I hear people talk about joy, and happiness, and contentment, as if they were interchangeable, and for the “true Christian”, compulsory. The sermon was on that subject at church today. It was a good sermon. The passage was Psalm 1: 1-3. The message was this: blessed/happy is the man who is separated from the world (Walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, standeth not in the way of sinners, and sitteth not in the seat of the scornful). Blessed/happy is the man that is Saturated in the Word (meditating on the Lord’s “preserved and purified” Word –Ps. 12:6-7– day and night, delighting in it), and Blessed/Happy is the man who is Situated in the Faith (like a tree planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth fruit in due season, not withering, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper). But I still, for the life of me, do not see how this equates to never-ending happiness in this lifetime. Technically the word “blessed” is interchangeable with the word “happy”, but happy is subjective and qualitative, while blessed, is definitive. I don’t even think “joyful” and “happy” are synonymous, although they might be considered degrees of the one state, but now I’m splitting hairs.
It is hard for me to be “ever- joyful”, being a Watchman on the wall, knowing what I know about the conditions in our world and in our nation, and seeing what I see in Scripture, as to where it is all headed. I am not discouraged or worried or despondent, rather I am accepting of what is, and very expectant of “what shall be”. It’s the “in-between now and then”, that is growing protracted and wearisome!!! Perhaps that is a mere case of “A hope deferred makes a heart sick”. The more real the prospect of Heaven becomes, the less “happy” I am here.
I am blessed. I am content with my circumstances, and fulfilled in the Lord. But I am grieved that the “god of this world”, satan, has done so much damage to so many people, that sin has done so much damage to God’s creation, and I’m grieved at the far-reaching apostacy and spiritual and moral failure in the church. I am grieved for those who are so deceived that they reject, out of hand, the gift of salvation, the need for forgiveness. I am grieved in being yet subject to sinful flesh, my own and that of others, and longing with all my heart for heaven and for Christ’s Kingdom to come on Earth. I have peace. I have moments of delight and pleasure, I laugh often. But what is this “joyous life”I hear spoken of? I am hard-pressed to discern what the difference is, between me and those who walk around smiling and upbeat all of the time. I suspect it is their church “game face”. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think these folks are intentionally being disingenuous. I suspect that it has been engrained and such a habit they are scarcely mindful of it. There are also those extremely social individuals who are sincerely energized and “filled up” by interaction with others, and the more, the better. However some people (me) are not wired that same way, and thrive on deep and meaningful interaction one-on-one, and find socializing on a broad scale, draining and overly-stimulating. Solitude and quiet are refreshing to me.
Granted I suffer from fatigue that never lets up, and other medical issues, but so do many others people so I am not sure to what degree that is a factor in this for me. I find myself wondering: did God just endow some folks with more endorphins, or what? Sometimes when faced with that ever-present positive energy in others, I wonder; “is it genuine?” Are the smiling people really that happy? Or just trying really hard to fool themselves and others into believing that they are? Maybe it is a matter of pride. A contest they are just determined not to lose. Whatever it is, for me it is exhausting just to be around. I’m like that aging dog who no longer has a lot of tolerance for the exuberance of energetic children. Though there was a time in my life I would have gladly been in the thick of it.
I am extremely grateful that Jesus died for me, and that I am reconciled to God by His so doing. I am indescribably humbled that such a sacrifice was made for me. I strive to share the gospel with everyone in my life, and that God brings across my path, and see that sadly few in this day and age are interested. I have knocked on doors, handed out tracts, shared my own testimony face to face and in letters, and otherwise also availed myself to “be Jesus with skin on” for others whether they do, or do not know Him, by simply loving them or helping them in some way. That is not a tribute to self and self’s accomplishment of “good”. I am human, I fail, I slip, and I lose my temper, damage my testimony at times, and screw up plenty. I just try to live my faith in a lost world, and am not all that impressed by game faces worn inside the church doors, or in the cushy surroundings of the like-minded. I certainly believe we are called to separation, to be in the world but not of it. But we can’t be so separate that we scarcely rub shoulders with lost sinners. That’s not how Jesus lived, and certainly not the example He set.
Also, God made Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath day is meant to be one set-aside day, reserved for rest and worship, but worship should take place every day, and everywhere. Study of the Bible should be both independent, and together, prayer should be both corporate and in your prayer closet. So I don’t go in for the expectation of “being there at the church every time that the doors are open”. I don’t even go in for the “you ought to want to be here every time the doors are open”. The Bible says forsake-not the assembling of yourselves together, even more as you see the day approaching. To forsake:1. To quit or leave entirely; to desert; to abandon; to depart from. 2. To abandon; to renounce; to reject. 3. To leave; to withdraw from; to fail. 4. In scripture, God forsakes his people, when he withdraws His aid, or the light of His countenance. The First Century church met on the first day of the week. They met in people’s homes. Three services a week are great, offering that option is commendable, but it’s not mandated by scripture. It is, rather, a tradition of men.
At Pentecost, the church tarried, putting aside every work, every task, every program, for TEN WHOLE DAYS, waiting for the Holy Spirit to fill them. Perhaps we are not so Spirit-filled these days because we never tarry long enough. Too busy running to and fro, keeping all the plates spinning for Jesus.
Now and through the years, it’s been habitual for me to reach out to people on a routine basis, as Christians are called to do. Not grudgingly, willingly. And so I guess that could be one reason why now, nearing age 50, and chronically tired, I chafe at those who would cajole and demand, “Come on, sing like you mean it, try harder, do more, get with the program”. If the Holy Spirit lays it on my heart, I’ll obey, but I can’t help but wonder how often the well-intentioned busy activities in the church do not originate by God’s will, but by man’s whim. I have learned (the hard way) to differentiate between man’s compulsion and Holy Spirit’s conviction. Perhaps if I’d learned it much sooner, I’d not be so weary now, :-).
Most of all, I am oh so weary of this old “world system” and so ready to see “all things under the feet of Jesus”, where the lamb will lie down with the lion, and we will no longer be subject to powers that betray, abuse, mistreat, cheat, and defraud us, nor even to flawed human judgment. To be like a child again, tireless, secure, unspoiled by wrong choices, mounting up with wings as eagles, running, unwearied, walking, and not faint. Those are promises that come to full fruition not in this life, not in this realm.
There is nothing this world has to offer, that I want or long for. Colors are dull, sleep is not restful, most food has little flavor, and doesn’t satisfy, and even the best music falls a little flat. I have tasted of heaven in God’s Word and I want all of what God has in store. Is that a sin, somehow? Is it wrong to long so longingly for the promised gift of heaven and being in Jesus’ physical presence, when God hasn’t called me yet? I know that the Bible promises a crown to those who “love His appearing” but I don’t long for the crown, it is His appearing that I long for with an ache that is physical in my breast, and in my gut.