"In God and Balance"
Fourth, “The formula to joy is not God and [blank] so much as God in [blank].” It is not God and fun, God and family, God and my job, God and fishing, God and shopping, God and chocolate ice cream, God and nature…but God IN each of these, which is what I have been trying to establish the last several messages. It is God IN my job, God IN my marriage, God IN my finances, God IN my hobbies, etc. True joy only comes from God IN and throughout all of His creation.
If we could somehow, finally, and convincingly through faith fully buy-in to this premise, our lives would be instantly changed, which is one good definition for the religious term conversion or repentance. The Greek word for “repentance” means to change our minds and hearts, to make a 180 degree turnaround. Christians can no longer afford to compartmentalize their faith into one narrowly defined box. We must, for our own good and that of the entire world, seek God’s glory and then emanate it out toward a lost and hurting world every moment of every day.
The world without God does not see what we do on Sunday mornings behind the walls of the church building. Nevertheless, they certainly see and hear and experience everything we do each day at our jobs or with our families or at play. This is how “the world” without Christ gains their perspective of “Christians.”
What's more, our joy will never be complete, not even close, if our relationship with God and our search for God consists only of time spent once a week in a worship service and the few minutes a day spent in what we call “prayer.” God wants the remainder of the 23 ½ hours of each day. And when we realize our joy or happiness increases exponentially when we invite God into more moments of our day, then we will more fully understand God’s reason for demanding our hearts 24/7. It is for our own good. IT IS FOR OUR OWN GOOD! This gives us an abundant, fulfilled life in itself.
Fifth and finally, Ortlund seeks for a balance between the joys of the beauty of the Lord and suffering or dry periods in our lives. The beauty of the Lord can be experienced when God wraps us in His arms during a time of grief or depression or worry and fear. So even in times of adversity, our joy can remain. We falsely believe joy and sorrow cannot exist simultaneously, but I would differ.
Take, for example a funeral. Within the context of a funeral visitation, family gatherings, the actual memorial service, the burial, a funeral dinner and such are intermingled times of agonizing grief and moments of joy. We obviously grieve due to our loss, but we gain needed comfort from friends and family and our church family. We experience joy as we reminisce with our loved ones regarding the departed. We delight in the memories of our loved one who constantly appears in our minds. We thank the Lord for his precious gift to us while our loved one was alive. We are most gracious for the love shown to us. And, we could go on and on. So there can be true joy even during times of grief, illness, or suffering.
Joy is not something that can be stolen from us, unless we allow it, because it is not based on any particular situation or event but on our ongoing relationship with the Lord and our infatuation with His beauty and holiness. Who can separate us from the love of God?
The beauty of the Lord soothes our anxious hearts in the busyness of each day. God’s majesty totally fulfills our desire for pleasure and adds excitement and adventure to an otherwise boring life. Living more and more moments of our day “in” God completes our joy. The joy and love of God within our hearts can never be taken from us and is continually present with us even in the midst of sorrow or tribulation. The world asks, “What’s in it for me?” Is it wrong for Christians to ask the same question? Not necessarily; not if we were created by God to be fulfilled and happy “in Him.” However, that can only happen “In Him.”
Most Christians through the centuries have concluded that joy, pleasure, beauty, happiness, and fulfillment are self-centered goals or desires of “the flesh,” that is, our fallen, sinful nature. We have done the world a disservice by presenting our God’s character as such. If it is true that we were created in God’s own image in order to enjoy Him fully forever, then why do Christians often lead the way in terms of “unhappiness?” These things ought not to be. What do you say we change that?!