It was hauling a bunch of preachers to a convention.
Rick was in his best never-met-a-stranger form, and he was trolling up and down the aisle introducing himself.
“Are you a pastor?”
“Where are you from?”
He’d chat for a while and move on. And the more he moved, the more the passengers paid attention.
Finally he reached one row and asked a well-dressed man, “You look like a pastor. Where are you from?”
“I’m not,” the man replied in a louder-than-usual voice. “I’ve just been sick for a few days.”
The whole plane erupted with laughter.
In the previous post I profiled people who live on the conventional wisdom of human nature. They subscribe to the belief that “to love live and see good days, I must recklessly pursue the fulfillment of my own desires.” In the end, all that produces is fractured hearts, distorted minds, and bound-up wills. If you do nothing but pursue your own desires, you are actually waging war against your soul.
But the alternative is not to live the joyless life that characterizes many Christians. Chuck Swindoll wrote,
There seems to be more of everything these days than joy. There’s certainly more Bible study than joy. There is more prayer than joy – much more church attendance, more evangelism, more activity, even more discernment than joy. And those of us who are leaders in religious service are often a major cause.
The Good News
Contrary to what you have heard or imagined, God wants you to enjoy life. And you don’t have to wait until you’re dead to experience it.
I grew up listening to a style of music that celebrated our hope in the Pearly Gates and Eastern Shore, but relegated this life to a miserable veil of tears. And to be honest, that has some scriptural support. Life is hard and often painful.
But it doesn’t have to be joyless.
In fact, the same apostle who warns suffering believers against the dangers of ruthless desire also makes it clear that it is possible to “love life and see good days.” Lo and behold, that’s in the Bible, too!
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:8-11, NIV).
How to Catch a Life-lover Red-handed
Peter shows six characteristics of a person who can enjoy God’s blessing, even when they’re going through difficult times. All of them have one thing in common: they flow out of a spirit of submission and surrender. When they give up their demands for what they want or think they’re entitled to and instead walk in a spirit of deference and submission, incredible things begin to happen. Even in the midst of hellish circumstances.
So here are the six signs of a life-lover:
In music you don’t have to sing the same notes to make the same song – so long as you sing in harmony. So also, enjoying life doesn’t mean agreeing in every detail. But it does involve a general spirit of wanting to get along.
Have you ever known somebody who seems to move from one fight to the next? One offense to the next? How’s that joy working out for them? If that describes you, I have two words for you: Stop fighting. And stop insisting on everybody else lining up with you.
Suppose you’re having a real bummer of a day. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, in she walks. You know – the one who always seems to be like a splinter in your thumb. And on this day she’s all excited because she just got that awesome job she interviewed for.
Can you emerge from your own cave of woe and celebrate with her?
Sympathy isn’t reserved for the hurting. The word literally means “to feel with.” Sympathy involves entering into other people’s emotional worlds. It’s what the Bible refers to as “rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
So what does sympathy have to do with enjoying life? Simple. If I can leave my emotional world and enter into yours, if only for a moment, I am free to borrow your excitement, zest, or happiness, or lend you some of mine. And my life isn’t bound by the circumstances or feelings of the moment.
3. Brotherly Kindness
A famous restaurant chain trumpets, “When you’re here, you’re family.” They seem to understand the hunger we all feel to love and be loved without having to put on airs.
Brotherly kindness means treating others as permanent members of your family. Many years ago I wrote a song that expresses that:
You are my brother – a word I can’t take lightly any more.
You are my sister – we share a love I’d never known before.
Jesus knew that I would never make it on my own,
So He placed me in this Body where He is the cornerstone.
And it’s so lovely to know you’ll take my load when I’m not strong.
And it’s so holy to grow together knowing we belong – to each other…
You’re my brother.
This involves the capacity to feel someone else’s pain. It’s the same word used to describe how Jesus felt when he saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion because they were distressed and dispirited (Matthew 9:36). What He saw ripped his heart out.
How tender is your heart? How “movable” is your compassion? To that degree, Peter says, you position yourself to receive great blessing – and to enjoy life.
I get the irony of that. Feeling someone’s pain makes me more joyful? Why?
For the same reason that those who give ultimately receive the most. And those who are the most thankful ultimately have the most reasons to be thankful. If your heart can be moved when other people are hurting, it can be lifted when your life hurts.
Why is it that unhappy people always seem to think they’re so important? That their needs or wants or hurts or ambitions or offenses carry more weight than whatever trivial matters you’re dealing with?
Meanwhile, in the unofficial joy book of the New Testament, Paul encourages the Philippians to consider others as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3).
Wanna have some fun? I mean gut-busting, rip-roaring, life-affirming joy? Start treating other people as more…
This isn’t an exercise in self-loathing. It’s a simple mental transaction that says regardless of someone else’s clothes, looks, bank account, neediness, nerdiness, quirkiness, or whatever else may make them different, they matter.
Peter speaks of “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead.” Brace yourself – People who enjoy life have enemies. They sometimes suffer because of the insults or evil of other people. And there you have a choice: Will you be a source of evil and insults in return, or will you be a source of blessing?
Oh… and if you’re waiting around for somebody to deserve forgiveness or a blessing from you, then you just plopped your arrogant behind on a throne you don’t own. Don’t be surprised when you discover that retaliation and joy will never – ever – occupy the same heart.
To Sum it All Up…
You can’t always get what you want. You can’t always control the twists and turns of this life. And despite your best efforts, you can’t ever control another human.
You can, however, decide how you posture yourself – with the closed fist of demanding, or the open hand of giving and receiving. One becomes a declaration of war. The other a gateway of blessing.
If Jesus came to give an abundant life, doesn’t it make sense that we honor Him by living abundantly? And that starts with attitude. After all – nobody has hired you to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
That job has already been taken.
(Wanna see some people enjoying LIFE? Check out the video to the right. Click on the page title if you’re reading this on the feed.)