Posts Tagged ‘joy’

The Book of Ruth: An Introduction (Part 4 of 4)
As we close out the introductory points about the Book of Ruth, we find that it teaches about God’s redemptive plan for man. As widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times. Boaz took the responsibility of being the family redeemer. A family redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take responsibility for the extended family. When a woman’s husband died, the law (Deut. 25:5-10) provided that she could marry a brother of her dead husband. However, Naomi had no more sons. In such a case, the nearest relative of the deceased husband could become a family redeemer and marry the widow. The nearest relative did not have to marry the widow. If you chose not to, the next nearest relative could take his place. In no one chose to help the widow, she would probably live in poverty the rest of her life as, in Israelite and most ancient Middle Eastern cultures, inheritance was passed on to a son or nearest male relative not to the wife. The laws for gleaning and family redeemers helped take the sting out of these inheritance rules.

That Boaz went to all the trouble he did to redeem Ruth and take her as his bride is symbolic of what Jesus Christ did for us. He did not have to do what He did for us. He could have easily stayed in heaven and just allowed us to be judged and it would have been just and right for Him to do so. However, Jesus set aside His glory and came down to earth to redeem us from our poverty caused by our desperate state of sin. As John 3:16 famously states, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In the absence of Boaz’s redemption, Ruth would have faced a bleak future and may have had to resort to sinful behaviors such as prostitution to simply survive. It would have been a hellish existence. That is no less what Jesus does for us. He redeems us from our prostitution to sin. He redeems us from the penalty of sin. He redeems us from our bleak existence. He cleans us up. He took the penalty of our sin through his taking His Father’s wrath against sin on the cross. His blood shed on the cross is what makes us pure again in the sight of God as Jesus took the punishment for our sin instead of us having to do that ourselves. Therefore, we are made pure in the sight of God when we realize that Jesus died for our sins, that we were destined for hell in the absence of his sacrifice on our behalf, and that Jesus was the only one who could do that for us. He was the only one who could redeem us because He is God in the flesh and He was without sin. When we realize that He was God in the flesh and that He arose from the dead as victory over our sin and death, we are made His bride and we are presented to God as unblemished and spotless. We gain our right to new life through Him.

Boaz similarly redeems Ruth who was destined for hopelessness just as we are destined for the hopelessness of hell without intervention from Jesus. Boaz gave Ruth new life as His bride. Boaz gives her access to all his riches through his redemption act. Boaz gives her access to a new life that she would not have had otherwise. He did so willingly because of his love for Ruth. He gave her a new lease on life through His love for her. Jesus loves us that much too. He willingly made the trip to the cross for us because of His desire that we not spend eternity separated from God in hell. We are locked into a life destined for eternal misery without His redemptive love just as Ruth was destined for an earthly life of desperate poverty in the absence of Boaz’s redemptive love. Be sure that it was not lost on Ruth exactly what Boaz did for her. She knew what he was saving her from – a life of horrible poverty that could have led her to do things that poverty will cause a woman to do. She knew that Boaz’s love for her saved her from a horrid life. Jesus does the same thing for us. His love for us saves us from a life locked in the results and consequences of sin and has us sentenced to hell. Ruth most likely celebrated her husband in Boaz and was thankful every day for what He had done for her. As redeemed Christ followers, we should be thankful every day for Jesus, our bridegroom, has done for us. He has redeemed us from hell. He has redeemed us from our sin. He has redeemed us from our old life. He has redeemed us from our old sin self and has placed us in our spotless bride’s dress, all white and pure before God. He gives us a new life from the inside out. We should never forget and always celebrate the redemption by our bridegroom in Jesus Christ. As Christ followers, we should be the most joyous people on the planet. We know the eternal life that we were destined for and by all rights deserved. We know that hell is real and it is not a pretty place. We know that it is a place of eternal torment and anguish. We know that it is what we deserve for our sins as our just punishment before a sinless, pure and righteous God. That Jesus would redeem us from our deserved destiny should be a source of constant joy and contentment. No matter what we face on this side of eternity, it pales in comparison to the eternity of hell. No matter how bad our life gets, we know that Jesus has given us the keys to the eternal glory of heaven with God. Why then are we often the most morose people on the planet. We have joy unspeakable through Jesus Christ. We must celebrate it everyday. We must let it permeate our being every day. We must ooze out joy from the overflow in our soul. We must tell people the source of our inexplicable joy! We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ!

