Are You Not Entertained?

Maximus had just laid waste to his foes in the gladiator arena. He raises his arms and yells to the crowd “are you not entertained?!” It’s an iconic moment from an iconic movie. It’s a line I quote quite often as a matter of fact (although more so in my college days).

Here is a man who is on display before the crowds, and they seem disappointed in his performance, underwhelmed when they were expecting a show that would keep them on the edge of their seats. Here is a man at war personally while the crowds stand outside the field of battle, cheering or heckling, complaining or affirming.

I’ve been a pastor now for five years, and I can relate to that scene more and more.

I’ve been hesitant to even say that because I genuinely don’t seek a “woe is me” line of thinking or a “poor guy” response.

But I feel it.

And I share that feeling to advocate for those in my life who have been brutalized in the arena of ministry, all while they receive the thumbs down of those seeking to be entertained by the public figure that is the pastor. I share that feeling because men in ministry have been so hurt by the war that they face depression, discouragement, and even suicidal thoughts.

I know a man who has been faithful for decades and yet has people grumbling against him because his personality is not to their liking or some other minutia.

I know a man who was falsely accused (and proven so) of all sorts of moral failures by a group of people in the church who didn’t like him.

I know a man who was critiqued widely and regularly for his style of preaching.

I know a man who is exhausted and he’s only been in ministry a few years.

I know a dozen youth pastors who have faced to differing degrees the perception that they aren’t in the big leagues, they’re not adults, they’re not actually doing anything hard, they’re not real pastors yet, etc., despite being ordained ministers of the gospel. And to that I say, there is no greater mission field in the world than the ages of 15-30.

I know a man who regularly has to quote Colossians 1 and the importance of being continuously strengthened by the power of Christ, in order to continue manning up and seeking to live out his calling (that man is me).

Pastoral ministry is war.

It’s emotionally, physically, relationally, mentally, and spiritually draining.

It is painful.

It is hard.

Now, again, hear me say as clear as day: it’s worth it. The moments when I see young men and women catch the fire of discipleship, when I see students take ownership of their own faith, when I see older believers not get out of the game but continue advocating for the Kingdom to come, I am overwhelmed with joy. The pain and difficulty of ministry fades to the background as the joy of fruitfulness comes to the forefront.

So, yes it’s worth it.

But sometimes, oftentimes, that doesn’t lighten the load.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

When I was young, when God first called me into ministry (at the age of 7) and then later affirmed that call (at the age of 17), I thought pastoral ministry was easy and fun. I mean, I love to talk. I especially love to talk about Jesus. I thought people would love to hear me talk about Jesus. That’s all there was to it.

Then I actually got into ministry. Woah it ain’t that. Paul is challenging here. I think every man seeking to go into ministry should read this passage again and again. What does ministry sometimes look like?

Giving up one’s life for the church.

Sorrowful.

Yet always rejoicing.

Poor.

Yet making many (others) rich.

Having nothing.

But possessing everything (in Christ).

War.

For the Kingdom.

Here’s the beauty. Paul and his fellow ministers didn’t do anything that Christ didn’t do better. And so Christ doesn’t call the modern pastor to do anything that He didn’t do perfectly. Christ was homeless, lonely, poor. He continuously gave up His life for the people around Him and then He did it finally and firmly via the cross.

So, pastor, take heart.

Your affirmation comes not from the raucous crowd watching your public ministry.

Your affirmation comes from Christ who gives you strength.

Pastor, take heart.

Your faithfulness has been given a gigantic thumbs up from the only Emperor that matters, King Jesus.

Pastor, take heart.

He knows. He sees. He cares. He loves. He provides strength.

Church, pray for your pastors. They are imperfect men, broken men, men in need of great grace.

Church, support your pastors. In every decision they make, they are weighing many different opinions and perspectives.

Church, love your pastors.

Church, fight alongside your pastors. Get in the arena with them. Do ministry alongside them.

Church, don’t lose your pastor. Don’t be the reason they step away from ministry.

I long for the day that I don’t hear of pastors taking their own lives. I long for the day when pastors don’t need counseling, don’t get burnt out, don’t battle depression on the regular.

I long for the day when the question isn’t “are you not entertained” but rather “are you with me”?

Let us strive for that day here on earth.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Why Is The World Still Spinning?

Why is the world still spinning?

I get spiritually oppressed and tired of the darkness.

