Monday, May 22, 2017

Parties may last for a lifetime, but . . . ................ Parables 591

(No tear sheet)

One of my cousins told me he would never consider becoming a Christian. He explained he was “having too much fun” and being a Christian would “stop all that.”

People go many directions in their pursuit of happiness. Some look for it in more money, or a bigger house, or a faster car, or different friends, or a better job. Most of us realize that even if we achieve these goals, the delight they bring does not last very long.

My cousin thought he would find happiness in a never-ending string of parties, with lots of alcohol and never enough sleep. Instead of the fun he hoped for, he wound up with liver damage that has contributed to seriously deteriorating health. Whether he becomes a Christian or not, “stopping all that” seems like a good idea.

In contrast to my cousin, Cyprian the 3rd century Bishop of Carthage, wrote to a friend: “It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and good people who have learned the great secret of life. They have found a joy and wisdom which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are Christians... and I am one of them.”

Anyone who has put their faith in Christ shares Cyprian’s discovery. There is a joy that cannot be found in external pleasures or material possessions, or even in being healthy. It is the inner joy that God gives to those who walk with Him. It is a joy that cannot be destroyed, taken away or replaced.

The enduring nature of this joy stands on a strong foundation. One is the sovereignty of God. He controls all things in wisdom, power and goodness. Nothing surprises or upsets Him. He has what it takes to meet all situations. When we trust a God like that, anxiety begins to fade. We know He is taking care of every detail of our lives.

The second foundation is the peace of God. God is at peace within Himself. When Jesus said to those who trust Him: “My peace I give to you. . . .” He was talking about that inner peace. With it, we are released from our inner conflict too. Also, God knows how to settle external conflicts. As we trust Him, we begin to learn how to do it too. Stress begins to leave and joy moves in to fill the space.

Because God is eternal, His joy and peace last forever, withstanding time and trials. The only way we can get rid of them (Who wants to?) is by choosing doubt or sin instead of trust.

Joy is also powerful in itself. The Old Testament writer Nehemiah said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” This kind of joy has the capacity to give us confidence and a sense of being able to meet life without fear.

When we know God is in control, we are joyful. When our inner struggles are settled, we are joyful. When we trust God, we learn that there is no joy like the joy of the Lord. Parties may last for the night but God’s peace and joy lasts for ever.

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