Faith Means Misery Now for Joy Later, Right?
Luke 17:21 Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.
I doubt that I was ever taught this, but as a child, I understood that the Christian life meant choosing misery here on Earth so that I would be happy in the afterlife. My cross to bear, was surrendering happiness and joy now so that, after death, my turn would come. Frankly, Christianity seemed like a carrot that was dangled in front of me to keep me in line.
The Pharisees, in today’s passage, were of a similar mindset. They asked Jesus when the kingdom of heaven would arrive. Jesus responded in a way they were not expecting. The kingdom is here. You’re looking at it. You just can’t see it because you do not understand it.
Like me, the Pharisees misunderstood what it meant to truly know God. Looking forward to a version of the Kingdom that they desired, they missed God in the now. Jesus stood right in front of them and they had the audacity to ask for something better. We were hoping for something a little more grand…
Though we may certainly look forward to paradise after death, Jesus taught that we do not have to wait until death to inherit eternal life. This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3). He taught that though we live in this flesh, we can have the new spirit life of God in us here and now (John 3).
We do not wait until someday to know God and life. We are to know him in the present. Happiness and joy are for here and now. What then is it that keeps me from knowing God and joy the way I should? Why do I struggle in discontent and destruction?
It is the pursuit of me and all the stuff I want that obstructs me from seeing God. It is not that God is withholding himself until eternity. He longs to live in an intimate, authentic relationship with me now. My own pursuits handicap me from knowing God in this life. As Paul said, when I sow the seeds of my flesh, I reap destruction and when I sow the seeds of the spirit, I reap life (Galatians 6:7,8). The choice is mine, to know God or to know self. God allows me to choose. The results are predictable.
This, I think is where the addict has an odd advantage over the one who has not struggled as obviously. The addict knows the destruction of pursuing self and becomes desperate for something else. The one who is not as sick of self, may never see his or her desperate need for God. I am not thankful for the destruction I have caused, but I know that I would never have come to know God as I have without my need.
Being a follower of Christ does not mean giving up on happiness. It means that I can know true joy and life here on Earth. I do not need to wait for someday to be happy. Jesus taught that I can know God and life, here and now.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.