Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Completed Joy

9 "As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commands and remain in His love.  11 "I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you."  John 15:9-12 (HCSB)

Image by loswl via Flickr

At some point along the way the pursuit of happiness became the pursuit of pleasure.  Now an unfulfilled desire is the cornerstone of suffering in America.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

You may have heard the expression "it was mindless fun."  I am not against having a good time.  Nor do I expect that all fun has to have a purpose beyond having fun.  What I take exception to is the mindless. part.  We escape into our fun factories and fail to live the life that God has called us to.  Yesterday I posted on the trip my family took.  It was "mindful fun" if you will.  I created memories this last weekend that I will carry with me the rest of my life.  That is the problem with mindless fun is that it is lost as quickly as it is experienced. 

The distinction between the mindless fun and mindful fun has to do with the word "Joy."  Happiness comes and goes.  It is like a mist or vapor.  Here and then gone.   We try to hold on to it, but it slips out of our grasp.  Then we put all sorts of energy into getting it back.  As we become more and more desperate we slip into a pursuit of pleasure.  The pursuit of happiness is the concept that if I work hard to make myself better or better my circumstances that I will be happy.  Not many people want to work that hard so they settle for pursuit of pleasure.  Pursuit of pleasure is pure hedonism.  If it feels good do it more.  If it feels bad avoid doing it at all cost.  The pursuit of pleasure is a vicious endeavor.  We seek to increase the good feelings avoid pain and in the process make it worse.  In the pursuit of pleasure we are pierced with many griefs. 

I wonder if the founding fathers had this in mind when they penned these words (they changed it from property to pursuit of happiness).  Most of this pleasure seeking is rooted in the desire for material gain.  It is an unmindful discontent.  Any time that your focus is on something that you are not it is unmindful.  It is a matter of priorities.

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. 1 Tim 6:9-10 (HCSB)

Having an inordinate desire (selfish love, lust) for any material thing (sex, power, money,...) is a sure path for ruin, destruction, and many pains.  No I do not have a problem with fun, but mindless pursuit of pleasure is destructive and robs you of the Joy that God wants you to have. 

So what is the solution...

"...that your joy may be complete."  Well based on the passage at the time our solution is based in love (Here is one of my posts on love).  Secondly it is becoming accepting of whatever God gives you or whatever the trials of life come your way. 

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4 (HCSB)

Note the words "complete (perfect)," "mature," "complete (whole)," and "lacking nothing."  Let those words ring in your soul and resonate in your spirit.  Why?  Those words perfect (old world type), mature, wholeness, and lacking nothing should inspire us to pay attention to the first part.  We need to be mindful of the whole passage and not just desire the outcome.   We have to accept the whole process and not just the blessing. 

"Consider it a great joy..."  No problem here anything that God wants to do I will consider a joy.  With God all things are possibleI can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  When we focus on the feel good passages of the Bible we become unmindful of our faith.  In a very real sense we become "Christian Hedonist" seeking that next spiritual fix (high). 

"Consider it great joy, my brothers when you experience various trials..."  If you think joy and trials ought not be in the same sentence then dear friend you are a Christian Hedonist.  That may sound harsh, but God is clear in this passage.  Please note, I am not suggesting that God desires for us to live lives of misery.  He does not!  However, if our pursuit of pleasure (even a spiritual pursuit) is more important than what God is doing in our lives then we are most certainly Christian Hedonists.  Again as I said before it is about priorities.  When our priorities line up then we will be made perfect, mature, whole, and will lack nothing that which is needed. 

How do we consider it a joy then?

I believe that mindfulness will help in this regard.  Remember that Christian mindfulness is contemplative awareness by God's Holy Spirit.   When you face an painful or unpleasant circumstance we must resist the urge to escape into mindlessness.  We have to be aware.  We have to note the pain, acknowledge the pain, and accept the pain.  Fighting pain at this point will only prolong suffering.  Fighting pain does not make it go away any more than escaping into mindlessness.  Then we must invite the Spirit of God to join us in our pain (Read this). 

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever...the Counselor, the Holy Spirit -the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:16 & 26(HCSB)

I will get more in depth in the Spirit's role in mindfulness in a later post, but let me point out two things.  The Spirit is given as a comfort to be with you through all things.  When we ignore (grieve) the ministry of the Holy Spirit we prolong suffering and discontent.  Invite Him into the moment of pain (and happiness) to be your counselor.   It is the Spirit's ministry to you.  Second the Spirit is a source of knowledge when we forget and when we don't know what to do or say.  We can depend on the Spirit for spiritual wisdom.  Don't ignore this wisdom and thereby quench the Spirit.  Obedience is key as you navigate this difficult time. 

...knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance!

Thank you Lord for sending your Spirit to be our Counselor.  Allow us to receive trials as an opportunity for growing in perfection, maturity, and wholeness.  Help us to increase our awareness of You and Your Holy Spirit in our lives.  Let us contemplate our day and seek Your will in it.  Guide us to love one another that our joy may be complete in You.  Help us to find that place in our walk with you where we are lacking in nothing.  In Jesus Name AMEN