by Art Greco
Lead Pastor: Outreach
In thinking back on last Sunday’s message about some of the stops along the way on the road to joy, I now wish that, instead of offering two points, I’d have limited myself to one … the SECOND one. That, you might recall, was the idea that a busy, overly cluttered life is a roadblock to joy, thus, a more simple, focused life – one that does away with unnecessary complexities (and finds simple ways to manage the necessary ones) is a life more inclined to the joy we are all seeking.
Most of us will grant the link between serving others and joy (my first point last Sunday). So well accepted is this connection that Martin Luther King Jr. once put it this way: “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” And that quote rings true, in part, because most of us already know it to be a fact.
That second point, though …thatone’s a bit more of a tough sell for many of us. Joy being the result of a life with a primary (if not exclusive) focus (in our case, a focus on the agenda of God) – a simpler approach? That’s a concept not nearly so universally approved or easily accepted – especially in America … ESPECIALLY IN THE NORTH BAY!
So, were I to be given a “do-over” on Last Sunday’s message, I’d concentrate on that second point, the idea that one of the stops that will help us to find joy is the discipline of a more simple and focused life. But since none of us has a time machine and there are no “do-overs” offered, I’ll do with this devotion what I only wish I had done with the sermon.
Two teachings of Jesus come to mind when I think of the value of simplicity and focus.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus speaks soothing words that are most certainly an implied pathway to lasting joy: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
But these days, any invitation to rest – true, deep, lastingrest can seem like more of a pipe dream than a legitimate, attainable offer. And to imply that we exchange the familiar, frenetic yokes of popular culture for the less complicated, allegedly more well-fitted yoke of Jesus in order to FIND that rest … well, that can seem almost frustratingly laughable.
BUT WHY? Consider that question as you read this text aloud three times.
A second teaching from Jesus comes to mind as well. At first glance, it’s not specifically about simplicity or focus. But on closer examination, it does contribute to the discussion.
In John 15:1-2, Jesus gives this instruction: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful.
This pruning is presented as the counterintuitive principle of cutting away growth in order to produce more and higher quality growth. It’s the crazy idea that less can create more.
BUT CAN IT REALLY? We can all agree that there’s a connection between the idea of fewer branches on a fruit tree and larger, juicier, better fruit. Might that also be true for there being “fewer branches” in our lives?
CONSIDER THIS QUESTION: Could the cutting away of unnecessary complexities in my daily life really be a key to God grafting in more joy?
BE A BLESSING
Imagine your life with more margins – more time to involve yourself in helpful and redemptive ways in the lives of the people around you.
Now think of the one person you know that you’d mostlove to see experiencing more true joy.
Are there two or three details you could let go for another day that would free up some time to spend with that person - being a blessing and helping him/her to have at least a moment of joy?
Whom might you help to find clarity and joy if you had more time to do it? Why not reorganize so you can actually DO that?
Gathering together is essential. And when we ARE together, it would be good to remember what Scripture says is the REASON we’re together. Not surprisingly, it has to do with another discipline or practice that is linked to joy.
Being pruned is one thing; pruning yourSELF is quite another – kind of like giving stitches to your own wound. That’s an excellent discipline that will certainly contribute to your health, but it’s not something that will be done easily. Choosing THAT road – the road of SELF pruning requires people cheering you on and helping you to make the tough choices. Maybe that’s why the book of Hebrews says what does about gathering.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)