Boaz also made provision for her even before he married her through allowing her to glean the grain just as Jesus provides for us even before we come to salvation in Him. His death on the cross two millenia ago is the once and final sacrifice for all sin for all time. All we have to do is glean the grain. Jesus does not have to repeatedly be crucified. His act was the once and for all completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system for sin. Since Jesus was complete perfection and lived the perfect, sinless life there is no need for repeated sacrifices. There is no need for Jesus to do it over and over again. It was the ultimate one-and-done. He leaves the grain at the edge of the field. He leaves the grain on the threshing floor. All we have to do is pick it up and take the food that is necessary for our eternal salvation. It is there for the taking. All we must do is believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and proclaim it with our mouth that He died for our sins and that He arose from the dead to give us hope eternal. The grain has been left there for us to pick up and eat. It is up to us to reach for it.

The Book of Ruth is such a beautiful book and a real life example of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. So, let’s meet here at my next blog as we dive into the Book of Ruth.

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 6:1-4
Giving to the Needy
Buildings with our names on them. That is a lofty aspiration to have. The Mark Bowling School of Theology at North Greenville University. Wow! That would be something, wouldn’t it? That would require me to be much richer, by worldly standards, than I am right now. Sometimes, you wonder when people give huge sums of money to their alma mater as to what was their motivation. Was it a tax write-off as their main motivation? Was it to see their name on the side of a building forever (well, at least until the building falls down 150 years from now)? Or was it because they wanted to see the school be able to educate young minds in way that was financially and physically impossible before? When we work at the biggest event of our church each year, the Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway, do we do it to make ourselves feel good? Do we do it to be seen doing it? Do we participate in the corporate events so that our fellow church partners will see us and then we do not care for the widow next door? Do we walk down to put our offering in the plate to be seen giving but yet we don’t have but a dollar bill in the envelope? Do we give sacrificially or give our leftovers? Do we give coats to a coat drive but yet fail to care for a family in need because there is no one there to see us do it? Just what is our motivation for charity? Are we giving and doing for others because we expect to get something back from it (fame, notoriety, tax deduction, eternal servitude from the one we helped)? Jesus hits us square in the eye with His next statement.

As we open Chapter 6 of Matthew, here in Verses 1-4, Jesus takes us to task as what our motivation for being his follower truly is when He says, 1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

In his sermon on this passage, “What is Ted Turner Doing”, Rev. Adrian Dieleman says, “In our text Jesus speaks against strippers — spiritual strippers. ‘Spiritual exhibitionism’ is repulsive to Him.” What Dieleman is getting at is about our motivations for Christian, or perceived Christian, acts. Are we performing acts of kindness out of genuine care for our fellow man or are we doing it to get our name in the paper or at the very least a public pat on the back? In the Scripture, Jesus asks this very question. Therefore, it appears that Jesus ultimately is getting at pride. Our righteousness should be authentic and personal. What we do should be for the honor and glory of God; not ourselves. If the cameras aren’t there, if there isn’t a chance for personal publicity, if there is not a chance for a public ego massage, would we still help a family in need? Would we donate money to a worthy cause? Would we donate our time to uplift those less fortunate? Jesus says God knows our heart and knows our motivations.

This passage reminds me of the You Tube video that many of you have seen called “The Good-o-Meter”. Here’s the link if you have not seen it – All of the people that get passed over are telling of all the positive things for society that they have done. As it is said in the Bible that faith without action is dead; then so the opposite is also true. But if you do good works but don’t have genuine faith, then you are just as spiritually dead, because the works aren’t really “good.” They are done for your glory and not for God’s. Works without faith is just as dead. As noted in the clip, God sees straight those to our true motivations. Our proud expectations of what will be said to us at the Pearly Gates will be confounded because of the lack of a humble heart. As the clip also shows us, regardless of what we do, we are doomed to failure at God’s throne as it is said in Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. It is from this realization that our entrance to Heaven is ONLY through grace and our own humility at how far short we measure up against God’s standard of perfection can we realize the glories of Heaven. It is from this undeserved gift that we arise feeling truly, truly blessed. We consider ourselves as freed criminals who deserved the death penalty. What joy there is in our salvation through the gift of Jesus Christ! It is joy my friends. That joy is where our motivation must come. We are just giddy at the freedom from sin’s penalty that we have been granted (not earned).

