My thoughts run hither and yon tonight, scrambling to summarize my week’s ponderings. I think they’ve run in a big circle actually, starting with an excellent message built on this thesis:
What the world needs most to see in the church is ‘our indomitable joy in suffering and in sorrows’*. (John Piper)
They already know how to be happy when everything’s going well! What makes us salt and light to the world is our joy in Jesus that is not dependent on our circumstances…
I went on to other message excerpts by Piper and soon was at one titled: When God Ruins Us.** gulp. In a related vein Piper continued with great winsomeness to paint a picture of a deep abiding confidence that finds in Christ the source of its contentment so that when all the ‘props’ that might have contributed to its sense of well-being are knocked out, still there is joy. He suggested that God knows when our hearts need help not to trust in things other than Him (whether health, job, pleasure, or chocolate!) for our contentment. Listening to John Piper preach is as restorative to the soul as eating a roast beef dinner is to the body! But I got to thinking…
And that sometimes leads me into troubled zones… particularly when faith is left suspended on the sidelines while I entertain fear. Let me explain: I know I live in great comfort. I have food, good food, and and more where it came from of whatever sort I would most relish. I have a roof over my head and great warmth within its walls, not only of the physical cozy wood-stove kind, but of love and laughter and commitment, of a solid marriage, of children who enjoy coming home…I have SO much—security of life and limb, not to mention health and freedom from pain, freedom to be a home-body blithely at work and play in my ‘pumpkin’. Many are the mercies that come fresh to my ‘doorstep’ every morning. All this, and heaven too…
I have peace and contentment too, almost…only this nagging thought: Is the source of my contentment Jesus, or is it all these good things He’s ravished me with? And how would I do with all the props knocked out?
“When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay” the old hymn goes. Do people still sing such things? Will I in the event of such loss? I don’t consider myself a gross narcissist but I do enjoy my pain-free comfortable life…and I do enjoy chocolate….and I do fear pain and loss.
Is my contentment truly based in knowing Christ? Or is it in good things I possess and pleasant circumstances? How can I know?
What am I leaning on anyway? Do I really lean on God for everything? Am I leaning so hard that if He were to fail me, I would topple over helpless? Or am I counting on my own understanding, my own resources, my own ability to back me up?
These thoughts with variations have tumbled about in my head this week with the dull rumble of sneakers thrown in the dryer. I justified the thudding sounds at first as the symptoms of proper spiritual self-examination. But as I am prone to ‘think too hard’ about such introspective sorts of things…it now seems more likely that there is more fear than faith in them. Hallmarks of the Spirit’s wooing are life and peace, not unrest, fear and doubt! (Rom.8:6)
But I will leave with you some of the gems along my path back to God-confidence, some of them paraphrased…
“But as for me, I will look to the Lord. I will wait for the God of my salvation, my God will hear me.” MIcah 7:7
“Do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil…” Prov.3:5-8
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you to make you both willing and able to carry out His good pleasure. So carry on with no grumbling or questioning. This is what will set you apart as unblemished, children of God in a crooked and twisted generation as you hold tight to the Word of life! (Phil.2:12-16)
Watch out for dogs, evildoers, mutilators of the flesh—those who from impure motive will encourage you to do more, try harder, and put stock in your good efforts at rule-keeping. It’s not about all that. The real product is Spirit-led worship with your whole life and awe in Christ Jesus with not a stitch of confidence put in how you’re doing on your own steam….What matters is the righteousness of Christ put to your account by God solely on the basis of your faith! (Phil.3:1-9)
And one more thing:
Don’t be anxious about anything—whether you’ll have what it takes to weather trials, whether you’re doing enough, being enough, denying self enough, leaning on Jesus enough, living by faith enough…don’t be anxious. Let your Father know what you need (and what troubles you) then His peace, which exceeds all your best understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:6,7)
I still don’t have all the answers to all the questions my ponderings have generated. But somehow, it matters most that they have been raised and turned to the One who does know.
I may not know how I will fare in trauma but I can choose by faith to trust and give thanks in everything, starting now, in plenty. Paul said “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Phil.4:12 The same Christ Jesus who gave him that kind of strength is my helper. I don’t need to develop a self-defense plan but to rejoice in the Plan that is already in place!
Paul puts it so succinctly: “Rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” Phil.3:1
So somehow I’ve come full circle. There it is, learning to rejoice in the Lord, for this is what the world needs most to see in the Church—real joy! May it be so.
“For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Phil.3:3
[If this video won’t play in your browser, try Internet Explorer, or go directly to YOU TUBE and look for “Sing for Joy” by Robert Pierre. Sorry for the inconvenience.]