|(Linda, with out grandson Levi - June 2020)|
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.
Jesus has told me that, if I live connected to Him, I will "bear much fruit." This includes joy.
But, again, what about during the tough times? Is it possible to produce joy when things around me are falling apart?
I believe so. Look at Paul's letter to the Philippians. Where is Paul writing from? The answer is: jail. Paul is imprisoned. Yet even this situation does not rob him of joy. That must have been frustrating to his captors!
Paul opens the letter this way.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
1) joy, gladness 1a) the joy received from you 1b) the cause or occasion of joy 1b1) of persons who are one's joy
|(Green Lake, Wisconsin)|
I have done a lot of flying, around America, and overseas to other countries. I don't fear flying. I don't even mind some turbulence. But I will admit that, in extended times of turbulence, the sound of the pilot's calm voice is reassuring to me that we are going to get through this.
When turbulent times come, leaders need to be calm. This goes all the way from government leaders down to doctors, down to police officers and firemen, down to teachers and caregivers and, yes, parents, too. When the child's heart is troubled, the calm spirit of the parent ministers to them.
A calm heart not only diminishes fear. It is needed for accurate discernment. Some decisions are hard enough to discern when you're not in panic mode. Panic makes it harder to see clearly. In general, never make important decisions when your heart is agitated.
Jesus consistently calms the agitated heart. We see this in the story of the storm on the Sea of Galilee.
Stay in Place
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Since we already have the victory, Paul instructs us to be immovable.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters,
Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord
is not in vain.
Stay in place.
Lock your eyes on the eyes of Jesus.
Stay anchored. (See HERE.)
Stay planted. (See HERE.)
Let nothing move you, except the voice of your Master.
|(Fisher Theater, Detroit)|
I am promised peace and contentment that surpasses human intelligence and transcends life's circumstances. There is a place of calm, of rest, available and accessible to me.
The biblical "fruit of the Spirit" is noncircumstantial (Galatians 5:22-23). Otherwise, my attitudes would go up and down with the news.
I am told that the heart-conditions of being at peace, being kind, being joyful, and so on, are independent of my life circumstances. Otherwise love, peace, patience, kindness, and so on, rise or fall depending on what I am facing. The real thing, if it exists at all, must be something unattached to the vicissitudes of life.
True contentment, as well, is noncircumstantial. We see this in Paul, who wrote:
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)
Whatever the circumstances. I want to learn that secret! While not yet my full possession, it is my desire. To have it is to be free. Out of such freedom, I am able to love and live.
How is true contentment attained? Contentment is a function of connectedness. Contentment increases as I am attached, branchlike, to Jesus, who is Vinelike.
Any other answer to human flourishing is foolish. This is important to understand, in the midst of our materialist, entertainment, consumer culture. Thomas Merton writes:
"If we are fools enough to remain at the mercy of people who want to sell us happiness, it will be impossible for us ever to be content with anything. How would they profit if we became content? We would no longer need their new product. The last thing the salesman wants is for the buyer to become content. You are no use in our affluent society unless you are always about to grasp what you never have." (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 84)
Our culture mitigates against contentment. It thrives on perpetual discontentedment. Imagine how unhelpful this is in a pandemic.
True contentment requires an a-cultural stance that is circumstance-free. From this transcendent point of view, our hearts have risen above life's conditions. We begin to see earth, through the lens of heaven.