What we put in the blank matters. It is our nature to put secondary things in the blank and it is the nature of Jesus to let us try. Whenever I hear someone say, “That’s what it’s all about,” I know what they have in the blank at that time. Football. Nascar. Family. Hunting. Winning. Money. Leisure. The problem is, secondary things are temporal things and whatever temporal things work their way into the blank either leave us behind or we leave them behind. When we put Christ Jesus in the blank, we have Him now and more of Him in the future. Joy is the by-product of keeping the Primary Person in the primary place. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth…” Yet, I confess, I fight most days to keep Christ Jesus in the blank. So many other things try to play “king of the hill” in my heart. I have to remember what Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” That is the only way the equation works. It is the nature of the human heart to give in and the nature of Jesus let us try—but He will take His rightful place in the whisper of a prayer, “You are the way, the truth and the life!”
Whichever side of the Covid-response paradigm you are on, you are probably weary of hearing, “Wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance and get the vaccine.” I imagine the people in leadership are getting weary of saying those words too! But the fact remains, we are dealing with an infectious disease. This Covid “thing” is not a joke or a conspiracy. The people who have had it, wouldn’t want it again and many people have died. When we think about infectious things, we generally think about disease, but there are other things that are infectious that are not scary. Happiness for example. I’m always amazed at how the sound of a laughing child brightens my spirit. Happiness can be contagious. In Eugene Petersen’s paraphrase of the Bible called, “The Message,” he wrote this by way of introduction about Philippians. “This is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves…” It’s true. The apostle that wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice,” was practicing what he preached. It’s palpable in his letter to the Philippians. The problem is, when we pursue happiness for itself, we find it elusive. Happiness, joy, contentment and satisfaction are by-products of something else—that something, is the emphasis for this coming Sunday. I hope you catch it.