I’m tired of the stories I hear and stories I live out where children are in need, families are broken apart, and tragedies decimate communities. I am tired of seeing and knowing that there are innumerable lonely people in our churches, something antithetical to the New Testament. I am tired of the questions in my life that I can’t seem to answer. I am tired of seeing myself and others more vocal about politics than the Savior. I am tired of seeing my heart full of the American Dream instead of the Great Commission.

I get tired.

But I know I’m not alone in that spiritual exhaustion.

A friend recently told me “I have never felt the brokenness of this world more than today”.

Why is the world still spinning? Why hasn’t Jesus come to make all things new?

This past week I came to an answer to that question that is groan-worthily cheesy, yet Biblically accurate.

The world is still spinning because Jesus is still winning.

Yes. I know.

Grossly cheesy.

Yet it is profoundly Biblical. And it has been a source of daily bread to sustain me.

I’ve been on a Paul David Tripp binge. Reading his books, listening to his sermons, and reading his bi-weekly articles and devotionals. In a recent article, he directed my eyes towards 1 Corinthians 15 as a source of hope.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all of his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. – 1 Corinthians 15:24-26

This is what I need. I have to thrust this passage in front of my eyes every day. It is my daily bread. The end of our world hasn’t come because Jesus is still reigning, still winning, still putting all of his enemies under his feet. He is still at work.

When I’m really getting down, after meditating on the things of this world, I have the mental image of a light coming down a tunnel, impending darkness and suffering that I can’t escape barreling down at me like a train. I’ve journaled about those feelings more often than I’d care to admit. When I meditate on the things of this world, the news, social media, entertainment, etc., the future seems really bleak. Unavoidably bleak.

This passage shifts that mindset though. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train. It’s the destruction of death.

It’s the Kingdom where my deaf brother and my ailing grandfather are made physically whole, the Kingdom where the popular and the outcast are on a level playing field, the Kingdom where the tears of my loved ones are turned to cheers of joy, the Kingdom where those who claim Christ don’t worship idols like politics, the Kingdom where it’s all made new.

If this life is everything, it’s hopeless.

But as followers of Jesus, we can cling to this hope. Jesus is still reigning. Jesus is still winning. Jesus is still subjecting every spiritual ruler and authority to His Lordship.

The world is still spinning because Jesus is still winning.

It’s time we reorient ourselves and get involved in His work.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The God Of All Comfort

I got home from work last Monday, and all I wanted to do was climb into bed and fall asleep. I had the same feeling on Tuesday. The enemy was reminding me of all the darkness in this world, as tragedy after tragedy assaulted the place that I call home. When tragedy strikes, when I’m faced with darkness, I tend to give the enemy a foothold and dwell on the tragedies that have happened in my life. I was in a tough place. I didn’t look forward to the next days and weeks with anticipation. Instead I looked to them with dread. What would happen next? What tragedy would strike? What problem would I be faced with? How would I be able to keep preaching the hope and joy that are found in Christ, despite deep darkness and real pain?

Thankfully, I have an amazing wife.

She gave me space to feel, to hurt, to shed some tears, and to rest.

Yet she made sure that I didn’t create space away from God. She made sure that I didn’t dwell on the enemy, she made sure I stayed active and thankful to God for the gifts He has given me.

She encouraged me to get into God’s Word, even when I didn’t feel like it. She encouraged me to actually commune with God, rather than just check things off a list. Thank God for her.

I have opened up my Bible this past week, reading various books. I have found comfort in a surprising place. Deuteronomy.

There are chapters upon chapters of laws in the book of Deuteronomy. They are absolutely important, but they’re not exactly the place where you might would think to find a solvent for an aching soul.

The prelude to these laws is in fact a place of great comfort to me however.

You see, in the first several chapters of Deuteronomy we hear the words of Moses to the people of God, as he recounts for them all the wondrous things that God has done for them. All the ways that He has intervened on their behalf up until this point of the Bible story. It was in reading these things that God had done for His people that my mind began to be filled with all the ways that God has worked in my life as well.

One particular image leapt off the page at me, and I’ve used it to guide my prayers this past week.

So I said to you: Don’t be terrified or afraid of them (them being great massive giants in the promised land)! The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw him do for you in Egypt. And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. – Deuteronomy 1:29-31

Side note. This passage at the beginning of Deuteronomy is Moses talking to the people of God about the previous generation and how they failed to listen to his words. The previous generation didn’t take these words of Moses to heart, instead rebelling against God, leading to their destruction and wanderings in the wilderness. 

That last phrase is what God used to speak to me in this season.

God carried His people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, like a loving father carries his son.

