It was the second team that I blew up or got fired from (yes, as a missionary) that I started to realized that I needed to change. Pain is a good teacher; I, however, am a slow learner.
I suspect that if you’re not like me that you know someone who is. Jesus had touched my heart, putting me miles ahead of those who have not yet met Christ. I could minister to them, drawing them to explore faith and prayer. I felt successful in bringing ministry to my work colleagues but when I got home or to my “ministry” I was unable to feel any success in ministry to my wife and co-ministers. I felt unappreciated and distant. My initial thought was that everyone else had a problem.
Many of us have an image of God that works against us. From early on we observed a faith in Jesus that seems focused on working hard, making sacrifices, being a servant and keeping up appearances. When prayed or read our Bible, we’d put a check in our heavenly ledger. When we missed a day (or month) of religious activity the guilt would mount and the only prayers (from our hearts) were like this: “God, I’m so sorry that it’s been so long since I last prayed.” It’s easy to feel that our value to God comes from the results that we achieve.
I do have good news for you today. This is not the life that God intends for us. Rather than requiring discipline and suffering to earn pleasure and an eternal place in the Kingdom of Heaven (if you do this, then I’ll do this), the Father has provided every man who follows Jesus with instant and ongoing access to all the joy and pleasure of Heaven the moment we go “All in” with Jesus.
- Psalm 16:11 – at God’s right hand are eternal pleasures (that’s quite a lot)
- John 10.10 – The devil is life-stealer, Jesus is the LIFE-GIVER
It’s not your work that God desires, it’s you. And it’s not your misery he’s after, it’s your pleasure. Everyone experiences pain, but with Jesus we have opportunity to have feelings of joy concurrent with our pain.
Joel 2.23 gives us a solution to finding the joy of being with Jesus in every situation. “Be glad and rejoice.” It’s as simple as this. In God’s typical fashion, his solution to our problem is simple but not easy. It’s so backwards to our complicated thinking that it requires much repetition and practice.
First: be thankful – specifically, to God, for the pain and gifts in your life.
Second: sing the songs of Zion – singing is a magical tool for bringing us into the very presence of the pleasure of God.
Third: Bring this joy of God with you as you minister with him anywhere.
Repeat as necessary (or until Jesus comes back)
The world’s solution to pain is unsatisfactory. Numbing, ignoring, working harder, seeking people’s approval – all of these will leave us empty.
The Bridegroom’s solution (that’s Jesus) is to enter in, embrace the hurting, give thanks, and sing (have you ever noticed that Jesus led a hymn sing while on the cross?). Then he does it again. For Jesus, pain and joy co-exist. Everyone has pain, but the one who follows Jesus gets joy and pleasure in the midst of pain.
So today, how will you thank God while you’re in the midst of struggle? Will you chose to sing the songs of freedom? Songwriters, will you write us new songs that turn our thoughts heavenward? Parents, will you not tell the Lord about the blessings he’s given you (while your children are listening)? Husbands, will you not minister to your wives as servants of the Most High God, who longs to bring you joy. Be relentless in your pursuit of joy. Repeat.
As a community of God’s brothers in Christ, let’s encourage each other to fuller joy. Pleasure seekers who are confident that in Jesus, we have fullness of joy. Enjoyers of God who sing the songs of Heaven, together.