Sin is the only legitimate cause for sorrow in the world.

The kingdom of men is the antithesis of the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of men, the successful man is that man who has achieved something for himself.  In the kingdom of God, the successful man is that man for whom Christ has achieved everything.

Success in the world is measured by wealth, prestige and status. Success in the kingdom of God is determined by “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13).  Worldly success is temporal and ephemeral. Godly success is eternal and real.

Those who recognise the godly despise the worldly. They realise that the worldly is counterfeit and quickly reject it. Thus, Paul says: “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8).

Jesus presents this in an even more challenging manner. He says: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46).

The million-dollar question is whether Christians have found this treasure of inestimable value hidden in the field. If so, what have we sold, or what are we prepared to sell, in order to acquire it?

Counterfeit Joy

The 70 disciples of Jesus returned from their evangelical mission full of excitement. They eagerly reported back to Jesus that even the demons were subject to them in his name. However, Jesus quickly poured cold water on their excitement. He said to them: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).

This statement is loaded. Jesus says, in effect, that the only thing that is worth rejoicing about in this world is salvation. That means we have got it all wrong, even in Christendom. Like the Chaldeans: “who rejoice in their ships” (Isaiah 43:14), we have been guilty of rejoicing in our cars, and in our houses and children.

We rejoice when we are promoted at work. We rejoice when we excel at some human endeavor or the other. We rejoice when we win the lottery. We rejoice; oblivious to the reality that there is nothing worth rejoicing about in this world. We rejoice, ignorant of the fact that the only true joy is the joy of the Lord.

Exceeding Joy

When barren Hannah finally had a child, she did not rejoice in baby Samuel; she rejoiced in the Lord. (1 Samuel 2:1-10). The psalmist says God himself is our “exceeding joy.” (Psalm 43:4). The joy of the Lord is not limited or temporal.  It is “the joy of the whole earth;” (Psalm 48”2); “a joy of many generations.” (Isaiah 60:15).

Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Significantly, Paul wrote this to the Philippians while he was in prison. He was incarcerated and yet he says we should rejoice in the Lord always. Then he repeats it again for added emphasis. 

This is because the man who rejoices only in Christ can do so always. The Lord does not change. He is not good today and bad tomorrow. He is not kind today and mean tomorrow. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. 

But if you rejoice in anything or in anyone outside of the Lord, you cannot do so always. The joy of the world is transient; it does not last. The same thing that brought you this counterfeit joy can bring you grief because it can be lost, stolen or destroyed. But the joy of the Lord is the blessing of the Lord. He makes one rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22).

Practical Christianity

So, what should we do? Thank God for earthly things, but please don’t feed your soul on them. Rejoice only in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Enjoy the things of this world but don’t let them get into your heart. Don’t set your heart on them. Reserve your heart for the Lord. 

We cannot be citizens of the kingdom of God and simultaneously continue to thirst for the things of the world: “for we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3).

Nothing else but Christ should matter to the believer. Only Christ is needful. Nothing else is of any significance whatsoever, save Christ and him crucified. That is why God, in his favour of life, has made Jesus our life; so that we may have a life that cannot be lost. Therefore, rejoice in the Lord always, confident that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:39).

But if Christ is not everything to you, you can be sure what you consider to be something will be taken away from you at some time or the other. Martha, Martha, you are careful about too many things. Be warned, all the things you are careful about will be taken away from you. But no one can take Christ away from you. (Luke 10:41).

Fullness of Joy

The gospel should give the believer a totally new perspective on life. While it might not change our outward condition, it should have a salutary effect on our state of mind. It is not so much about saving a man’s life as it is about saving his soul.  Therefore, it refreshes the soul, even if it might not refresh the body. Received in prison, on death row, in affliction or even in bereavement, the gospel provides great comfort.

Thanks to the gospel, sorrow no longer has a foothold in the believer. Since Jesus has borne our grief and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4), we no longer have any grounds to be sorrowful. Sin is the only legitimate cause for sorrow in the world.  Being godless is the only legitimate cause for grief. 

The principal problem of life is not, as many presume, lack of a job, or of money or of means. The principal problem is sin.  Once Jesus dealt conclusively with the problem of sin, he declared that: “it is finished.” Jesus came, not to provide jobs or to put money in people’s pockets, or to find husbands for wives. He came to reconcile man back to God. Beyond that, nothing else is valuable.

There is nothing that God can do for us in this lifetime that can exceed what he has already done in Christ. He cannot give us a superior Holy Spirit. He cannot appoint us to a better inheritance. God gave us the best first by giving us himself and everything that pertains to him. Therefore, our joy must already be full.

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