When we are full of this joy that comes from our salvation, we can’t help ourselves from helping others. It is from our overflow of joy. We want others to experience the same joy that we have found. It matters not whether the stage lights are on or not. We love and we care because we have joy. Our motivation is to give God glory and give Him thanksgiving. We are driven to give God glory in everything. We are driven to see joy amidst struggle because we know what we have been saved from. Even in our darkest hours, we can see a way toward joy. We can see that it will get better. It will get better either in this life or in heaven, one or the other. There is peace in that knowledge. Let us be a people that are motivated by the joy of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Let us be a people who give to others not because we want something in return but rather that we find it as a way to give glory to God. Let us be a people that give because, maybe, in the giving, we can show others who Jesus Christ is in real, practical ways.

This is not some check your salvation thing if you are not giving generously or if you have some self-centered motivation for your giving. Our salvation is secure when we proclaim to the universe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and believe wholeheartedly in Him. However, we are to examine our motives because we are of sin nature. Our salvation is secure but our sanctification is a life-long process of the Holy Spirit becoming greater and our sin nature becoming less as we mature in Christ. Part of maturing in Christ is to see the areas of our life where we need to give control over to the Holy Spirit. As we mature in Christ, we make conscious choices for change when the Holy Spirit points out to us where we are not like Christ. Pride is certainly one of those areas that we struggle with as maturing Christ followers.

Jesus, thus, in this passage, is calling us to check our motivations. Is it for God’s glory that we do things publicly in His name? Do you want a position of leadership at church so as to glorify God or further your agenda? Is me desiring full-time ministry a God-calling or an ego-calling? Is pride motivating you or is giving glory to our Savior motivating you? If the latter is true, it will not matter whether people see us helping our neighbor or not. You help your neighbor because of giving glory to God and to allow others to see God at work through us. It’s all about Him! That should be our catchphrase! That should be the test by we measure everything we do. Is this all about Him?

Luke 24:50-53 — Here we are at the end of the Gospel of Luke. The end of another book of the Bible, another book of the New Testament. But it is not the end. The gospels are only the beginning. At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ true majesty is revealed and we see the beginnings of His church. This passage is open ended even though it is the conclusion of Luke. The ascension is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. It is like leaving the movie when the credits roll and missing the outtakes. With its open ended ending, it is like these movies today that beg for a sequel by how they don’t really wrap up and resolve everything at the end of the movie. That’s the beauty of it all. This story is nowhere near over yet.

The first thing that you will notice here in the concluding passage of Luke’s gospel is that Jesus blesses them. He gives them benediction, a good word with which to be sent forth. Jesus lifted his hands to heaven to bless them. He was calling upon the glory of heaven to be marshalled into his blessing of these men that, though sometimes cowardly and clueless, had risked it all to be with Him for three years. It reminds me that Jesus will bless our obedience to His call. Many of us are overcome by fear and do not follow the call that Jesus has on our lives. We are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary. We are not willing to leave our comfort zone. Regardless of their failures, though, Jesus’ disciples had risked it all for the man they loved and admired and the man they believed to be the promised One. They had followed Him. They had worked with Him. They had spent nights sitting by campfires with Him. During their time with Him, they had seen the miracles. They had seen the evidence of God’s power and provision. For all their inadequacies and lack of formal theological education, they had risked it all to follow their call. And, here, we see Jesus blessing them. God blesses those who have a greater love for Him than they do for their own comfort. Are you following God’s call on your life? Have you made excuses for why you cannot? Have the trust of the disciples, my friend. Somehow they knew and trusted through Jesus that God would provide for them and their families. The Lord will provide and He will bless your humble obedience to His call. He will make a way for you. You simply must trust Him and follow. He will bless you.

