Why are we expending mental and emotional energy as we lovingly engage ourselves in the lives of others with all tehir intricate and perplexing problems? More generally why are we going through difficulties in the service of Christ? It is easy to default to the thinking that we are called to suffering and that is how it is and we have to get on with it. But such an attitude can soon lead to the “martyr complex” which means that we glory in how much we are suffering.
Paul would not let us have this focus. His focus was on joy. So we see in 2 Corinthians 2:1-4 a little taste of Paul’s attitude to ministry. He is wanting the Corinthians to deal with the sin in their midst (see 1 Cor. 5:1-5). The fact that there is this sin in the church is causing him great distress. So we read in v4 For I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. And he only inflicts pain on the Corinthians because he wants the matter dealt with and so they can share joy. So we read of gladness (v2) and joy (v3).
Paul’s goal is joy. He wants sin dealt with in the church because there can never be joy when sin is around. And he will get distressed and seek to distress others so that sin is dealt with. But his goal is not the distress and the suffering. Rather, joy is his settled purpose.
Are we similarly set on this goal of labouring for joy? In all this we remember the ministry of our Saviour who went through the ultimate sin dealing with suffering so as to enter into the ultimate joy. Let us ponder upon the immense implications of how our Saviour Fixing our eyes on the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
Oh Lord please save me form a martyr complex and fix my being on labouring for joy and gladness.
I was in a bad mood and a bit stressed the other morning. I had asked Charlotte, who works as the Church Administrator, to do something. And she had been a long time coming back to me. I was expecting the response by phone. So I phoned and was angry with her although she had already replied by email. I was wrong and had to apologise and seek forgiveness. Charlotte vice versa apologised and all was resolved.
This all left me a bit chastened because of my sinful weakness. Oh Lord how I need you. It was good to know the relationship between us was restored. But above all there was the confession I had to make to the Lord. And then to know that taste of joy that He does receive sinners. Here was living proof, to my shame, that I was a sinner. But he receives sinners and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. So we must confess.
Thank you Lord for bringing me through that with some humbling, but some joy as well.
The average person on the street lives life believing that ‘the more money I have then the more comfort I will have and the more enjoyable life will be’. That is what motivates a lot of people to keep on living. So they just can’t handle it when they find that the wealthiest on the planet are often the ones who are enjoying life the least. Wealth and misery, rather than being aliens existing apart from each other, are often found existing together. Yes they exist very unhappily together, but they are together.
So what does the average person do in response to this empirical evidence? He shrugs his shoulders and says effectively it will be different for me. With me it won’t be like that. And so they go on striving after the money/mammon that perishes and think that the acquisition of such stuff will secure a full life for them.
These musings derive from overhearing a conversation about George Michael who passed away on Christmas Day last year. It was observed that George Michael had so much. Yet the participants in the conversation were aghast that his life could be such a mess. The assumption of course was that wealth and fame in this life must guarantee happiness.
Oh how sad and pathetic is all this. It is like living a perpetual delusion. People always living with the allure of wealth driving them, but failing to process the truth that the palaces of this world are generally not filled with happiness.
And how it should stir us to compassion. Compassion towards those trapped in the ways of this world and foreigners to the life that only comes through Christ. But what about me? Do I have a different life? As a believer in Christ I surely should have. And so we see in Matthew. 6:19-21 how things should be:
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Oh Lord, that’s the life that matters.
At the end of 2 Corinthians 1 Paul writes to the Corinthians Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm (2 Cor. 1:24). This gives a fascinating insight into what Paul’s design was in dealing with the Corinthians. His design was to labour so that the Corinthians would enter into joy. That means entering into that delight which comes through living a life in harmony with God. Faith leads to joy. When our trust in the Lord is unhindered by sin, then there is joy.
Understandably then, Paul was interacting with the Corinthians to deal with all their sins, fractures and rebellion. He labours in 1 and 2 Corinthians to address a number of issues and deficiencies in understanding in the church in Corinth. His goal was not that they must be a nice prim and proper church. His goal was that they might be enjoying God.
He does not say here that he is labouring for his joy or even “our” joy. No! His passion is to work for their joy. Of course, it would have been easier not to have bothered. He could have just left them to their own devices. He loved them too much to do that though. He wanted to get involved so as to bring forth their joy.
What about me? Am I transfixed by a desire to see others experiencing the joy of the Lord? Does this drive me to preach, teach, exhort, pray, counsel, confront, instruct.
Oh how beautiful it is to find the people of the Lord knowing the joy of the Lord.