Life, over time, steals joy. Lent reminds us we’re dust and to dust we will return. Satan lies and leads us to despair. All is meaningless. Joy is limited. Hope is in short supply.
Have you ever been there? Are you there now?
I’m a pretty positive person. I can put on a happy face. Write another blog. Preach another sermon. Provide another word of counsel and encouragement to family, friends, members and church leaders. Care for another grieving family. Respond to a disgruntled church member with love. Do. Do. Done. Done. Check. Check.
Yet sometimes I get to the end of the day and wonder, “What did I truly do today? Whose life did I touch today? Am I making a difference?” You could pay me millions and I would do nothing other than pastor God’s people closer to Him…yet I still find myself here from time to time. I listen to Satan’s lies saying, “You’re not enough.” Satan, the world, and my sinful flesh love to steal my childlike joy. It’s a bummer - a marvelous understatement.
New vision, new creative ministry ideas, hope for the future, and deep love for the found and lost all flow from the joy of Jesus!
The Apostle Paul is one of my heroes. His vision for multiplying disciples and starting new churches inspires me. Yet Paul’s life was so hard. Beaten. Shipwrecked. Bitten by a snake. Imprisoned. Beheaded. Man, my life is not that hard. Get some perspective, Tim.
Philippians 4:4 is one of my favorite verses. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice.” I think Paul repeated himself for himself. He needed to remember the Lord was at hand. The Lord would not let him go. The family of faith would never abandon him. Joy was his because Jesus was his.
The same is true for us.
Joy is not the absence of sorrow and suffering. Joy is knowing the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, who walks with us through the sorrow and suffering. Jesus is realistic - you will have sorrow. Jesus is eternally optimistic - Jesus has overcome the world through the cross and empty tomb.
I am 41 years old. I’ve had some friends who have lost their way around my age. Divorce. Addiction. Depression. Despair. By the Spirit’s power that will not be me.
Yet there is something about middle age that leads us to make one of two choices. Will I find joy in myself? Or will I find joy in Jesus? The Holy Spirit leads me to choose the latter. I pray you choose the same.
Paul continues in Philippians 4 (one of my top 10 chapters in the Bible):
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
I love Paul’s honesty. He needs community support. Yet he doesn’t need it. He has Jesus. He can do all things through Him. Yet it was kind of others to share in his suffering.
Some may say Paul is confused. Does he need others or not? Yes. Paul has Christ. That is enough. Paul has others. That is the icing on the cake.
How can you reclaim joy this lent? It’s simple, but it is not simplistic.
Christ and community.
Rest, meditate on, and inwardly digest God’s Word of promise. Let it saturate your soul. Then, invite fellow believers into your joys and sorrows. They will kindly love and point you to Jesus.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice. The second one was for me.