When you were a child, did you ever make a pact with your best friend that you would live next door to each other, your children would be best friends, and you'd all visit together every day? (No? What's wrong with you?!) Well, my childhood friend now lives thousands of miles away from me (though we still reminisce about our "spit-into-our-hands-and-shake" alliances), but the idea still appeals to me. It would be utopia for me to have everyone I like and love living nearby, bringing up our children together, and being challenged to live in perfect unity in Christ (hmmm, sounds a bit like cohousing). I know, it's idealistic, but it's a desire that's been created in me. The more surrounded I am by friends and family, the more joy I derive from their friendships and the more challenged I am to grow and mature in Christ. Jesus himself seems to have surrounded himself with his friends and disciples on all his travels and only went off by himself when he sought out his Father and some much-needed rest and recharging.
If you've read my profile, you'll see I mention having a passion for "befriending and 'discipling' other Christian women and creating opportunities for moms to get out, hang out and celebrate together this life we've been given." It might seem like a weird passion to have, might I even say a frivolous one? I have many interests, and this is one in which I feel God can use somehow. So forgive my constant stream of invites to parties, events, social gatherings, etc., but it's my excuse for fellowship and getting to know others better as well as taking time out for me. Still waiting for God to get some of you to come though! :-)
If you've read the archived posts from this past year, you may not notice an underlying thread weaving throughout each entry - the message to live the Christian life to its fullest and with utmost joy! Living the Christian life can be a tough thing to do and living it to its fullest means different things for different people. To me, living the Christian life to its fullest means one word: Freedom.
"All of God's children, I am convinced, feel instinctively, in their moments of divine illumination, that a life of inward rest and outward victory is their inalienable birthright. Can you remember, some of you, the shout of triumph your souls gave when you first became acquainted with the Lord Jesus, and had a glimpse of His mighty saving power? How sure you were of victory, then! How easy it seemed to be more than conquerors, through Him that loved you! Under the leadership of a Captain who had never been foiled in battle, how could you dream of defeat!
And yet, to many of you, how different has been your real experience! Your victories have been few and fleeting, your defeats many and disastrous. You have not lived as you feel children of God ought to live. You have had perhaps a clear understanding of doctrinal truths, but you have not come into possession of their life and power. You have rejoiced in your knowledge of the things revealed in the Scriptures, but have not had a living realization of the things themselves, consciously felt in the soul. Christ is believed in, talked about, and served, but He is not known as the soul's actual and very life, abiding there forever, and revealing Himself there continually in His beauty. You have found Jesus as your Savior from the penalty of sin, but you have not found Him as your Savior from its power. You have carefully studied the Holy Scriptures, and have gathered much precious truth therefrom, which you have trusted would feed and nourish your spiritual life, but in spite of it all, your souls are starving and dying within you, and you cry out in secret, again and again, for that bread and water of life which you see promised in the Scriptures to all believers."1
Many of those around me that have grown up in the Christian faith have lost sight of the unfathomable power and grace of God and the freedom he awards us. They live their life in bondage to fear, anxiety, misery, judgement, shame, and a host of other demons whose grip is strong on their life. If I had one message to teach over and over again, it would be regarding this freedom gifted to us.
"In the very outset, then, settle down on this one thing, that Jesus came to save you, now, in the life, from the power and dominion of sin, and to make you more than conquerors through His power. If you doubt this, search your Bible, and collect together every announcement or declaration concerning the purposes and object of His death on the cross. You will be astonished to find how full they are. Everywhere and always, His work is said to be to deliver us from our sins, from our bondage, from our defilement; and not a hint is given, anywhere, that this deliverance was to be only the limited and partial one with which Christians so continually try to be satisfied."1
True joy can be had, but it can only be had through Christ. May you discover permanently your joy in life. My hope is that your reality closely matches God's original plan for us - a life lived in Him without restrictions, boundaries or burdens.
Your joy in the Lord is to be a far deeper thing than a mere emotion. It is to be the joy of knowledge, of perception, of actual existence. It is a far gladder thing to be a bird, with all the actual realities of flying, than only to feel as if you were a bird, with no actual power of flying at all. Reality is always the vital thing.1If this were our reality, maybe the Christian faith would be more attractive to those who have no knowledge of peace and joy. Maybe a life lived with joyful abandon is a greater witness to some than all the sermons preached. For one who lives without joy will never fail to seek for it. Let others find Christ in you through the joy you have through Him!
1. From The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith originally written in 1870