2 Reminders to Finding Joy

When Saul of Tarsus, that’s the apostle Paul’s Jewish name was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, his whole world was set right.  He had been relying on religion, trusting a tradition, and priding himself on his resume.  But all of that disintegrated before the glorious, transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He experienced salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  From that moment on, joy entered into his life-true, abiding, deep seated joy that could keep him singing even during his darkest days and most depressing circumstances.
Could you use a little of that kind of joy?  Now, this didn’t mean that Paul had arrived.  His salvation experience didn’t take him out of this world.  It simply turned him from the wrong path and started him on a new journey.  A new quest for Christlikeness has begun!  The obstacles on the path and the distractions from the world became even more dangerous, requiring him to press on.
In Paul’s amazing description of the life of faith here, we can see some really cool and helpful things

2 reminders to finding joy in chaos

  1. God’s path is forward progress…not perfection. 

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on [a]so that I may lay hold of that [b]for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12
Paul was clear, He had not yet obtained the full outcome of his salvation, and neither have you.  As I read this week, the “it” in 3:12 probably refers to the “experiential process begun in his salvation.”  He looked forward to the resurrection from the dead and secondarily, to the process of conformity to death which would bring it forth.”  Paul was where we all are today.  He had been justified, (declared righteous by God), he was in the process of being sanctified as he looked forward to one day being glorified through resurrection.  
Perfection in this life isn’t possible.  You are frail, fallen, feeble and a broken human.  You will continue in this state until you die.  Not only are you imperfect, but so is everyone around you.  The best, most moral, most Christlike person who has ever lived is still a wicked sinner saved by grace, unable to compare to the perfect standard of holiness we see in Christ.   But…the constant progress toward Christlikeness is possible.  I’ve seen Christians get so frustrated in their lack of stunning progress in their pursuit of Christ.  I’ve seen people give up.  I’ve seen them fail.  They get down on themselves for not measuring up and living up to this impossible standard.  This is precisely, when they need to hear that the plan is progress, not perfection.   Did you hear me?  Give yourself grace.  And press on in spite of knowing that in this life you will never fully arrive.

  1. Forget about the past…don’t dwell on it.  
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
Philippians 3:13
You can press on through the marathon of life when you keep your eyes on what’s ahead instead of being obsessed about what’s behind.  To emphasize the point Paul uses this cool phrase…

Defining Terms
“What’s Behind:”  disregard, or put out of mind.
Paul isn’t talking about forgetting people in our pasts, or crucial life lessons or great experiences or cool things Christ has done.  In this context, Paul’s talking about the rubbish that was tossed all over when his old life before Christ exploded-all his self-righteous striving, and the harm he had done in his pride, arrogance, blasphemy and heresy.  
Listen to me…living in the past-whether basking in old glories, our crying over old defeats-keeps you from advancing boldly into the future.
Think about it.  Several years ago, I was pulling around the building and as I did, I caught a glimpse of a friend riding a Uni-cycle in the rearview mirror.  That’s not sight you see often, so I kept staring at this unique and sort of comical sight.  My focus was so intent on what was behind me, I didn’t even notice I was coming to a slow crawl and I was heading for the ditch. You can’t dwell on the past if your goal is to move forward.  In relation to basking in the past, I find that people who live in the glory of yesteryear go into neutral about what they could be doing today.  They keep calling to mind the way things were, perhaps something God did.  
We don’t’ want to dishonor the past, but we need to be present in the here and now.  Are you pouting over something in your past?  I’m sure we have all had times when we couldn’t get our minds to stop rerunning scenes of defeat or disappointment.  We have all had them, every one of us.  These experiences can be great teachers of God’s faithfulness in spite of our failures.  But to keep projecting that same old reel over and over and over again in your mind will hinder you from engaging in new experiences, making new memories, and learning new lessons.  Living in the past in many ways freezes you there.  But forward progress is Christ’s way.
Receive the grace of Christ and relax.  When you understand that forward progress is the goal, not perfection, you can find joy.  When you give yourself permission to quit replaying life’s old hurts, hang ups and habits, you can find joy.

Friend, you can find true, lasting joy in Jesus Christ.
Pastor Chris Williams
To learn more about Pastor Chris and his teaching, visit us on the web at fcfamily.org  and make sure you subscribe to receive these biweekly encouragements in your inbox.

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