Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-5
This past Sunday I had a blessed and inspiring experience. I am in a very sad place, and God is allowing me time to be honest with how sad, hurt, and frustrated I am. But as I sat in church on Sunday, a young man came up to me and asked, “Brother Jesse, how are you able to always be joyful?” It was a powerful question for me, specifically for this moment in my life. My response of course was that the joy of the Lord is the strength that carries me through all things, and this is truth.
Why did this question impress me so much? I am going to be very vulnerable, open, and honest here. I am almost 38 years old, single again, have no wife nor children, own no property or home, live in a land that is foreign to me and not my own, am far away from the beach and my home city, am trying to raise up a ministry from the foundation up which takes a long time, don’t really feel like I truly belong, and now is my least favorite time of the year (Oct.- Dec.). I kinda feel like I am a child with a downcast face. I long to be a husband and father, and long to start a family where I am always included, wanted, and belong. Now, please don’t tell me to wait on God’s timing because I AM! But, to be honest, I really need God’s help right now at being content where I am at. But my brother saw joy in me, even in this hard time! Praise God!
All that being said, I am certain that I am exactly where God wants me, and this greatly outweighs my own personal desires. My eyes, heart, and mind are not focused on things of this world nor things that I want (at least for the most part), and I am aware that God’s call on our lives is that we would die to ourselves and live for Him! This requires tremendous sacrifice, sometimes great pain, and living very intentionally.
As Jesus went to the cross, the Word of God records that He endured such abuse, torment, pain, and sacrifice due to a joy that was set before Him! I know that the joy set before Him was to have an eternal love relationship with me, with you, with a multitude of others who have chosen and/or will choose daily to walk with Him. That was the joy set before Him. And He has set a joy before me as well; to see a multitude of children throughout Latin America and around the world experiencing Christ-centered forever families, forever homes, and educational opportunities. As we are called to take up our crosses and die to ourselves, I believe we too must have a joy set before us, and I personally believe that joy must always be tied to our relationship with our loving, sacrificing, and servant-hearted King.
It is a very long and arduous process to raise up an organization; fraught with nay-sayers, gossipers, and people casting false accusations and slander. Many choose not to be involved because we do not yet have a plethora of results, though I am so thankful for the many eternal results we’ve been a part of, as well as immediate results on the ground. Some people have tried to persuade me to give up, to back down, to choose and live for my own selfish desires rather than continue to be centered and surrender to taking up my cross and following Jesus where and how HE calls. But for this joy set before me, this knowing that the world and eternity are being and will be changed for the glory of God as we love on and serve the children of Latin America, I will endure my cross; dying to myself and watching God do miraculously, amazingly, exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all that I can ask or imagine.
May it be this joy, the joy the Lord has given me and set before me, that others see as they look at me… whether in sad and challenging times, or in victorious and triumphant times. May I be always joyful! Rejoicing always! God is good, and He is doing a great thing for His glory! May it also be true for the children we reach, that they too can become joyful always, in the easy and smooth times as well as the sad, challenging, and painful times! Thank You for Your joy, Lord! Thank You!