Count it All Joy

Count it All Joy

Joy is not always surrounded by ease.

Joy is not always surrounded by ease.

In James 1:2 James said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” You might be thinking just now, “Is he kidding?  Please tell me he’s kidding!”  No, friend, he is very serious; but I can understand why you may be so alarmed.  After all, who enjoys hardship and struggles?  But you see he is not encouraging us to fall in love with suffering, but rather to see the spiritual good that can result from enduring sufferings.  (So don’t be going around saying, “Wow, I hope I get beat up by the bully at school today,” or, “I hope I’ll be the victim of road rage today”).

Here is the point: “count it all joy…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (vv. 3-4). This is about spiritual maturity.  We might call it “growing pains.”  Enduring (by faith) one difficultly better prepares us for a harder one (and they are coming).  Think of it, before David had to even think of fighting Goliath, God prepared him for that difficulty by allowing him to face lions and bears (1 Sam. 17:32-37).  Peter saw the value of trials by indicating that we are like gold that is tested by fire (1 Pet. 1:6-7). Why is gold placed in the crucible of fire?  To burn out the impurities; then it will be “pure” gold.  So “count it all joy,” or as Jesus put it, “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:11-12).  The apostles certainly understood this (Acts 5:40-41).  Do you?

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Gate of Heaven

Why do some fail to enter the gate of heaven?

The gate of heaven is very attractive and appealing because of where it leads.  As of Abraham and those of old, we are all travelers going from time to eternity.  But, before entering a road, we should be sure it leads to our desired destination because many miss the right road and instead travel the road that seems right.  This is a terrible tragedy but as Solomon said, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).  And, many are not willing to pay the price of the road that is narrow and filled with obstacles (Matt. 7:13-14).  Instead, they will follow the crooked road yet at the same time, they also want that crooked road, that is made with flowery beds of ease, to also carry them off to heaven.

You know, some have no burning desire to go there.  Some by their practice, as in the days of Jeremiah were, “. . . defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods.”  Seeking other gods of whatever will not get one to heaven.  However, the Lord said, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.  Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (Psa. 119:1-2).  We must have a pure heart if we are to see God (Matt. 5:8).

Sadly, some just want to have a fire escape to heaven, just in case they need it.  Instead of seeking God with the heart, they do not strive at all.  They do not strain every nerve as an athlete does in a contest (2 Tim. 2:5).  Instead, many are more interested in other things, or other people, like Peter.  It is ironic how people can become so focused on Peter or other people, that they forget Jesus.  It was said before when, “Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?  Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. (Jn. 21:21-22).  Like the man in the text of Lk. 13:22-28 wanted to know if many were saved, we too need to make sure that we are doing what we must to be saved.

The only problem is that many are not seeking and striving diligently (Lk. 15:3-9).  They are not seeking until they find (Lk. 15:8-10), they are not seeking diligently until they find (Lk. 15:11).  The do not see the importance and they fail because they do not make sufficient preparation (Matt. 25:1-13).  Instead, they procrastinate, they put it off, they wait too late.  Perhaps, on their deathbed, terminally ill and unable to function well, they want to turn their life over to God and start obeying.  But God said, “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.  Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:” (Prov. 1:24-28).

There will be a lot of disappointed people at the wondrous gate (Matt. 7:21-23).  Are you willing to pay the price to do His will?  You know, the tragedy of all tragedies would be to hear the judge of the world say to you, your husband, your wife, your son or daughter, “depart from me to walk the burning soil of eternal damnation forever and forever.”  We don’t have to hear this.  Let us be prepared.  Let us walk strait and encourage others to do the same because none of us have to fail to enter the gate of Heaven.  It is there waiting for us to enter in and I pray that we will all be there together.

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Happiness and Pleasure

Happiness and Pleasure

Have you ever finished a good book wishing there were more to the story? Have you ever watched a movie leaving the theater unsatisfied? Perhaps after a good meal you’ve wished there were more to come. Such things clearly provide us with momentary pleasure, but our desire for more belies our unhappiness. Why are we so unhappy in our society today? We are the most prosperous nation on the earth yet one out of every four individuals in our nation has some kind of depression. What are we doing wrong?

Are you confusing happiness and pleasure?

Are you confusing happiness and pleasure?

Are we confusing pleasure with happiness? Many feel that their personal happiness rests upon having one pleasurable moment after another. They reason that they simply aren’t happy unless each moment is filled with pleasure. We need to stop thinking this way and look at happiness from a differently. Happiness does not depend merely upon having pleasurable moments, but rather, upon whether or not we are content or satisfied with the moments that come our way. In other words, I don’t have to feel pleasure from something in order to be happy. Is this a strange concept to you?

The word “pleasure” connotes the idea of enjoyment due to momentary gratification. The word “happiness,” however, contains the idea of a prolonged state of satisfaction and contentment associated with one’s overall circumstances. We ask, “Are you happy?” and we mean by that question to know about one’s general conditions in life. We ask, “Are you pleased?” and mean whether one is satisfied with a particular item.

Happiness is a state of mind. We can be happy regardless the situation we are in. Paul said in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice.” We can control our state of mind by focusing upon happy things. Pleasure, however, is a feeling experienced in the body. The Proverbs writer said, “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich” ( Proverbs 21:17). The Hebrew parallel here indicates that loving pleasure is the same as loving “wine and oil,” things associated with bodily pleasure. As Christians we are to focus upon the spiritual, not the physical ( Colossians 3:2).

Happiness rests upon contentment. Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” One blessing that comes from contentment is an indescribable happiness which cannot be easily subverted. On the other hand, pleasure is often driven by boredom or being malcontent. When we are malcontent we seek for something to stimulate our senses so as to create bodily pleasure. We simply end up unsatisfied after the experience has ended, or craving more in an addictive like behavior. Solomon experienced this as recorded in Ecclesiastes 2:1 “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.” Proverbs 14:13 states, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.” Let us learn contentment if we desire to be happy.

Happiness is satisfied with “clean fun.” It is interesting that the word “fun” is not in the Bible. We do find, however, that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy” ( 1 Timothy 6:17). In that regard, God’s gifts are pure and unadulterated. James 1:17 states, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” On the other hand, pleasure often delves into sinfulness. Paul spoke to Timothy of a time when men would be “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” ( 2 Timothy 3:4) and the Hebrew writer spoke of Moses who chose not to “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” ( Hebrews 11:25). Sinful activities may produce pleasure but ultimately provide no lasting happiness.

Let’s resolve to seek happiness regardless of our circumstances, to base our happiness upon contentment, and to enjoy the good things God has given while shunning sin in our lives. By so doing, we can avoid confusing pleasure with happiness.

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