Joy in Proper Perspective
Written by Nolan Tjaden
A passionate, gospel-driven 23 year old, I moved from Portland to Sacramento to pour my life into a church plant. My dream was to thrust myself into ministry and see a movement of God. I can still remember
the exhilarating feeling my wife and I had as we merged onto I-5 south! However, within a few short months, we learned the di culty of making friendships in a new city. Two fairly extroverted people, we had no problem with instant connections. We could laugh and chit-chat with just about anyone! But to be truly known? Well, that is an art cultivated over time.
To make matters worse, she and I were working opposite schedules. I never saw my girl. During this time, isolated from her family and me, she had to deal with the death of her grandpa completely on her own. I couldn't be there for her like I wanted. Meanwhile in my case, the grinding, life-draining jobs I was taking on were killing something inside of me. An unbearable loneliness settled into both of our hearts.
Overworked, depressed, and alone, I made the call for us to move back to Portland. But all wasn't well. We may have left the sadness of Sacramento, but the sadness never left me. On the drive up, I watched a dream slip away in the rearview mirror. There's something about the death of a dream that changes you. Didn't God call me? Back home, friends and acquaintances would comment on how di erent I was. They were right. I was di erent. A burned wick remained inside of me where the bright light once burned. I felt sidelined from God's plan. Have you ever felt sidelined from God's plan? In what part of your life?
1. GOD WORKS THROUGH (NOT AROUND) OUR TRIALS
As you read the next verse, remember that Paul wrote this letter to the church in Philippi from a prison in Rome. The Philippians had seen God's power demonstrated in Paul's life. But where was God's power now that he su ered this great trial? Was Paul's imprisonment outside of God's plan?
Paul says, “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” It's important to notice that the Gospel didn't advance in spite of Paul's hardships, but because of them. In fact, his imprisonment actually emboldened other Jesus followers. The message of Jesus was going viral. Gospel renewal broke out across the Empire because its messenger was locked up. Paul knew that the ultimate picture of this truth was Jesus. By means of Jesus' tragic death on the cross, God would begin to make all things new.
The world will never recover from the life-changing impact of Jesus' cross. Through tragedy, hardship and su ering, God brings healing. Have you ever seen someone's personal tragedy actually turn out for something incredible? What hardships are you su ering that God could use for good in his Kingdom? How?
2. JESUS IS THE SOURCE (NOT A PART) OF TRUE JOY
Here we see another dimension of Paul's di culties. Evidently, there were people going around telling the story about Jesus in order to stir up trouble for Paul while he was in prison. But did you notice how Paul responds?
I. He never becomes bitter. It would have been easy for Paul to start assuming everyone was out to get him. But, he makes a point to say that there are still others preaching about Jesus “out of love”.
II. He rejoices in Jesus' glory. Instead of xating on his
circumstances, he rejoices in the beauty of his Savior. Paul hangs his joy on the status of Jesus and not himself. So, regardless of how his su ering a ected him, he rejoiced in the proclamation of Jesus' beautiful name.
During my own challenging season in Sacramento, I sadly became disenchanted with Jesus and the Church. My expectations were unful lled and since my joy depended on my expectations, my very imsy and fragile “joy” failed right along with those expectations. Not so with Paul. He placed his joy in God alone, and in doing so, he found that his joy was like God--it didn't change with circumstance--it was as solid as a rock because it was found in the Rock himself.
On a scale of imsy to solid, how would you rate your joy? Why?
Where is it easy for you to look for joy other than God?
What would it take for you to have joy in Jesus rather than circumstances?
What needs to change? What habits need to end and which ones need to begin?
3. AS WE YIELD, PEOPLE (INCLUDING US) ARE HEALED
Read Philippians 1:18-24
Paul believed that God had complete reign over all things. He rejoices that “Christ will be honored through my body”. He's saying that God doesn't lose control during our life's devastating events but instead uses them in ways we could never anticipate. God remains enthroned during our trials. So our trials are for his purpose. That's why Paul realizes that no matter the circumstance, he would in fact, glorify God whether “by life or by death”. Paul was a man completely submitted to God's rule and reign, and thus devoted himself to God's work no matter where God directed his life.
Now, think about Paul's impact. He was easily the most e ective purveyor of the Gospel in history (secondly only to Jesus). His legacy is felt in the billions of Christians that worship Jesus in every city and nation on Earth. Today, the healing truth of Jesus is a global movement into which even you and I are swept up. Yet, it began with men like Paul, who were willing to see every season of their life as seasons in which God could use them. Paul used his life, full of hardships, to advance Jesus' Kingdom.
What about you? You may be in the most painful season of life--but don't succumb to the lie that God can't use you in your season of trial! If God reigns as sovereign over all, there is no stopping him from making beautiful things through every season of our lives, even the painful ones. Let the Spirit redeem your trials (vv. 20). The events in our lives, whether painful or beautiful, are being used to advance God's work and give him glory.
“No one can sum up all God is able to accomplish through one solitary life, wholly yielded, adjusted, and obedient to Him.” -D.L. Moody
Do you believe that God is completely in control of your life's situation?
How would you live if you truly believed in God's control over all things?
PRACTICING THE ART OF JOYh3>
This week take three pens of different colors.
Write down the most painful thing you are going through right now and write it in rst color. Next to that, in the second color, right down how you feel about this situation. Give yourself permission to be honest about your feelings. Then, in the third color, speak to yourself from God’s vantage point. Use words truths, principles, hopes, and promises of scripture about your situation. Seek the scriptures through this process, especially the Psalms. If you feel comfortable, even consider inviting a trusted Christian brother or sister into your pain, by allowing them to write these truths down for you.