I’ve often marveled at the joy Paul expresses through one of the most difficult times of his life. He’s in prison, chained up, and waiting to be executed, yet still he writes, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! . . . . Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!”
How is it that Paul can write such powerfully uplifting words in those circumstances? What was driving him to live life this way?
Lately I’ve been feeling God calling me toward ministry. A number of times over the past several months I’d begun pursuing that call in different forms: taking steps toward a full-time ministry position at my home church, putting together my application to seminary, applying at various full-time ministry positions around the country.
But every time I find an open door, it closes before I reach it.
And I find myself asking God, “Is it even worth it?”
No, it’s not. Not if my pursuit is after the things of God rather than God himself.
I’ll admit it’s not easy when he puts a desire in your heart but tells you to wait before you can obtain that dream. It’s even more difficult when you know your dream is something that he would be proud of.
But the reality is no matter how noble or God-pleasing my dream may be, attaining it will never bring me joy.
And while my disappointments and difficulties pale in comparison to Paul’s sufferings, I get discouraged, I complain, and I grow frustrated with my circumstances.
And I have to ask myself, “Why can’t I celebrate like Paul did if my life is circumstantially much better than his?”
Paul discovered why it’s all worth it. He discovered how to rejoice in every circumstance. He discovered where true joy can transcend his situations. Because his celebration was based on something other than his circumstances.
The answer sounds cliché (especially if you grew up in Sunday School hearing this kind of cheese being sung), but it truly makes all the difference.
Because he is the sustenance for the entire universe. Because his life is the center of all of history. Because his death is love defined. Because his resurrection is the beginning of new life for humanity.
Because this kind of love is what we were designed for.
There is no reason to live. There is nothing to live for.
Because it’s not worth it to live for anything.
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.