Joy is the By-product

I have been reading A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D.A. Carson, which is a wonderful analysis and critique into the manner in which we pray and what we most often pray for. I hope to post more things from Carson’s insights about our prayer life, but I came across something that I feel is rather pertinent to every Christian, especially those who have been saturated with the falsity of the ‘American Dream’ mentality.

It is often said that when pursuing a life vocation you should choose to do something you enjoy, something that satisfies you, something that brings a sense of fulfillment. All throughout my public education this is what was thumped into my brain over and over again. Do what you love, do what you love, do what you love. Well, I like many things. I like to play disc golf, but realistically I could not be a professional at it, nor make enough money to support my family. I like to write, I even earned a degree in creative writing, but again that would be a very difficult pursuit as a full-time engagement. I like racquetball, and riding my mountain bike. I like reading and eating food. I like to swim and take naps. But none of these things seem, to me, to be a lifetime commitment of self-fulfillment and joy and reaching for the stars as I shoot at the moon…or something like that.

D.A. Carson has something to say to the culture in which we live. He has something rather pointed to say to those who encourage the self-centered calling of our culture. If you are Christian and you are searching for the answer to the “what to do with my life?” question, look beyond personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Carson writes,

How pathetic. I know pagans who find satisfaction and fulfillment by teaching nuclear physics. In any Christian view of life, self-fulfillment must never be permitted to become the controlling issue. The issue is service, the service of real people. The question is, How can I be most useful? not, How can I feel most useful? The goal is, How can I best glorify God by serving his people?, not, How can I feel most comfortable and appreciated while engaging in some acceptable form of Christian ministry? The assumption is, How shall the Christian service to which God calls me be enhanced by my daily death, by my principled commitment to take up my cross daily and die?, not, How shall the form of service I am considering enhance my career? This is not to deny that Christians may derive joy from work honestly offered to God, whether that work is vocational ministry or research into the properties of quarks. But it is one thing to find joy in the work to which we have been called, and another to make joy the goal of life, the fundamental criterion that controls our choices. It is one thing to weigh a Christian leader’s evaluation of our gifts, and another so to focus on our perception of our gifts that self-worship has crept in through the back door. It is one thing to think of people as a live audience that will appreciate our displays of [vocational ] prowess, and another that passionately shapes each [opportunity] to convey the truth to God’s people for their good. Page 83.

This paragraph is worth a second reading. The point is, God is our supreme joy and all our labor he has appointed for us, accounting, dental lab technician, mail carrier, intern, babysitter, astronaut, soldier, post-hole digger, is for his glory. If our joy is God, then the work of our hands ought to be for his purposes, not ours. It does not matter what you are called to, it matters what you do when you are there. Do you die daily so that those around you can see Christ more clearly? Do you pick up your cross, that with which you are burdened for the sake of Christ, and shoulder it every day for the glory of God? The purpose is not self-fulfillment, nor a bigger bank account, nor prestige, but service.

I am partly tempted to say, to myself included, Suck it up. Get over it. However, a more appropriate tone would be more along these lines, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4.

Be ever mindful of your hope in the glory of the Gospel. You, Christian, are not your own, but you have been purchased by the blood Christ to be his forevermore.

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3 comments

  1. Hallelujah son!

  2. […] last blog post touched on the issue of living your life in service to God and others as our primary impetus for […]

  3. While this plan is in the process of development, much joy is provided for those who are cooperating with the Lord. It is a great joy to be a child of the Lord and to realize the daily fulfillment of all his good promises of grace to help in every time of need. Besides this, as it was in the case of Jesus, there is a joy set before us. This joy enabled Jesus to endure the cross and despise the shame. For us, also, it gives strength and courage to continue seeking the things above, a seeking which involves sacrifice and death.

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