Monday, February 06, 2006

Distressed Joy

Distressed joy seems to be an oxymoron. Distress, anguish, or suffering are not usually associated with joy. Yet in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 that is exactly what Paul does. Here were the Thessalonians, experiencing severe suffering, and they received the message of the gospel with joy. In our lives today, we spend as much time as possible removing any suffering we may get near. The majority of America does not experience severe suffering. I personally have never experienced severe suffering, although I think I came close in boot camp. Despite this lack of suffering, they seems to be a lack of joy also. How can we have so little suffering and so little joy? The Thessalonians were the exact opposite. How were they able to do that?

I think Paul shows two things that allowed them to find joy in spite of their suffering.

They were imitators of Christ. Their purpose in life was not to remove their suffering, nor to find happiness. They were striving to imitate Paul and Christ. When we strive to imitate Christ, it takes our mind off of our temporal circumstances and puts it on a heavenly plane. This is one of the things we will look at this weekend on the retreat. It will be our last lesson Sunday morning. Another thing happens when we strive to imitate Christ, we start to act like Him. Christ's focus here on earth was to fulfill His fathers plan. Is that what we are focusing on? We have been given our marching orders in Matthew 28:16-20. Make disciples.

The second and most important thing for us to recognize, their joy was powered by the Holy Spirit. No matter how hard they tried, the Thessalonians could never have created their own joy. Human manufactured joy is a temporary fleeting thing. It cannot withstand trials and tribulation. Only a supernatural, God powered joy can do that. This is not a giddy worldly joy, but a joy that finds peace in the promises of the Lord.

What a legacy for the Thessalonian church. Not only were they a model to the church in Macedonia and Achaia, but also to Occoquan Bible Church and every other church throughout history. That would be my hope for our youth group and church, that we could be a model worthy of imitation.


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