just like to be home with my family” but God has called us to go out and make disciples of all the nations and Matthew 28 talks about that, it’s the Great Commission which doesn’t always mean the great moment of comfort.

Mercy Hope: In our ministry, and especially with our women’s magazine, we work with a lot of single women and many of them really struggle with this issue of just wanting a “normal life”. It is different being single.

Joy Williams: The deal is what do you define as normal? What do you define as successful? Again, it’s being defined by the pattern of God for your life. Which is different and creative for everybody, and it’s a wonderful thing. The difficulty comes when we compare ourselves. I think as women we are always going “well she has… well I don’t have… well maybe if…” and we tend to over-analyze and think “if I’m not with somebody I’m not right” or “if I’m not married there is something wrong with me” and the answer is no. Paul talks about being single, it’s a gift to be single, and although innately we love the thought of being with somebody and being united under the covering of marriage God can use you so much more, and you can focus so much more during that time of being “alone” to really fall more in love with Christ. And you’ll never even be able to love someone else, if you haven’t experienced the love of Christ. So in the meantime, be prepared and ask God to prepare your heart for whatever he has for you in the future, whether or not that is a relationship or continually just walking hand in hand with God.

Mercy Hope: Even though I minister in a small genre comparatively, I know some of the pressures that coincide with the blessings of being public. When people come to your table and tell you how much they just love you, etc. etc. how do you keep that from messing with your head? It is so easy to lose your humbleness of heart. At the same time there is always an element of disapproval and criticism, that could easily lead to inferiority complex and depression. How do you stay balanced and simply see yourself in the light of Christ?”

Joy Williams: That really is an issue of asking God to give you a proper focus. If you really realize what God has taken you out of you won’t be quite so haughty of who you are. Because you’ll realize that the only way you are even living and breathing at this point is by God’s grace. Yeah, people are affirming, and very gracious and encouraging and yet I don’t find identity in what I do. I find my identity in who I am in Christ. So that is helpful for me. I love the encouragement, it is very helpful. It can also very easily tweak with your mind, but it really goes back to what is your identity? And who do you identify yourself with? And if that is with Christ you don’t have to get caught in that trap. Galatians 1:10 says, “If you live for the approval of men then you cease to be a servant of Christ”. That is a pretty scary thing to me. People look to the left and to the right to see how they measure up. Something that has been helpful for me is a woman one day came to me and said “You know what? If you are in the army, you are not allowed to look left or right you have to look at the General. And that’s how you need to be with the Lord.” God has created each and every individual in a specific, purposeful, creative, and perfect way. Obviously not that we are perfect, but that God is perfect in His design as a creator. So it was helpful for me I said I can’t look to the left or to the right, my focus needs to be vertical at all times. So that’s how I deal with that, by just continually remembering how much God has saved me from my self.”

Mercy Hope: Let’s talk about staying on fire for Jesus. There is so much complacency, and such an apathetic attitude in much of the youth culture, and the “Church world” as a whole. Here recently with the rise of the “worship movement” I do see a bit of a fire being kindled but how do really fan that into flame and maintain it? How do you stay on fire for God and not just drift. It is so easy to just slap the Christian label on like these name badges we’re wearing.

Joy Williams: That is a great question. I think the answer is getting rooted in the biblical foundation. How do you do that? By reading the Word. Psalm 1:19 talks about that it says ‘How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word’. It talks about hiding the Word in our heart so we may not sin against the Lord. That is really vital. So number one just being rooted in a diligent study of the Word and Who Christ is, and two is being plugged in to a Church. Not just going and attending and getting recharged on Sunday morning but going and serving, and doing what we are called to do, which is to fellowship, and be together in communion, but at the same time to go out and serve. There has been complacency in every generation, and I would not discount that for any of the past nor the future but I honestly think that this generation really wants to know the truth. We want to cut past all the sugar coating, we just want to get real. So let’s get real. What is Christ all about? Why do I need Him in my life? And if you really begin to realize Who God is and how important He is in your life that fire will come, and be kindled, and as you read the Word, and stay plugged into a Church, and get accountability and have wiser people that can speak into your life I don’t see how that fire couldn’t keep burning.

Mercy Hope: With traveling, etcetera, how do you manage to stay accountable? How often do you talk to your family? And who do you have around you to keep you accountable?

Joy Williams: Well, my family lives in California so we do cell phone conversations. I have asked my parents to keep me accountable, because they are my parents number one but also as friends, I really respect them, but love them dearly. I am also very plugged into the Church I attend serving actively. One of the Pastors wives is a mentor to me so when I’m in town I am often over at their house. Her husband the pastor also stays in contact with me, we have cell phone conversations almost every day to touch base. I’m also involved in a Bible study with a cell group on Thursday nights whenever I’m in town. So, I have a lot of accountability.

Mercy Hope: What would you say your mom did that was most influential in shaping your life. Speak to the moms out there. What was it that she did right, and just give a little tribute to her.