The second thing that you will notice in this final passage of the Gospel of Luke is that Jesus returns to His glory in heaven. As Dr. Ralph Wilson says at about this passage,

“As Jesus ascends from the earth into heaven, he is ascending directly into the presence of the Almighty Father. As the Son of Man he appears before the Ancient of Days to receive an unshakable Kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14), reinstatement of his former glory (John 17:5), of which he had voluntarily “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7). Now it is fully restored.”

His ascension reminds us that He was and is of the same and one essence with the Father. He is one and the same with the Father. Now, consider this, Jesus walked the earth as a man and had set aside His full glory while here and lived as we lived. He felt things we feel. He experienced everything we experience. He lived the human existence. But now He is returning to His mighty glory. The combination of these two things is what make me love Jesus all the more. He is God and all that it entails. He is ageless, timeless, the Creator of all things, the possessor of all knowledge, the ruler of the universe. But at the same time, I know that He understands what its like to live every aspect of the human existence. I know that He is my advocate in Heaven. He knows what it is like to be in human flesh. He knows what it is like. He understands. Him returning to His glory equipped with His human experiences gives me confidence that when I fail and when I disappoint and when I need His comfort and His advice and His direction, He knows. He knows what it is like to live in my human flesh. He is all powerful and yet He knows.

The final thing that we notice here as we conclude Luke, the story is not over. It is not the end. Luke’s story seems open ended and begging for a sequel, much like many of the serial movie franchises that are out right now like the Hunger Games and Twilight. The ending of the movie sets up the hunger for the next installment. Here the story is not over. They returned to Jerusalem with joyful worship. The story is not over. It is just beginning. There is no sadness at Jesus’ ascension. He empowered them to go forth. They are ready and awaiting the next step. The final two words of Luke’s gospel are “praising God.” How fitting is that. The final verb is present tense. That means this is not over. They are praising. That is the point of everything to be in the present and praising God. The job is ahead of us and the point of it all is praising God. God is the point of it. Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus came to earth to be with us, live among us, experience what we experience, and to be the sacrifice for our sins and is now our advocate in Heaven. Is there no wonder the disciples were joyfully worshiping and praising God. They have got the good news and they will spread it. The story is not over. It is our turn in our time to be joyful worshipers, praising God, spreading the good news. The story is not over.

Luke 6:20-23 — What is the most shocking loss you have experienced? I think for me the most recent shocking loss was the death of my stepson, Trey, 12 years ago. I saw him at 6pm that night. Two hours later, he was in a car accident that eventually within two more hours took his life. Life. Death. Within hours. A teenager gone in a split second. We weep over such things. We do not understand such things. How can this be blessed? We weep. We shake our fist at God. Trey’s death changed our lives, exposed sores in a marriage that eventually destroyed it. The trajectories of lives forever altered. Weeping. Loss. Change. Loss. Tears. Loss. How can this be blessed?

In the second half of v. 21, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who weep now, for you shall laugh.” This beatitude just flies into the face of everything that we know in our humanness. To us, weeping is a bad thing. How can this be a blessed state of being? When we think of weeping, it is usually thought of in the context of a major loss, particularly death, especially the death of a loved one. It is defined in the dictionaries as “to feel or express sorrow or grief over (misfortune, loss, or anything regretted); deplore”. However, Jesus always looks at life differently and in a more eternal way that we do. Jesus says basically here that mourning means something good in the end. It means that comfort will be given by our Father. Why does Jesus say this?

Let’s look at this. I think what Jesus is saying to us here are several things. Weeping in the sense of this text cannot be limited to simply grief surrounding death of an important person in our life. It is meant, I think, to include all forms of grief, Inherent in mourning is that we have lost something that we cared about. What is the biggest thing that hits us hard when we grieve the loss of a loved one? It is the realization that we do not have any true control over the course of our lives. Grief is more than losing a loved one. It is the hopelessness of not having control. For most of us, mourning is the result of realizing that we do not control our own destiny. Trey’s life was taken in a instant. When we are young we think we are invincible. As we grow older, we don’t think that we are invincible but we do still think that we have our world under control. While we mourn we also see that life has a way of continuing to work its pattern regardless of what we do.

