I’m addicted to the exciting things of life. I like highs. I like to think that my highs are sanctified or to pretend that they are, or lie about what they are. My heart wants to be seen and known. I want every baseball game to be a walk off home run. I want every conversation to be the deepest, most insightful conversation. I want every friendship to be the most rewarding friendship. I want every season of life to propel me into my destiny. I want to be pleased and I want it now.
I’m not the only one. America can’t wait for anything and has abandoned the rewarding joys that require perseverance. We don’t like our immediate happiness to be killed, so we find quicker ways to get to the next highs, and kill the things that put a damper on our highs. We want sex without covenant or producing babies. We want drunkenness without shame. We want Uber to arrive in 90 seconds. We want movies on demand. We can’t wait to earn money, so we invented credit cards. Why delay gratification? We’ve invented a culture that creates immediate gratification. As gratification has become immediate, it has become less meaningful.
As the highs have increased, the mundane moments have become more intolerable. We feel more isolated, more unknown, more impatient, more unsatisfied, more unworthy, and useless.
At the peak of our ambition to have immense gratification, we have found imminent emptiness.
Our search for immediate treasure has kept us from ultimate treasure. Shallow canyons limit us to shallow treasure.
Friends, in the daily grind of trudging through hard circumstances and mundane life, we are not alone. Jesus wrestled through undesirable life circumstances, and His joy was refined in His life’s most difficult providences.
The delight of escapism was there making a case to Him: And he responded by saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:36
Jesus knew that His path of sacrificial love would bring Him great pain. But He knew that the deepest joy would be found walking through that pain.
You know that my theme for this blog is #joysetbeforeme. Hebrews 12:2. For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross.
As I reflect on Jesus’ example, I find remedies for my soul and our culture.
- Jesus didn’t leave His circumstances to possess deepest joy.
Jesus didn’t find joy by abandoning reality, but by embracing reality. Furthermore, He purchased eternal joy for us by embracing reality.
Can I by honest for a moment? I’ve had four significant moments in the last three and a half years where I thought that my joys were to be found outside of living in the Washington DC area. I feel frustrated often. I don’t feel like I’m walking in my calling. I feel confined. I feel like I can’t breathe in this political, hedonistic, Corinthian culture. I knew that contexts do not bring me joy, and that Jesus did, but I felt like this context definitely hindered my joy. But as I look at Jesus and sense my joy rise in Him, I feel a deeper desire to press through the pain and have more of Jesus. To be honest, this is just as much about letting go of me as it is laying hold of Him. When we lay our perceptions of ourselves down, pick up our cross and follow Him, then the joy that is set before us will be more clear and compelling.
- Not my will, but your will be done.
Letting go of my will and embracing God’s will is an evidence of seeing God rightly. And when I begin to see God rightly then my view of myself will align to what is right. For so long, I have tried to dictate God’s will for me. For so long, I have tried to use gifts that God has given me to make much of me. For so long I have pursued the building of my image, not the revealing of His image. It’s time for me to follow His will, and not my own. In this place, the greatest combustion of life happens. In this place, He can bring resurrection life. In this place He can make His name known through me as He pleases. If I see Jesus as King and Lord, as He is, then I will see myself as small and weak in comparison. When that happens, it becomes obvious that Jesus’ power is the power that needs to be on display. But let’s not be fooled; our greatest JOY is produced in the factory of God’s will being done. The greatest satisfaction comes when we stop trying to please ourselves and find that as God works, we will be greatly pleased. The factor for this joy is the mundane moments in life.
- America, you can denounce a lesser joy, and receive eternal joy.
The greatest thing that hinders your joy is your pursuit of lesser joys. Turn off your iphones, leave the ball game, exit the movie, put down the remote, and look to Him, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God. (Side note: Christians work hard at making the Christian life normative, to prove to the world that we can be trusted. But what if we put aside our reactions to legalism and fake spirituality, and began to live with the radical purpose of showing the world that Jesus is better than the world… by embracing Jesus in the world with full, radical measure.) #soapbox
People of Jesus – You don’t have to be a rock star, you just have to walk with the one who made the stars. And you can do that right where you are. Let go of your perception of you.
The greatest tragedy for the Christian is the vision of doing great things for Jesus while never being captivated with the greatness of Jesus.
Focusing on Jesus in our context will free us to be excellent, satisfied doers – right where He has placed us.
When we behold the radiant one, we will be filled with true, deep joy.
When we behold the radiant one, we will be changed and radiate, true deep joy.
When we behold the radiant one, we will abandon temporary joys, and inherit eternal joy.
Our eternal destinies lie within joys that we fuel today.
Take joy in Jesus. Walk through the pain. Your faith will grow. Your joy sustained.
For the #joysetbeforeme,