Years ago, my family got a bit lost on a hike at a state park here in Texas. My younger brother Matthew was really little at the time, and the heat was beginning to take a toll on him. My dad scooped him up and carried him until we made it back to the parking lot. That’s what loving fathers do. My dad would have been wicked if he had no regard for my brother’s exhaustion.

Our Heavenly Father carries us.

In times of complete exhaustion mentally, physically, and emotionally, God is there for you and for me.

The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is ludicrous and found nowhere in the Bible. It’s plain stupid.

Rather, God helps those who know they need Him.

This week I needed God. I needed Him to carry me. I needed Him to lift me up. I was spent.

As I sought truth in His Word and His face in prayer, I found the comfort I needed to keep moving forward.

Let’s look at one more passage real quick.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort . . . . For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 8-11

Pastor Jason Meyer sees an alliteration in these verses that I believe will help us all.

Here’s the process.

Desperation. Dependence. Deliverance. Doxology.

Paul and Timothy make clear in verse eight that they were burdened beyond their strength (which reminds us that the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is also a lie that’s not found in the Scriptures). They were desperate.

Paul and Timothy’s sufferings led them to rely not on themselves, but God. We see this in verse nine. They became dependent on God to comfort them and to rescue them.

God is a God of comfort. All comfort. All mercies. God rescued Paul and Timothy from their difficulties. That’s not just part of what God does, it’s who He is. It’s in His character.

Where did this deliverance lead Paul and Timothy? It led them to praise. It led them to thanksgiving in verse eleven.

This word comfort meant “to strengthen” in Paul’s day. God did not put a blanket around them and give them a nice warm tea. He gave them strength to keep fighting, to keep going.

God has carried me this past week. He has kept me going. I can’t help but praise Him publicly for this.

I don’t know where you find yourself today.

Maybe you’re where I was last week, trying to cling to any semblance of light.

Maybe you’re in such a dark place that you can’t remember the last time you awoke with enthusiasm.

Maybe you’ve had year after year of brutal battering.

Know this.

God is your Father.

He is carrying you.

God is a source of comfort. Know amount of Pizza Hut pizza, Blue Bloods, NBA basketball, or friendships were going to lift me up last week. It had to be Him.

If you’re desperate, tell Him you are dependent on Him. He will bring deliverance, and this will lead to praise.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Gentle Light

Fluorescent lights are the worst. I used to not think this way, but after a year of dating my girlfriend Jamie who despises them, I’ve come to see things from her point of view. Just about every time we FaceTime, she is in her room with just the light from the window and a lamp. Again, it used to bug me, but after a while I came to discover they’re just obnoxious and overbearing. I’d much rather go from a dark room to the gentle light of a lamp, rather than having my eyes assaulted by the behemoth fluorescent lights on the ceiling. flourescent light

Now before you check out, this blog is not about lighting preferences. I wanted to illustrate that there is gentle light, and obnoxious light.

The reality is, there are men and women, children and youth, who are sitting in our churches in darkness. They are discouraged, depressed, weak, unsure, hopeless. The list goes on and on. There are real needs in these dark situations of grief and pain, suffering and trials. These brothers and sisters in Christ need light. They need to see the light of the gospel in the darkness of their days. 1 Thessalonians tells us in 5:14 that we are to comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

How then do we speak into their lives, how do we share the light of the gospel without being obnoxious or inconsiderate?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, I believe that we are given the direction we need in order to bring this light. We are called to be the light via compassion, instruction, exhortation, and intersession (this outline is not my own).

The church at Thessalonica was under heavy persecution, and the community of believers were reeling as a result. They were nervous, unsure of their hope, scared. They had bought the lie that the ‘day of the Lord’ had arrived, and that they were left behind to suffer alongside the wicked. False teachers had entered their midst, convincing them that they were in fact in the last days. In the darkness of persecution and hopelessness, Paul wrote to them a letter of encouragement. These were professing believers who had bought lies about God’s character, God’s nature, and God’s plan for their lives. There are many today who fall into believing lies as well (me included) and need to be reminded of the truth. So how does Paul do it? How does Paul strengthen and not shame these believers? How should we do it? How should we be interacting with those of our brothers and sisters who have lost hope? How do we strengthen them rather than shame them?

Compassion 

Paul tells them in this section of his letter that they are beloved by the Lord (2:13). There is no shaming here. Paul leads by compassionately and gently reminding them of their identity in Christ.

