Saturday, Aug. 1st
Joy Everlasting & the Glory of God
“There’s nothing like having grandkids to bring joy into your life.” “I just love going out to my favourite restaurant for a fantastic dinner.” “David Price is joining the Jays.” “I just won a Caribbean cruise!” “Wow! The Leafs just won the cup! (You’ll really have to use your imagination on that one.) Joy! Joy! Joy!
In the last 5 weeks, we have gotten to know Paul and Timothy. We can see Paul, sitting in what was most likely a dark, dank, smelly pit of a prison, abandoned by almost everyone who once shared in his life, opposed by false teachers, and knowing that he was “already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of [his] departure was at hand” (2 Tim. 4:6).
Where did Paul find the strength to persevere? Why should he bother to write this letter at this final point in his life? Why hasn’t he quit? Of course, if you’ve studied along with us, you know the answer: Paul’s life had never been deeply rooted in the things of this world. Instead, he was focused on the future, and that gave him great joy. 2 Timothy 2:9-10 gives us his focus; Paul suffered hardship even to imprisonment; he endured all he did for the sake of the chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it, eternal glory.
Did you catch that? Paul’s constant focus was the salvation of others and the future eternal glory of his Lord Jesus Christ. He always looked outward at others and forward to his future with Christ. That’s what gave him joy.
As I thought about that, I started to think through Paul’s life and what else we see of him in other places in the Scriptures. Paul’s ministry is described in much of the book of Acts, and he wrote half the New Testament, and so we can get great insight into his life and mindset. When Paul and Silas were traveling together on Paul’s second journey, they ended up in a Philippian jail . . . at midnight . . . through no fault of their own. And what were they doing? Acts 16:25 tells us: they were praying and singing hymns of praise. They weren’t praying for release. They weren’t moaning or wallowing in self-pity. They were singing hymns of praise!
In Romans 5:3-5, Paul writes that not only does he exult in hope of the glory of God, but that he also exults in tribulations, knowing that those tribulations bring about perseverance, proven character, and hope. Paul’s eternal focus enabled him to write in 2 Cor. 4:17 that everything he went through was ‘momentary, light affliction.” How could Paul overlook all the terrible things that happened to him and still have joy? Paul saw all that he did, including his suffering and horrible circumstances as something he did “for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:15).” There we see it again: Paul served God for the salvation and spiritual growth of others, and for God’s glory.
Joy, for Paul, was not found in grandchildren’s birthday parties, the comeback of his favourite sports team, or a fantastic holiday. Nor did he lose his joy when his circumstances changed for the worse. His was an eternal focus. Paul knew his God. He knew his Saviour Jesus Christ, and he never looked back, but always forward. “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18) Paul knew that “henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness . . . and not only for me, but for all those that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
What an admonition this was for me. I had to examine my heart and my life this week. How often do I let my circumstances affect my emotions and attitudes? And, more importantly, what am I going to do to cultivate an eternal mindset? What about you? Do you let a ‘bad day,’ or one of life’s disappointments rob you of joy? What practical steps can you take to keep that eternal perspective?