Matthew 6:19-34, John 15:5-8 are key verses to read and know if we are to understand life as a Christian. They are encouraging, reassuring and powerful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read them or referenced them in sermons. Life with Jesus is meant to be a life where our worries are minimized, our joy is maximized, and where we effective and joyful and “bear much fruit”. So how come most of us feel the exact opposite of that?
We love to quote the words of Jesus in John 10:10 to each other,
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Really? Some of us say “my life is full”… but it ain’t full of the things that Jesus was promising. It’s full of problems, frustrating situations, difficult people, money issues, time crunches and fatigue — full to the brim with problems.
Romans 8:31-32 says
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
If God was so loving and gracious to send His Son to die for us, and is willing to forgive our sins through His blood… then He’s already proven that there is no limit to what He will do for us out of His love.
So how come our life doesn’t look like that? Why does our existence, at times, seem so meagre?
The Apostle Paul had to deal with this paradox all the time. How did he reconcile his knowledge of the love of God and the painful life he was living? A few verses later, in Romans 8:35-36, he says,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.””
First he tells us of his unshakeable faith in the love and protection of God, and then proceeds to tell us about his life… trouble, famine, nakedness, danger, swords, and death all day long. Was he crazy? How can “if God is for us, who can be against us” be in the same breath as “we face death all day long”? Do those things really go together in this “abundant”, “fruitful” Christian life we’re supposed to have?
His answer to this conundrum comes in verse 37,
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
“Conquerers”? That doesn’t sound like the life of a conqueror! But there’s a very important word stuck in the middle there. A naughty little word that we don’t want to hear, but is in there anyway. The word “in”. “In all these things…”. Check out what John Piper says about this section:
“What I think “more than conquerors” means for your happiness is that a conqueror has his enemies lying subdued at his feet. You’ve got distress, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, persecution, and there they are, conquered at my feet. ‘More than conquerors’ means they’re not just at my feet. They are serving me. They’re not just in chained in prison. They are serving me. My persecution, my famine, my nakedness, my loss—as painful and as tearful as they are—are my servants. God works them all together for my good.
Now, that good that he works in and through them is the foundation of my happiness. It isn’t the circumstance. There’s plenty of tears. Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Paul says, “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”… So yes, God wants you happy. But he doesn’t do it with circumstance. He does it with himself. He does it with the gospel. And he does it in and through circumstances.”
That’s how to untie this knot. That’s the balance. Therein lies our hope and our perseverance.
Tomorrow I want to show you a picture of how I believe this works. It took me about 3 months to develop this picture, and I’m not saying it’s perfect (it’s more likely that I’m just slow), but it really helps me to remember how life works, and how to keep my priorities straight. I call it “Minding my buckets” and it has everything to do with being happy with God… not with circumstance, but being happy and filled with God himself. Seeking first His kingdom, and his righteousness, and having everything else come after. Connecting to the Vine who is Jesus, trusting the Gardener who is God, and living a life that abides in the source of our life.
Check it out tomorrow.