There was an old song by the Byrds back in the 60’s that still occasionally gets air play today on light rock stations. Part of the lyrics are “to everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.” The song has almost a fatalistic tone to it, in that there inevitability in everything and that we don not control anything. That concept seems depressing to us as those who believe in the American Dream. We control our own destiny, right? However, there are things in life that happen that make us realize we are not the masters of the universe. We are not even the masters of our own situations. We see this often in the expression of grief over the death of a loved one. In coming to that realization, there can be an inevitable descent into hopelessness.

This is true in mourning caused by other factors in life not just death of a loved one. We often mourn over

• loss of a marriage,
• loss of a job,
• loss of money,
• loss of a home,
• loss of a friendship,
• loss of anything in our humanness that we cling to as important in our lives.

We all handle this hopelessness in different ways:

• Some may completely ignore it. They try to escape it by replacing it with worldly pleasures.
• Some try to escape it by means of alcohol or drugs, when they cannot bear the pain, they just run away from it.
• And there are few, who turn to God for finding solace, comfort in their time of suffering and pain.

Yes, it is a harsh way to come to God – through loss. However, once we realize that we do not control our lives like we think we do – then we are open to God. We are broken. We cannot We then reach out to something greater than ourselves. Like crawling in our daddy’s lap when we hurt ourselves and there we find comfort and feel oh so loved and secure. In that instant, we feel nothing can hurt us or at least that daddy will fix it for us. That is what God wants for us. We often complain about God’s silence in our time of need or suffering. But this beatitude (blessedness) depicts very different picture. God is calling us near, ready to comfort us, all we need to do is to respond to Him. This idea is fully realized in the Words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Through mourning, the realization that we are not in control but rather out of control, we can honestly without hesitation in our heart turn to God, our Heavenly daddy and say please fix this, please fix my life. Only then can we turn our life totally over to his control. It is when we are brought to our knees by the events of life that we can finally see God. It is there that we can finally NEED God. All of our pretenses are laid bare. We have tried and failed to run our own lives. We have tried and failed to control our own lives. We have failed. There are also things that happen to us through no fault of our own that knock us to our knees. There are events that knock us to our knees. When we weep. We weep because we do not understand. We weep because events are controlling us. We weep because someone else has dumped their crap on us. We weep. We are broken. We are no longer proud. We are ready to see our Savior. We are ready to give Him control.

Again, as we see here, Jesus turns our conventional wisdom about what is good and what is bad on its ear. Through our weeping, we find God and rid ourselves of the hopeless randomness of this world. In Jesus’ view, we can come out of the other end of weeping as one who is solely dependent on God. And is it not the truth that the joy we find in giving our lives over to God that we can smile and even sometimes laugh at the joy we now know in Jesus Christ. Are you on your knees? Are you broken? Are you weeping? Jesus awaits. He will take your burdens and make them His. He will give you rest. He will give you joy eternal! Amen.

Luke 1:46-56 — This passage has come to be called the Magnificat because in the Latin translation of the Bible, Mary’s opening words are “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” (or in English, “My soul magnifies the Lord”). Of course, Mary spoke neither Latin nor English, but that’s beside the point. It is a song of praise in any language. There are two things to notice here in Mary’s beautiful song of praise.

