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Perfect Joy

July 1, 2007

“In chapter 8 or The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, Francis gives his friend Leo a teaching about what “perfect joy” is.  They are trudging through the snow from Perugia to the home of their group at St. Mary of the Angeles.  For their brotherhood to give a great example of holiness and edification in all lands would not be perfect joy, Francis says.  Nor would a great ministry of healing and raising the dead.  Nor would possession of all languages and all science, nor all understanding of prophecy and Scripture, and insight into the secrets of every soul.  Nor would even the conversion of all unbelievers to faith in Christ!

 By this point Leo is amazed, and he begs Francis to teach him ‘wherein is perfect joy.’  The reply is that if, when they come to their quarters – dirty, wet, and exhausted from hunger – they are rejected, repeatedly rebuffed, and finally driven away by force, then ‘if we accept such injustice, such cruelty, and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring,’ and ‘if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for Him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.”

(Taken from Renovations of the Heart by Dallas Willard)

 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1: 2-4)

“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” (Philippians 1:29-30)

I was reading this passage from Renovations last night and it astounded me!  How often to we count suffering for the sake of Christ as something that gives us joy?!  I know that I find myself constantly rejecting the idea of suffering.  If someone “harms” me, I usually get offended or hurt and sulk or get bitter.  When circumstances don’t go my way I feel as if God has abandoned me.  Yet James said it is through various trials that our faith would be perfected! I know this hard to accept, but I think maybe a right attitude toward hardship would begin to lead us to true joy, for it is here that we get a glimpse (really hardly that) of what Jesus went through “for the joy that was set before him.”  I hope to be more faithful when trial and tribulations come my way.

 Let me end with one thing I’m not saying.  I’m not saying that God inflicts us with sickness or poverty to teach us some divine lesson.  I feel that the New Testament makes it clear that Satan is the roaring lion who attempts to destroy us.  Jesus constantly battles Satan and demonic forces when He (Jesus) administers healing and deliverance thus ushering in the kingdom of God.  But, if we have a right attitude toward suffering (not a reluctant acceptance but instead embraching a fighter’s attitude while also delighting in the thought that we are participating in the suffering of Christ), then no trial will steal our joy.  Instead our joy will be made complete.  I don’t know…just some thoughts.

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.” (Romans 12: 10-12)

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 2, 2007 2:55

    Hey..Jonathan, you might not be super delightful to see that this comment isn’t from anyone back home. lol But well,..who can help? I enjoy reading…Reading makes me learn about people, see their thoughts and feel their hearts. And you have such a beautiful spirit, friend. Thanks for sharing this…and for “asking” me to read these posts. Last year i was reading a book from the “Left Behind” series…and there was one part that talks about joy. I wrote down that part…and it was like…that guy might not know what happiness is again ever in his life…but to accept what the Lord has brought to him (trials, hardship, rejection, threatens and death) with joy keeps him alive. I’m sure i kinda added something to that “acceptance with joy” is truly the key. Somehow…it is so hard to follow what we know eh?

    It seems you are very busy these days…which is good…but stressing yourself out is unhealthy. Just so you know. 🙂 Take care.

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