The joy of preaching Christ
Paul had a difficult situation in the city of Rome because the believers there were divided into three camps: those who helped Paul, those who opposed Paul and those who remained uncommitted (Phil. 1:12-18). Paul could have been discouraged over this division, but instead he rejoiced because Christ was being preached (Phil. 1:18). The preachers may have had the wrong motives, but at least they preached the right message. The gospel message is the power of God even if the messenger’s heart isn’t wholly pleasing to God.
We must always remember that the word “gospel” means “good news,” or what the angel called “good news of a great joy” (Luke 2:10). If you and I knew the remedy for cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, we would rejoice at the privilege of sharing it with others, but the gospel is an even greater message. It doesn’t cure temporarily; it gives eternal life!
I once heard the leader of an evangelical denomination preach for forty-five minutes and never once mention Jesus Christ! He said many fine things, but he ignored the best thing of all, the good news of new life in Jesus Christ. No matter what the problem, Jesus is the answer, and “we preach Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Charles Spurgeon said, “The sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but might make the angels of God weep” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpiti, vol. 25, p. 634).
The joy of suffering for Christ
“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).
The Savior we magnify and the message we declare is not welcomed by today’s world, primarily because the good news of salvation involves the bad news of sin and condemnation. Preach Jesus the Friend, Jesus the Comforter, Jesus the Example, and you will not get into trouble; but declare Jesus the Son of God, the only Savior and coming Judge, you have declared war. If we want to experience the “power of his resurrection,” we must also experience “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10).
Jesus returned to heaven with wounds on His body—not “scars,” but wounds. Forever in heaven, we will be reminded of His love for us and His sacrifice for our salvation. We will have perfect glorified bodies in heaven, and God in His grace will transform our suffering into glory. We will praise Him for allowing us to sacrifice and suffer for Jesus’ sake.
A friend of mine, who lived in a wheelchair, was faithfully pastoring a church, and we often chatted over the phone about ministry matters. He was an encourager. One day he phoned to tell me that the board had fired him because he was “handicapped” and couldn’t really serve the church. Actually, he did more pastoral work than men I knew who had two good legs! I said to him, “Well, congratulations! You’ve been promoted. People are treating you the way they treated Jesus, and that’s quite a compliment. Welcome to the fellowship of His sufferings.”
The joy of receiving our reward
The same grace that saved us also will reward us, because God isn’t obligated to give rewards to anybody. After all He has done for us, we ought to do our very best for Him, rewards or no rewards. I seriously doubt that many faithful believers start each day thinking about the rewards they might earn. Rather, they just go to work, live their lives and seek to honor the Lord; and He does the rest.
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt. 25:21, 23). Is having more things to do a reward? It is when it helps you share in the joy of your Master. Some children and teenagers say, “I can hardly wait until I’m old enough to stay up all night.” When that time comes, they will be so tired from working, they will go right to bed! To want nothing to do and all night to do it is a mark of immaturity.
God will reward us if we have trusted Him and not retaliated when people have mistreated us (Luke 6:22-23). We can “take it” from the unsaved, because they’re lost, but it’s difficult to accept it from believers. It takes a diamond to cut a diamond. There are times when Christians can say the meanest things, and all we can do is remain silent, pray and turn it over to the Lord. Nobody else in the church knows about it, but the Lord Jesus knows, and He will take care of it in His time. The prophets, the apostles and even the Lord Jesus Himself had their enemies, but they looked beyond the immediate to the ultimate: “Come and share your master’s happiness.”
We know Jesus as “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isa. 53:3), but He also knew heights of joy. He was anointed by the Father “with the oil of joy” (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9). When the disciples returned from a ministry trip, they rejoiced at their successes; but Jesus told them to rejoice because they were citizens of heaven. Then Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” and praised the Father for that (Luke 10:17-23). I trust that when I have returned home from ministry trips, Jesus was joyful and that what was accomplished through the Spirit glorified Him.
R is for rejoice: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
(Copyright Warren Wiersbe, All Rights Reserved, May not be copied or duplicated without permission of the author.)