Mary was not being proud, as some might suggest. Mary is not being a political revolutionary, as some have suggested. She is simply praising the Lord. She is in awe of what God has chosen to do through her. Instead of thinking of her words as pride, “and from now on all generations will call me blessed,” it should be seen as the voice of a young teenager who knows she doesn’t deserve the honor that she has been given. She admits right before this statement that the Lord has recognized his lowly servant girl. She knows that she is an unusual choice, probably an undeserving choice by human standards, for this honor. My soul, my soul magnifies the Lord. She is overcome by joy at being chosen for this deed that is now known through the generations. Certainly, Mary in the humility of this statement would be the first to disagree with how some in our faith grant her status equivalent with Jesus. This passage is evidence that she is blown away by the honor. I imagine Mary felt just as we do when we realize that Christ died for our sins and we have been given a new lease on eternity when we accept Him as our Savior. We are so undeserving of this favor shown by God. Though we are undeserving of any merit from God, we rejoice in that we have received favor. Think about it. On our own, we do not deserve to be in the presence of God, but through Christ we have been given a honor that we do not deserve. This is how Mary feels. If she wasn’t pregnant, she would be doing cartwheels. She would be a flyer in a cheerleading stunt. She would be doing that victory dance that we do when our favorite college team wins an important game. Mary had no special talents that we know of. Mary was not a self-aware, mature beyond her years political revolutionary. She was a 12-14 year old girl who was trying to figure out this crazy, mixed up world. She was just a kid. It was not that she had accomplished any great thing to deserve this. She had not earned it. She was just a girl in love with the Lord. Her song of praise is simply a recognition that God grants us gifts that we don’t deserve in so many ways. In thanksgiving, our souls should magnify the Lord for the undeserved gifts He grants us daily. He grants them. We do not deserve them. We should be thankful and joyful and singing praises at what God has done for us and in us through our faith in His Son.

The second thing that Mary’s Song of Praise is shows us is that Mary recognizes that God is faithful to His promises. Kingdoms may come and go. Princes may raise and fall. The rich cannot sustain their wealth in eternity. All of humanities promises are temporary. All of our accomplishments are temporary. There has yet to be a man-made kingdom that has lasted more than a millenium. All of man’s deeds, promises, and actions are temporary. The one thing that remains is the eternal promises of God. Mary praises God for this. There were those who doubted God would ever fulfill His promise to Abraham. Mary is stating emphatically here that God’s promises are eternal and they have now been fulfilled in the child she carries. She praises God in faith and in trust that He never fails. He does keep His promises. He may not answer them when we as temporary, fleeting humans want them answered but He does keep His promises. What joy Mary has in this. Her faith is vindicated. He is bringing forth the Messiah that He promised. Mary’s praise should be our praise. God is faithful. He is faithful always. When all the things of this temporary human life have disappointed or failed to keep promises over the long haul, we have God’s promises. He never fails. His love never fails. Take hold of that my friends. Even when we are in the depths of despair, God is working. He will keep His promises to those who are faithfull in His due time. When we are down and out and think we have nothing to cling to, cling to the Eternal King. He is faithful. He keeps His promises. We must have faith in this. Satan wants you to distrust and turn away from God. God will keep His promises. He always has. He always will. Mary is doing metaphorical cartwheels over this. She is doing the cabbage patch dance over this fact. She is doing the moon walk over this. She is doing the electric slide over this. Sorry, for the digression into various dance moves, but you get the picture. Mary is magnifying the Lord in her soul. She is shouting from the mountaintops for the promise kept! This lowly teenage girl we can learn much from! We whine and complain about what we don’t have, about the fact that God seemingly doesn’t hear us. Mary says, you fool, God is God. He is eternal. He does what He says—according to His Sovereign timetable not ours!

Father, help me to remember to have some Mary joy about the fact that though I did not deserve salvation you gave me this great gift, this great honor. To be among your chosen ones because of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That was all it took. No deserving acts. No deeds. Just faith. Help to remember like Mary that she did not deserve the honor bestowed upon her. May my soul continue and always leap for joy for my salvation, for my undeserved honor. Also, help me to remember the promises that you make are kept. Your answers to my prayers that are alignment with yours will come when You decide. You will keep your promises to your faithful ones. You always have. You always will. You are eternal. Our promises as humans are only temporary. You are eternal. You keep your word. Let me rejoice in that trust! Amen.

Romans 12:15 — This verse sound like a pretty easy prescription for a good and healthy life doesn’t it? “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” In actuality, it is a little tougher than it sounds. Can you really dive deep into being joyful for those who are joyful and be mournful with those who mourn?

