Feb8FriFebruary 8, 2019
I read Pastor Jude’s blog before I read chapter 3 of How to Grow. As such, I had a very different expectation of what I would find in those pages and was caught off guard by what the Lord meant for me to glean from this chapter.
The subtitle of this chapter is, in part, Pursuing JOY… Okay. I didn’t see that coming. And to be honest, I had a reaction of equal parts “YES” and “I’m so bad at this”. I really want to be a joy-filled Christian. I really don’t want to be some morose, sullen, bitter, shriveled-up-but-faithful servant. Dash says he grew up in a church tradition that had a culture that “spiritual maturity means we should become increasingly serious. Spiritual giants, I thought, smile less and frown more.” And I wouldn’t say that I feel that way exactly. My experience in church growing up and with godly men and women indicated that those who are most like Christ are the most joyful people. So, I know that. And I want that. So YES, Darryl Dash, let’s talk about pursuing joy!!
And then I look at my life and think, “Man: I’m so bad at this. I don’t know that my life reflects that kind of joy to the watching world.” Throughout the chapter there are quotes from authors I’ve read and agree with (John Piper and Brother Lawrence, for example). The theology of pursuing our greatest joy (which is really pursuing God) is not new to me. And of course, my joy in God should overflow into a fully alive life that loves to obey and follow him – with joy!!
Dash writes: “God isn’t interested in grudging obedience motivated by guilt or obligation. He isn’t interested in external compliance or religious performance. He wants us to want Him sincerely. He wants our complete and unreserved love (Matt. 22:37-40).”
Amen!! I agree. And that is what I want too.
But why does it feel like such hard work to be joyful? What am I missing?
In part, I’m missing the fact that, as Dash affirms, God wants me to be joyful. This is not a desire I have that is outside of his will for my life.
Also, I’m missing the fact that it isn’t a sin to be happy. I am sure that a sugary-sweet happy Christian must be a real turn off to the watching world. Therefore, I want to be careful about what kind of ‘happy’ I project. When the world looks on, do they see true, deep-seated, otherworldly, inexplicable, overflowing joy in Christ (regardless of circumstances) or do they see some kind of Pollyanna whose ‘perfect life’ is unrelatable to them? I often err too heavily on the ‘relatable, hard life’ side of my story in order to seem approachable and non-hypocritical so that I forget to really be joyful and give glory to God for all the good things he has done!
Finally, I think I feel discouraged that 43 years into life, nearly all of them as a Christian, I still don’t find this easy. I still see where I’m falling short more than I see the growth God has given.
The chapter ends with a series of reflection questions and action steps. The most helpful of them is also the most plain: “Ask God to give you joy as you pursue him.” Right! Of course! And then assume that he will actually give it! And then acknowledge it with thanksgiving. And don’t be ashamed of it as you live it out!
Pursue Christ: Expect Joy. Stick that on a t-shirt, man. I’d buy it.