Serve the LORD with gladness! ~ Psalm 100:2
My visit to Myanmar (Burma) last month started off on the wrong foot. From a human perspective, we were focused and productive, but I lost sight of the heart of what we do.
Thankfully, on my visit to a children’s home Harvest Bridge supports, God used the laughter and singing of children to reawaken me to the beauty and joy of serving Him, and I recalled that the kingdom of God is not just about miles traveled or the number of people reached, but “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
With my eyes refocused on the heart of missions, I was ready to learn from the amazing people I met.
When he became a Christian, Yaza* left the army, where he was a highly decorated officer, and became a missionary who faced much persecution. Yaza confided, “In the army, I received many medals, but none made me happy. Serving God makes me happy, even if I receive nothing.”
We enter into the joy of Christ by serving Him (Mat. 25:21, 23).
Youth are liberated from drugs and find freedom in Christ at Pastor Nanda’s* church. Nanda told me that lively Christian music and hope are keys to their recovery. Perhaps this is why Paul encouraged people prone to alcohol abuse – and the rest of us – to “make music in [their] hearts to the Lord… with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:18-20).”
Joyful songs of praise help us break free from sin!
Nyein* was despondent and self-critical, but his face lit up with joy as he recounted how God has watched over him. Once, when he was lost in the jungle, a lion actually guided him to the village, blocking the wrong paths and leading him in the right direction!
Meeting Nyein reminded me that the antidote to self-doubt is to look away from our weaknesses and gaze upon the surpassing greatness and goodness of God (Phil. 4:13).
The joy of the Lord is crucial not only for our own sakes, but because joy strengthens us for service (Neh. 8:10) and allows us to better reflect the heart of God to others.
If you haven’t thought about this in a while, I encourage you to reread what the apostles taught on the subject. They faced incredible challenges and hardships, but never lost sight of the amazing privilege of serving God.
Even after speaking about trials, Peter writes, “you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Paul yearns for us to know “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).
In their epistles, the apostles repeatedly urge us to cultivate peace and joy in our own lives, and they tell us how:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” ~ Philippians 4:4-9
As Easter approaches, now is a good time for us to remember that Jesus not only died for our sins, but rose again so that we could have new lives (Rom. 6:4), animated by the Spirit and growing in love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22).
Surely this doesn’t exempt us from troubles, but we do not lose heart, for inwardly we are renewed (2 Cor. 4:16).
Have a joyous Easter!
Tim M., President
*Names changed for security.