In the introduction to his book, The Irresistible Revolution, author and activist Shane Claiborne says:
“Christianity often has offered little to the world, other than the hope that things will be better in heaven.”
As difficult as it is to swallow, I believe there is much truth in these words.
Often Christians are the most unhappy, joy-less, miserable people. Then we tell others that we have good news…and that they should believe and join up so they can live with Jesus [and us too, by default] in heaven forever. But if we are so miserable with Jesus, why should they want that?
The truth is, that through Jesus, God wants to radically change our lives now. He wants to make us more joyful, more alive now. Why wait until we die to experience the fullness and joy that comes from Christ? It is available to us today.
Paul wrote Philippians from prison, and yet the overarching them of the letter is joy. Listen to his words to the struggling, persecuted, poverty stricken church at Philippi:
“12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…” [Philippians 1.12-18 TNIV]
Paul did not rejoice because of his circumstances…he was not a fruitcake. Prison could not have been a great experiece. Paul, however, rejoiced because through his life and even his suffering, the message of Christ made a bigger impact, changed more lives.
There is more to being a Christians than waiting around for heaven. We are charged with making here and now an appetizer for what will happen someday.
So, how is God using your story to impact someone else???
For more on joy, see this post on Pete Wilson’s blog.