January 5, 2017

What is better than fun?

When serving as a camp counselor for teenage girls, one of them asked me about becoming a Christian. Her concern was, “I will not have any fun.”

Those of us who are Christians know that there is both truth and falsehood in this concern. Being a Christian is not about fun as defined by those who party, drink too much, or lord it over others. For them, there is no fun in following Christ.

On another level, fun may include skiing, playing board games, and engaging in hobbies. Christians can enjoy many activities that are not sinful but fin.
However, there is a level of satisfaction that rises above both those definitions of fun. It is found in these to-do lists . . .

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–22, italics mine)
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice . . . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:4 & 6)

Only those who have Christ in their lives know what it means to “rejoice always,” to communicate with God all the time, and to be thankful in all circumstances. These three are not “fun” like the thrill of riding a roller coaster or driving a fast car, but all three are part of the sustaining undercurrent of life in Christ, an undercurrent that is so nourishing and satisfying that other kinds of ‘fun’ lose much of their appeal.

What can replace joy? There is nothing like the deep sense of knowing God is God and that He loves and accepts me in Christ, that He has given me all I need in Jesus, and because of Him everything that happens in life works together for my good (Romans 8:28-29). One day I will be like Jesus. Today, I can trust Him for every problem and need, every concern and burden. This gives me a joy that fun cannot replace.

Being able to pray without ceasing is not about audible prayer all the time. It is about the attitude of knowing He is with me and wants me to depend on Him for everything. This remarkable privilege goes hand in hand with joy as “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and in His presence is joy forever more (Psalm 16:11).

Think of it; the One who created trillions of stars, everything that lives and moves, and provides all things needed in His creation walks beside me and communicates with me about every detail of my life. In His presence and talking with Him produces a deep confidence that fun cannot match.

Tracking right along with joy and prayer is thanksgiving. The good and wise God of all things cares about me. He gives me all that I need. He even says that I don’t need to worry. These three: joy, telling Him about it, and being thankful add up to an amazing experience: God listens and replaces all my concerns with a peace that cannot be explained. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) As much fun as ‘fun’ might be, it can never do that.

Every day I consult my to-do list and tackle it with the hope of checking off each item before bedtime. That often makes me feel satisfied, but as I read the to-do list of God, it is easy to see that these three items offer a deeper satisfaction, one that is mine even before starting any of my chores!

Jesus, Your presence with me fills me with delight. Being able to ask You about perplexities and decisions is a total wonder. Thanksgiving wipes away my tendency to want more, to complain (shame on me) yet knowing that all those shortcomings are already forgiven is the most amazing delight and wonder of all. I thank You, thank You, thank You.

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