Gladness comes when we take pleasure in something. I like to find the perfect photo - the bee on the flower, leaf caught in the sun-blazoned cobweb, or maybe even the look of discovery on the face of a young child. It brings me pleasure to catch "just the right" moment. Gladness is a sense of heart where one experiences joy or pleasure - a sense of heart which evades a good many these days. Gladness and happiness are very similar emotions - both based on finding pleasure in something or someone. Pleasure is really the capacity to enjoy what it is you have found. I read of children in Paraguay, in the city of Cateura, who take great pleasure in playing music out of instruments "recycled" from cans, drain pipes, and what others in society would call their "trash". The craftsmen of the town fashion these "cast off items" into violins, cellos, guitars, and other stringed instruments. They are far from "Stradivarius" worthy instruments, but the beautiful music they produce is a joy to behold. What some might consider to be "cast off" others consider to be a "find" worthy of being remade and re-purposed - kind of like what Jesus does in our lives when he picks us up in our wasteland of sin!
Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad. Always be gentle with others. The Lord will soon be here. Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. (Philippians 4:5-7 CEV)
Our passage suggests a reason for gladness - because of the Lord! Simply put - we are possessed by him and he is re-purposing our lives. This should bring us great pleasure, for it brings him ultimate pleasure. His whole life has been dedicated to the purpose of finding lost lives, those cast off into the landfill of sin, and plucking that life from the place of rubble and rubbish. In taking up that life, he begins the work of re-crafting it from one image to another. Just as the Paraguayan craftsmen re-craft the tin cans into beautiful instruments, Jesus takes our lives and refashions them to resemble something other than what they once were. In so doing, music is produced - music which fills his ears and heart with praise!
In this re-purposing of our lives, Jesus reminds us of a couple of things to help us realize our new purpose:
- We are designed to be gentle giants. In essence, we know greatness (the giant idea) simply because greatness dwells within us in the presence of Jesus. Although his presence brings access to great "power" within, he reminds us to be gentle with each other. Why? Love is his mode of operation - not the sword! This was the message we heard this past week at our church - disciples are known by their love, not by the sword they carry!
- We are to become stewards of prayer. A steward manages another person's property, acting as the "agent" of the other person. In reality, we are stewards of all Jesus gives us in his re-purposing of our lives. In turn, he calls us to lift both our own needs, and those of others in prayer - in reverent trust of the one who has re-created us for his purposes. We "steward" a life given back to us at the point of salvation - no longer demanding control, but realizing the one who owns our lives now has the right to ask us to live it for his glory and honor. In turn, he reminds us to stop worrying about things and people - instead, we are to bring them before him in prayer - as stewards of his grace, love, and mercy.
- We are called to give thanks. When rubbish is refashioned into something of usefulness, what is produced is a thing of purpose and beauty. We may not realize the original any longer because the "re-purposed" has more beauty than the original! Those cans and drain pipes salvaged from the dumping grounds in Paraguay no longer resemble their former state. The "beauty" they produce is much different than their former purpose. At one time they held something within their confines - now music emanates from them. Jesus does that for us - makes it so our life which was once so confined can produce something of beautiful melody for him in the form of thanksgiving, praise, and worship.
- We are called to think and feel differently. "Re-purposed" lives don't think the same way they once did. In fact, there is an exchange of thinking which occurs when we give our lives over to Jesus. Our thoughts begin to center on him, and in so doing, our emotions begin to be ordered into a new way of responding. Inner peace is a result of the melody of his grace and love played sweetly from the inner core of our being.
We may not see much we are glad for today simply because all we can see is the rubbish pile. Herein is the beginning of our life's story - the damaged becomes new again - not in its former state, but in a new and glorious re-created, re-purposed life. A life fashioned by the hands of Jesus - to be used for his glory and honor. Nothing quite brings gladness in the same degree. Just sayin!