In the thick of this darkness, Paul doesn’t barge in, throw open the windows, pull back their sheets, and drag them outside. He lights a single candle of hope, a solitary but brilliant flame of compassion. – Charles Swindoll

We are to care for the discouraged and strengthen the weak among us. Our church communities would truly overflow with Christ-like love and amazing hope if we treated the discouraged and weak among us in this way. Not shaming them and making them feel bad for feeling bad, questioning the level of their faith, but rather compassionately speaking hope into their dark hearts. Paul definitely had his moments of aggressive exhortation and frustration, but here we see him model compassion that leads to life. However, he definitely wasn’t merely compassionate to the Thessalonians.

Instruction 

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 2:14

Paul encouraged the dark souls of the Thessalonian believers with instruction in gospel truth. Theology and doctrine can go a long way to mend not only the mind, but the heart of broken believers. When there are weak and discouraged members of our spiritual family among us, we should be consistently instructing them in the truths of the gospel. Again, not in a flourescently obnoxious manner, but by gentle reminders of what is true. Jamie does this for me better than anyone, constantly calling out lies in my mind for what they are, and reminding me of truth. We should speak into darkness with compassion and instruction.

Exhortation

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Here’s where Paul takes a stark turn that we should pay attention to. He’s compassionately shared truth of the gospel, but now he exhorts the believers in Thessalonica to stand firm. We are to encourage the depressed or discouraged among us to keep fighting, to be on the assault, on the attack. The fight for faith is just that, a fight. I have been so passive too many times in my life, not taking the fight to the enemy. Paul reminds the discouraged Thessalonian believers to hold firm to the truth.

In times of pain, anguish, mourning, depression, or doubt, nothing is more stabilizing than the truth of Scripture – nothing. – Charles Swindoll 

We should exhort the weak and discouraged among us to stand firm and hold to the truths of God in Scripture (remember this should be done compassionately).

Intercession 

Paul concludes this section with a prayer (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Pray, pray, pray. When you are aware of a brother or sister suffering in the darkness, pray for them. Prayer has power. Even the knowledge that others are praying for me can go a long way to bring a little bit more light into my life.

Paul in this passage doesn’t pray for the suffering of the Thessalonians to end, for their dark days to suddenly be complete. Rather, he prays that God would comfort them by reminding them of who they are and what they have in Christ. When we suffer, we want immediate rescue. Paul understood that suffering leads to greater faith.

If you have a member of your faith community whose hope is shrouded in darkness, reach out to them. Be compassionate, instruct them, exhort them, and don’t forget to intercede for them.

If you are in a dark season, remember Scripture, remember truth, and remember that the Lord is for you and not against you.

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. – 2 Thessalonians 3:3 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog below

 

Grey-Colored Glasses

We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘rose-colored glasses’. In our teenage days we all were likely infatuated with someone who really wasn’t all that great, but we had convinced ourselves that they were the epitome of spouse material as we viewed all they did with rose-colored glasses. Shortcomings and faults were disregarded, glaring character flaws were seen in an entirely different light. glasses

In a similar way, we can see all of our life through grey-colored glasses. This terminology certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue like its lingual ancestor, but I think it describes the effects of depression and hopelessness on a person. When in the throes of discouragement and depression, we can see all of life as dark and dim. We can view everything: our surroundings, our job, our circumstances, our family, our friends, our relationships, through the grey-colored glasses that depression and hopelessness put upon our eyes.

I want to offer some advice, and some hope, for those of us who fight this in different seasons and to different degrees. The advice is not my own, and come to think of it neither is the hope. Yet I do want to relay both to you today.

Here’s some advice for the discouraged among us:

1) Focus On The Facts, Not Your Feelings

I’m the champion of this. I’m prone to listen to what my feelings and emotions are telling me about any aspect of my life. To fight back against the seeds of depression and discouragement, proclaim the facts of any aspect of your life that you are seeing with grey-colored glasses. Let this be founded in truth from Scripture. Memorize the promises and heart of God in the Word of God, and use these Scriptures to fight back against what your emotions are telling you. Don’t allow the lies that our hearts believe take up root in your soul.

2) Get Some Sun

Depression and discouragement can make us want to lay in bed all day long, scrolling through social media or binge-watching some television. It takes discipline and commitment, it takes going on the offensive, but I strongly encourage you to fight this tendency. Go for a walk, go to the gym, play a little basketball. Get outside and soak in the sun. There’s something life-bringing about simply communing with God via nature. Also, being active tremendously helps the broken soul. When I work-out with a friend, I am relieved of a lot of the inner turmoil.