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Sounds simple enough. If I am married, I should rejoice at weddings. What if though, you’re marriage is falling apart? What if you are going through a divorce that you did not want? Man, rejoicing with your friend who is getting married is hard to do isn’t it? What if you and your wife have been trying to have a baby and you find out that you can’t have children? It is hard to rejoice with your neighbors who are pregnant with their third kid in four years. What if you are a pastor and your church is struggling but yet you see another pastor you know that has a church that seems everything they do just explodes with reaching new people? Can you rejoice with your fellow pastor? What if you are qualified and ready for that promotion but yet your co-worker is chosen over you? Can you rejoice with your co-worker? I could go on and on with this, but I think you are beginning to see the picture of the completeness of Paul’s command. He calls us not to simply rejoice when it is easy for us to rejoice. It is hard for us to rejoice with others when they have obtained something that we want but don’t have. We are called to rejoice and have true joy for others even when it makes us envious of their good fortune. It’s like patting your friend on the back when his favorite team has beaten your favorite team for the national championship. Many of us do not react with genuine joy for the good fortune of others. Many of us try to minimize the successes of others when we do not have that same success. Are you jealous of someone who seems to have it all right now at this moment? Paul calls us to rise above our selfishness and aspire to selflessness. Instead of viewing everything through our own lenses, see life from others’ perspectives.

It’s like FB Meyers story. He was a preacher along the same time as Charles Spurgeon. Meyer was a great preacher in his own right. However, he was just not as gifted a preacher as Spurgeon was. He was jealous of Spurgeon’s success. He watched Spurgeon’s church explode. He went to God in prayer about his jealousy. The result was that he prayed for Spurgeon’s success and that God would bring the overflow to his church. That took humility to swallow his jealousy and pray for the success of his rival. Ultimately, Meyer came to the knowledge that reaching souls for Christ was the bottom line and that each of us may be called to either lesser or greater roles in that. That’s humility. That’s keeping your eye on what’s really important. So, let it be said of us that in our Christian walk that we rejoiced with genuine joy for those who rejoice. Help our reaction to others speak of the joy we have in Christ. A humble heart who knows his value comes from the Lord can speak volumes of who Jesus Christ is.

Mourn with those who mourn. Again, this sounds pretty easy on the surface. Typically, we all can muster up sympathy for others who have suffered a loss. For example, we can typically be there for a family who has had a sudden death in their family. We can be there for the day of the death, the visitation, and the funeral. But can we be there for that family a year from now when they are still suffering from their loss. Can you be there for them later when it really matters. People can be greatly loving temporarily when the lights are bright. But can you be loving to that same family when they seem such a drag a year later. Can you be there for them when there is no advantage to you. Can you be there for them when they seem to be sucking the very life out of you. Can you be there for the friend who is going through an unwanted divorce and is just having great trouble coping with it for months on end? Can we really mourn with those who mourn? Can you hold your friends hand when you don’t have all the right answers or, as a matter of fact, you don’t have any good answers. Mourn for those who mourn. Let us be ones who get down in the mud with those who mourn. Help us to be in their lives when it is not convenient. Help us to be there when they call even when they seem to call too many times. Help us to be there when they call when you feel like screaming at them to get a life. Help us to be there when we don’t have any right answer. Help us to be there when we can’t fix it. Help us to be for the long haul. Help us to not abandon those who mourn because they make us feel uncomfortable. Help us to just be there. What could speak greater of the love of Jesus Christ than for us to truly mourn with those who mourn rather than just mourn for them. What could speak greater of Jesus love than to love those who mourn for weeks, months, years – even when there seems no end in sight. Help us, Lord, to mourn for those who suffer injustice, help us mourn for those who suffer loss, help us mourn for those who are inconvenient to us. Help us to really care and not just care when its comfortable.

Father, in heaven, Jesus said for us to be perfect as you are perfect. We can never be as perfect as you because of our sin nature. It is for that reason that we need Jesus. It is for that reason that we need the Holy Spirit living in us. It is for that reason that we need Your Word. Help us to continue to grow in our walk with you each and every day after salvation. Sometimes the things that you teach us are very hard to do in our selfish nature. Rejoicing and mourning for those who rejoice and those who mourn sounds simple enough. However, it can be truly difficult for us when its not convenient for our view of the world. Help us not to be so self-centered that we cannot rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Help us to really care about others even when its not convenient or when we do not get anything out of it ourselves. Help us to be humble enough to really care for others in true and meaningful ways that speak volumes about your glory and and your Son. Help us to remember the phrase, What would Jesus do. Amen.