Joy Williams: My mom is an amazing woman, creative, loving, and strong; incredibly strong. And I think the thing that I loved the most about my mom was the sense of unconditional love, and the nurturing I received. My mom was always very supportive and yet very honest. She wasn’t necessarily worried about being my friend; she wanted to be my mother. But by her being a great mom she became my friend. She was consistent, she was prayerful, she was giving, and she never gave up on me. She and I were very open with one another in communication and if I had a frustration she let me verbalize that, obviously with respect, but she wanted to hear, she wasn’t closed off, and she didn’t think she had all the answers. She would say, “What happened here? What did you do? What did I do? How can we make this better?” That constant flow of open communication and just seeing her living out an everyday life with Christ was an amazing thing. I saw where that strength came from, I saw where that creativity came from and that friendship has grown still to this day.”

Mercy Hope: There is a lot of talk right now about the issues of dating and sexual purity. I believe that purity has to start at the heart level because what’s in the heart is going to come out. What would say to girls to help them keep their way pure?

Joy Williams: I think you’re right, purity does start within which is a heart issue. 2 Timothy chapter two talks about ‘fleeing the evil desires of your youth’, Proverbs 31 talks about what a Godly woman should look like and looking to the future what a Godly wife should look like as well. I do think it is incredibly important for us to remember that we are God’s daughter, we are a princess, we are royalty. We don’t need to dress a certain way to be provocative. We don’t need that type of attention, which ultimately is lust, and not something that the Bible teaches that we need to encourage at all. Walking in purity means walking in self-confidence, which means thanking God for the way that He has made you. Is it perfect to you? No. Will you ever have your perfect body? Absolutely not. If you have identity knowing that God did a good job when he made you, and that He made you purposefully. There is that need and that desire to please Him. How do we please the Lord? By living a pure life. And by setting an example, like 1 Timothy talks about. I do take a very strong stance on abstinence, and not just abstinence, but purity over all. Setting physical guidelines if you are in a relationship and having people keeping you accountable. There is no need to give any part of yourself away, before you are married. Which is easier said then done I know, but God has called us to walk a different way then the world and ultimately there is blessing behind all of that. God didn’t set it up like that so he could just be an angry judge and tell us we couldn’t have fun. God knows what will make us the most joyful; which is us remaining pure and staying true and walking in modesty, and being meek and gentle and kind like all the things that we are called to do. That is a heart issue and something that I take a very strong stance on. I pray that God will continue to keep me walking in purity, and I trust that He will.

Mercy Hope: Ok, separation from the world. This is an issue that Christians have very different interpretations on. How do you explain the verses that talk about being separate from the world? The Bible says that “we are in the world…”

Joy Williams: “But not of the world”.

Mercy Hope: So how do you walk that out? How do you balance being in, but not of?

Joy Williams: I have to think of what Jesus Christ was like when He was roaming on this earth. Jesus hung out with prostitutes and people of the Government who were just raunchy and people without integrity, people who struggled, people who weren’t perfect, those who didn’t claim to be perfect, people like you and I. We are called to be salt and light. What does salt do? It purifies, and it maintains. What does light do? It brings clarity. So I think it is very necessary that we not separate ourselves in terms of being some exclusive club. We are called to go out and make disciples as I had shared earlier, that means taking a pro-active stance, going out into areas where you know people don’t know the Lord. How do you evangelize? How do you become that salt and light? By living, and walking, and breathing, as Christ did.”

Mercy Hope: I find a tendency among a lot of Christians to want to “clump”.

Joy Williams: Well, ‘birds of a feather.’

Mercy Hope: Exactly. You get in with your Christian friends and as long as everybody around you is a Christian you’re comfortable. Nobody really wants to get out there and touch someone who’s dirty or who’s not ‘cool’.

Joy Williams: Yeah. Well, we’re all dirty. And none of us are really cool. And you know, God has given me so much in my life. He gave me His life, the least I can do is give Him mine. And that calls us to go out and to be uncomfortable to a certain extent. Paul talks about when he went in to Rome he says ‘I didn’t win you over with my persuasive speech but I came to you with fear and trembling. And yet he went out because he knew that he was called to go.

Mercy Hope: What is your real heartbeat? We all have our issues, I have things that I am just passionate about, and that is what I write about, that’s what I talk about, that’s what I want to tell others about. So for you, what is an issue that really tugs at your heartstrings?

Joy Williams: Well, not just one, but many things. One thing that is really a fire in me is just encouraging people my age, and woman especially, that they can live in victory. That they can walk with Christ and have the Lord really be the Lord of their life. Challenging people to have a deeper walk with Christ, in terms of reading the Word more, seeking God not just being apathetic, or being like you said earlier and just wearing the badge of ‘Christian’ and that being the only thing that would identify you with Christ. I want to encourage people that you can walk in victory, you can have victory over the issues of your life that you never thought you could by the Power if the Holy Spirit! And being able to walk in purity, being serious about the Lord, and being serious about Him now, not when you’re 25 or 45 or when you’re 72, or when you’re older, you can be bold for Christ today and be nine, you can win people to Christ and be 12. We are called to set an example. And that is something that really is a deep fire within me. If I could go around and tell everyone in the world about something that would be about the power of the cross and Who Christ is, and that being serious about him, giving your life to Him and really not just making him your God but making him your LORD, and what a blessing that can be.

Mercy Hope: Because a lot of people like the Savior part but the Lordship aspect they could do without.

Joy Williams: Right. We are all ruled by something, and I want my ruler to be The LORD.

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