Sunday, May 29, 2016

Grace That Leads to Joy - Part 1

Monday, May 30, 2016
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Philippians 4:23(NLT)
This week we are going to investigate the joy Paul described to the Philippian church, the kind of joy that only the grace of God can bring.  All throughout this letter to the Philippian church Paul's theme has been joy
Indeed, rejoicing was his life. 
But sometimes tragedy will test even the strongest faith.
A number of years ago I stood with Ricky’s family, a 22 year-old boy, who had been killed in a freak accident, when another vehicle locked bumpers trying to pass him.  It flipped Ricky’s car off the road and he died instantly. 
Looking into the casket; it was hard to imagine joy. 
His mother and Dad shared with me their son's great plans for the future:  Master's degree, advancement, family, and his love for the Lord; it was an incredible tragedy how his life had been snuffed out. 
His parents told me how Ricky worked hard every day, never late; how he went to school nights, and how hard he studied.  It was hard to conjure-up joy amidst all the stock phrases people nervously utter at such times; words won't do! 
There was lots of hugging and remembering at the funeral home.  But I knew that would pass.  In the morning there would be a funeral service, and soon we would be at the cemetery, ready to lower a young man into a grave, when he hadn't even begun to live. 
Joy was AWOL
And so I asked the Lord to speak to my heart, so I could speak to this broken-hearted family.  Often I'm a poor listener, so the Lord waited until I walked out on the platform for the service.  It was the faces of the young people; most of whom I'd never seen before.  The faces were streaming with tears, disbelief and stunned silence.  The faces were grieving as those with no hope. 
The Lord then spoke to my heart and the one-sided conversation went thus:
            Russell, among those young people are those who have left me out.
A few have never even heard the gospel. 
Tell them I love them.
What a privilege!  I not only rediscovered joy – I was downright happy!  This gave meaning to Ricky's death.  His friends were sitting there, wishing for some kind of meaning – any kind of sense in the madness and chaos of losing their friend.  They were facing the reality that if it could happen to Ricky, so young, strong, bright and alive – well it could happen to anyone! 
And their attention was focused toward the pulpit, God's sacred desk.  It was the grace of God that spoke to my heart telling me to tell them; it was the grace of God that covered that building with joy that day in the face of tragedy.
Awesome responsibility...Incredible joy!

For You Today

Have you ever felt joy in the midst of a terrible loss?  In this same letter to the church, Paul called it the peace that passes understanding; you can’t possibly explain it, but you sure know it’s there!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!


[1] Title Image: By Meghana Kulkarni from Pune, India (Happiness), via Wikimedia Commons

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