One of the joys of pastoring our church is the partnering in ministry that happens with our deacons. Our deacons function well. They deeply care about our church, seek to minister to our church, and are truly servants of FBC Shawnee. The conversation in deacons' meeting often revolves around ministry related issues (which has not always been the case in every church I've served in). This past week, as I gave my report, one of our deacons asked me a penetrating question. Actually, I had asked it of you in the sermon the week before - "Is your life defined by Jesus?" Our deacon asked me, "Ray, what does Jesus defining your life look like in your life?"
I gave an answer, but as I thought about it more and more, I thought I would give a more articulate answer centering on FAITH, HOPE, LOVE, JOY and PEACE.
1. Faith - Faith is confidence grounded in reality. The reality is Jesus. There is a trust in who Jesus says He is, Jesus did what the scriptures reported Him to do, that Jesus was serious in His invitation to follow Him, and that Jesus is alive and coming again to renew the world. Faith is the beginning of life with God.
2. HOPE - Hope is the joyous anticipation of the good. When one trusts Jesus, there is a hope that no matter happens in this world still caught in the web of sin, Jesus will prevail. This is what Paul is getting at when he writes, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him . . ." Romans 8:28.
3. LOVE - Love of course is the foundation for the spiritual life in Christ. Jesus Himself says "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." Loving someone means to will the good for them. This is what Jesus did for us in giving His life on behalf of our sins. When Jesus defines my life, I am loving the Lord by walking in His truth, and loving others, no matter what they of me.
4. JOY - Joy is rooted in the goodness of God, and as a result is not based on circumstances. It is not mere pleasure, but a pervasive and constant sense of well-being. The classic example of joy is the apostle Paul. He was ship-wrecked, gossiped about, seen as a threat to Roman peace, and jailed. It is from a jail cell in Rome and chained to a Roman soldier that Paul writes, "Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say it, Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. When I abide in Christ, there is a sense of joy that happens no matter the circumstance.
5. PEACE - Peace is a sense of assurance about how life will turn out. In same jail cell Paul writes "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts in Christ Jesus.
These traits do not come automatically. They are formed and nutured by a consistent, joyful relationship with God. God is with us, and God is moving us towards a future in the New Heavens and New Earth. In the mean time, we are being transformed by God. In doing so, Jesus comes to define our lives more and more each day.