Guest blog post: I was so taken by my pastor’s message on the 4th of July Sunday that I asked him to share his thoughts, especially about joy, on this blog. I am honored that he said yes! I have loved having Pastor Darrel as my pastor for the last five and a half years. He is the real thing. I’m sure you’ll be as inspired by his words as I was. Here is Pastor Darrel Wiseman.
In 1776, 50 men signed a document written by Thomas Jefferson. Here is just one sentence from its text: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That statement is found in what is known as the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776. And freedom has been the battle cry of this country since that day.
But unfortunately today, many in our country have a much different idea than did our founding fathers as to what this freedom is. Many in our society today are clueless as to what real freedom is. Most think that freedom is license to do whatever they want – whenever they want – no matter what anybody else thinks.
Yet the founding of this nation was based on three fundamental pursuits – life, liberty and happiness. Without these three values our country becomes just like any other people bound by an oppressive government which does not take kindly to freedom of expression. Go to any of those countries and ask them what they’re willing to pay for freedom. Most will say, “Everything.” I think we can all agree that freedom is never free.
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:31, 32, 36
Verse 36, “If the Son sets you free, you are truly free,” implies that there is a ‘true’ freedom that can be experienced in real or self-imposed prison cells anywhere in this world. The Bible illustrates this truth several times. Paul and Silas found freedom “IN” their prison experience. Shadrack, Meshak, and Abednigo found freedom “IN” the fire of a furnace. Daniel found freedom “IN” the lion’s den. God didn’t take them out of these physical prisons.
In that light, let’s look at TRUE life, TRUE liberty and TRUE happiness.
Jesus says in John 10:10 that “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Most people would say that real life is found in pleasure, leisure and the niceties of wealth and riches. I see so many pursuing those things. But what do they see us Christ-followers pursuing as they look at our lives? Do our lives look different than theirs? While there is nothing wrong with pleasure, leisure, wealth or riches, our prayer should be that the underlying values they see us pursuing reflect Jesus: THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life. Others should be able to see our pursuit of Jesus being lived out in our life. That’s really how I want to live.
In the last one third of my life, I have learned that those things truly worth pursuing are less about what I want … what my plans are, what makes me the most comfortable, and more about what Jesus’ purposes and plans are for me … which people to help and encourage, how best to spend my time and money and energy.
Webster’s definition is appropriate here: “Having the freedom to choose, especially between ways of acting or living.” We all want to pursue liberty. Liberty is more than a statue that stands in the harbor welcoming those from afar with her burning torch. It is more than being able to climb up the ladder of prosperity. It is more than being able to choose your own spouse. It is more than being able to choose where you eat lunch today; Coke or Pepsi?
True liberty is the root of all hope. The possibility of liberty causes the prisoner to dream of tomorrow. Look at what Jesus says in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” We are surrounded with people who are poor in Spirit and in bondage to their choice of prisons. They can’t even see it. True liberty is found in Jesus. He helps us make the right choices.
Happiness can come and go; it can be so temporary. Joy is the better pursuit. Abbot Coumba Marmion said, “Joy is the echo of God’s life in us.” Yet, as a pastor, I hear all the time, in justification of crazy choices, “I just wanted to be happy!” Most of the time, my only question to them is, “How‘s that workin’ for ya?” Choices that are less than God’s best for us are the ones that so quickly turn from ‘happiness’ to despair and loneliness. When we choose to live far away from God, or pursue happiness for happiness sake, it usually leads to disappointment. Cutting corners with our honesty and integrity seems to be a quick route to happiness – getting what we want, when we want it. But I could tell you story after story that would convince you it’s not worth it.
Jesus gives joy. This joy isn’t based on temporary circumstances but on the reality of God’s life IN us. Real joy comes from being the right person, for the right reasons, in spite of all the other choices.
Isn’t it amazing that the introductory song to Jesus’ arrival on planet Earth was “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME! LET EARTH RECEIVE HER KING!” This was the song he chose to be sung to the earth at His coming! He was saying to us, “I am here! There is reason for joy!”
Only in Jesus, will we find true life, true liberty and true happiness.
You are loved!
Pastor Darrel Wiseman
Boise First Community Church
a Church of the Nazarene