"[Imitating Christ's Humility] If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Philippians 2:1-2
When I saw this verse pop up in the verse of the day box this morning, I read it, smiled, and went on with a few other things. Then I came back to it, read it again, and then I felt something stir a little bit, so I read it again, and then I saw what this verse was trying to say to me. That happens to me quite a bit when I'm reading my Bible. I'll read a passage and not understand at all what it is saying- and I think that's fairly normal for most people. Sometimes I'll move on, but sometimes, I'll just feel the need to re-read, sometimes several times, because I really want to understand what is written in God's Word for me. Sometimes an understanding will come to me, sometimes not, but I think the point here is that I keep trying. I think about my kids who read to me every day, sometimes they don't understand something, so we read it again slowly so they can take the time to process what they hear- most times that does the trick. Often times, when I'm reading my Bible, I need to take a child-like approach to it.
But this verse today really made me smile, because I think it's one of the things that actually has been frustrating my husband a little bit as of late. (I hope he doesn't mind if I blog about him today!) In Philippians, Paul is making a case for Christianity- and making a very good one at that. It makes me wonder how the world has gotten the way it is... let's think about Christianity as a whole, and the perception of it by those who are not. Often times, non-Christians see the negative. They see the strife within the church body, hear the gossip about church splits, or a pastor in disgrace. They see the poverty, the people who are struggling to make ends meet, but drop an offering in the basket every week, or they see the couple with the wayward teenager, pregnant and on drugs. Or they see those church people, who don't even glance their way, who walk around as if they are better than anyone else around them. Those are all really unappealing scenarios, and I can't say I blame anyone for staying away if that is what it means to be a Christian.
Our pastor said yesterday that for some people, the closest they will ever get to reading their Bible is what they read from us as a person. Think about that. The closest my neighbor may ever get to reading anything from God's Word is through their interaction with me and my family. It seems to me that we better start acting out what we read in God's Word! We better start displaying it for all to see! Paul is talking about that very thing- he's talking about the wonderful perks of following Jesus! When we become one with Christ- when we confess our sins and accept Jesus into our lives, we immediately get all the perks that go with it.
We get the magnanimous display of comfort from his love- the love of a father, that embraces us no matter what the circumstances around us. We get the fellowship with the Spirit- and what a wonderful fellowship that is! We can be in constant communication all day long, and the Spirit can be such a help when making a major decision. We get to experience tenderness as we look at those neighbor children through His eyes, as we see the potential of the life yet to be lived, or the compassion, as we watch that elderly neighbor struggle every morning to open the car door. Then there is the most precious and wonderful joy of the Lord.
"Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10
It is the joy of the Lord that gets us through every trial that comes our way.
"but rejoicing comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5
Every day is a new day of joy. Each and every morning, I rise out of bed and thank God for this new day, for a new opportunity to love my children and my husband. I thank God for the simple newness of the day, that it IS a whole new day, and we never know what each moment will bring until that moment is upon us. I think as a parent, a new day is the greatest source of joy. No matter how bad the previous day was, and no matter how early my kids decide to wake up, I can't help but smile and be filled with joy when I see their precious faces each and every day. Every single day! They wake up, excited for the new day ahead, and get busy straightaway with whatever toys, games, or books strike their fancy. It's this childlike joy that has gotten me hook, line, and sinker, because each and every day is just so awesome! Each day that we get to live could be a whole new opportunity to get to know God better.
It's this joy that has infected our household, and for that, we are so blessed and grateful. Because we've certainly had challenges try to come our way... but by golly, as we look at the challenges, it's almost like... well, it's like so what? Bring it on? Because any trials that come our way here on earth is so minor, so trivial, and such a drop in the bucket compared to the thought that we have an eternity to plan for. And even better, as the enemy sends trials our way, we know we will overcome them all through Christ, and then we will have a wonderful testimony on the other side! It almost makes me wonder why the devil even bothers, because we know that God wins every single time!
And so, as I read this verse from Paul, just one more time, it's like the dawning of a new era. It's like, the all new "keeping up with the Joneses", only we're not talking about stuff. We're talking about relationship with God. We're talking about positioning ourselves for the eternal reward. We're talking about all the peace and the joy that we have- only it's even better than stuff, because we can share! All the perks of following Jesus are not just for us to keep to ourselves- we're meant to share them. Like a giant never-ending candy basket that we can just continue sharing a piece at a time, until our neighbors make their own commitment and get their own basket, and then we work together, trying to share with everyone else. It's a wonderful cycle, and the rewards are so sweet.