Friday, June 12, 2015

Peace in War, Rest in Battle, Joy in Sorrow

    I remember a particular evening in Malawi. It began with all five of us from Texas gathered outside on a little stone wall looking up at the millions of stars in the African night sky. Anyway, as different ones of us came and went doing various nightly chores, I don't remember who else was there for this little episode, but it's not important for the story. I remember just randomly bursting out laughing, and the other guys around me all looking at me quizzically, like "What's wrong with Taylor now?"

    I remember telling them, "We're crazy. I've never had so much fun in my life, never felt more satisfied and joyful in the Lord. And I really shouldn't be! I haven't had chocolate in two weeks, I've been sleeping under holey roofs, slogging down muddy roads, pushing mini-buses and pickups through the deepest slickest mud I've ever seen, going to the bathroom in a hole, and doing ministry things I've never done before. We're crazy to be enjoying this so much!"

    We all laughed at the time, because it was true. Most of us agreed (and I whole-heartedly meant it) that if there was any realistic way we could have stayed, we would have. I fell in love with Africa.

    "What kind of weirdos are you?" ask the normal people of the world, the grandparents, the family friends. "What kind of nutcases are you raising?" my parents see in every quizzical little eyebrow twist of people they tell about my trip. Who enjoys that? Why would you enjoy that?

    Too often, we treat sacrifice as if it is horrible, and that living a sacrificial and thus "rough" Christian life is incredibly spiritual, rather than default real Christianity. We shy away from a risky Christian life that may involve awkward, difficult things as if it's just not worth the cost. Maybe we'll be rewarded in heaven, but it's not worth the hell on earth, we may think to ourselves in our deepest heart of hearts.

    But when we respond that way, we're missing the promises of Jesus that his yoke his easy, and his burden is light. His promises of joy and peace have not been forgotten or abandoned. So a radical Christian life isn't a joyless wandering through life, just slogging our way along until heaven. Instead, we are called to have joy during the journey, through the hard times.

    When we have the attitude that the Christian life is a joyless drudgery, just limping through life until heaven, we miss out on the joy of following Jesus on earth. Jesus promises joy and peace if we follow Him, even through the harder times.

    Yes, it involves a mindset that the world might consider crazy. It doesn't make a ton of sense to enjoy a lack of luxuries. It isn't necessarily intellectually explained.

    But you truly do feel most fulfilled when doing what you know God wants you to do. I'm someone who hates meeting new people, yet I can remember the joy I've felt while going door to door giving out gospel tracts. Those are times that I am doing something I'd ordinarily hate, but I enjoy doing it simply because it is for my God.

    When God guarantees us rest, He is promising rest in the midst of the greatest turmoil and peace in the midst of a great war. He's not offering us a life of relaxation, but rather fulfillment during a struggle. His promise of rest is not a promise of laid back nonchalance for the fate of the rest of the world, but rather a peace of mind and restful reliance on God during the most stressful and wild of times.

    Yes, we are guaranteed a life of counting the cost and dying to self. But we are also promised a life of rest and peace. John 14:27 is a promise from Jesus to His disciples that He guaranteed His peace for them.

    Timeout. What do you mean Jesus promised the disciples peace? The same disciples who lived difficult lives, horrible lives by the world's standards? The same disciples who died in horrific ways of martyrdom? Those guys?

    Yep, Jesus guarantees us peace in the midst of war. He guarantees us rest in the middle of battle. And He guarantees us joy in the most adverse and contrary situations, situations where the world will look at our joy and pronounce us crazy, and we'll just nod our heads and agree.

    What gives us joy in the midst of trial? What gives you joy when you're doing things for God you'd never do for anyone else, things the world sees and pronounces insane? Well, several things really. First of all, His presence. We are guaranteed the presence of the Holy Spirit with us. And to someone in love with Jesus, that's a motivation and a confidence like no other. Secondly, we have His peace. We have been reconciled with the Father, made sons of God, and whatever the outcome of our lives, we can have peace. We can have rest.

    So, as you go through life, the crazy times and the hard times, remember! God doesn't just call you to a difficult, costly life. He calls you to rest in Him during those difficult times. He calls us to bask in His peace even while in the most strenuous of exercises in faith. He calls us to sing of His joy in the most unlikely of circumstances. We can rest in Jesus during the battle, we can experience peace during war, and we can know joy in the sorrow surrounding us.