3) Tell Someone

I just alluded to it, but have brothers and sisters in Christ encouraging you and walking you through the darkness. We were not designed to be isolated. Satan would love nothing else than to have droves of Christians walking in the darkness of depression, bound to it because they aren’t bringing it into the light. We have made depression and discouragement taboo struggles for the follower of Christ. If you are goofy and extroverted like me, it may be extra difficult for you to admit that sometimes you’re not okay. There is freedom to be found in admitting your need for support. Have friends walking you through, able to call out your feelings and proclaim the truths of Scripture.

I hope these words of advice are as helpful for you as they were for me. I want to spend the latter half of this post giving you some hope. This is hope found in the Word of God. This is hope built upon the promises of God.

Recently I’ve been drawn to Ephesians. There’s something about the first fourteen verses that keeps drawing me back, deeper and deeper. Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel, the good news that breaks through the grey-colored glasses and shines the beautiful light of Christ into every aspect of our lives. In the onset of this letter from prison, Paul shares a twelve verse sentence (1:3-14) of praise to God. There is so much in this eulogy that can’t be covered in just one blog post, but I do want to make known to you 3 simple truths that are abounding in hope.

YOU ARE CHOSEN BY GOD

If you are a follower of Christ, having surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus, then let me remind you that YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD.

For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. – Ephesians 1:4

You have been chosen by God. There’s something awesome, something joy-inducing, something that fills our hearts with happiness whenever we are chosen for something. Whether that be a sports team, a school, a relationship, or even the Mr. Bison Pageant. This should do exponentially more to remove the darkness when we meditate on the fact that the Lord of all has chosen us to be His!

You are chosen.

YOU ARE SAVED BY CHRIST 

You have been chosen by God, and this plays itself out via the redemption and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace – Ephesians 1:7

We have been redeemed. You and I have been forgiven of all of our trespasses, every single one, through the riches of God’s grace poured out onto us through Jesus.

Grace > __________

You could list any sin you’ve committed and the equation would still be correct. You have been fully forgiven and completely redeemed.

YOU HAVE BEEN FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

God gave us a helper, a companion, someone to walk through this life with. That is the Holy Spirit of God.

In him you also – when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you also believed – were sealed in him with the promised Holy Spirit. – Ephesians 1:13

We have been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Honestly I see this as one of the biggest ways to combat the darkness of depression. Remember, meditate upon, and utilize the fact that we have the very Spirit of God residing in us to help us live for him in any season.l Rely on the Spirit and seek the Spirit’s guidance.

Brother or sister in Christ, if you struggle with depression, bring it into the light. Get outside. Tell your community of faith. Last, but certainly not least, claim and proclaim the promises of Scripture. Be filled with hope!

There will be days where you and I see all of life through grey-colored glasses.

When those days come, remember the wonder of the gospel.

You have been chosen, saved, and filled.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow the blog below.

 

What Silver Lining?

We do not like the hardships of life. It’s not our natural inclination to see the difficulties and trials of our lives as opportunities to be molded into the image of Christ. Yet we see in the life of Paul, the preaching of church leaders throughout the ages, and our own experiences that we learn far more in the valleys than we do in the pain-free seasons of our lives.dark clouds

Look at what Paul says in the familiar passage of 2 Corinthians 12.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me (the ‘thorn in his flesh’). But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

This is without a doubt one of the most seemingly impossible things for me to imitate. Paul had so much to boast in when it came to ministry success: a personal experience with the physically present Jesus, and his theological training. Instead, Paul learned for the sake of Jesus to delight in his weaknesses, the insults sent his way, the hardships of his life, the persecutions he endured, and the difficulties he faced day to day. Paul had a grace-filled understanding that it was in these weaknesses and in these sufferings that he was molded into the image of Christ.

Consider also the words of Charles Spurgeon.

We learn, I hope, something in the bright fields of joy, but I am more persuaded that we don’t learn a tenth as much, there, as we do in the valley of Death-Shade. – Charles Spurgeon

We do learn of Christ in the joyful and blissful moments of our lives. Yet it was Spurgeon’s belief that we learn ten times as much from the valleys. Both of these will come. We will have blissful moments and moments of deep valleys where the joy seems to have been removed from our lives. This happened in the lives of Biblical characters as well. Just read the Psalms. Psalm 22 is David crying out to God, accusing God of utterly abandoning him and forsaking him. Psalm 23 is then David proclaiming that he lacks nothing when the Lord is his Shepherd.

To be honest, it pains me to admit that this holds true in my life. The dark days show me much more of the beauty of Christ and the need to be molded more into His image. Consider the path of shadows that I walked this Spring. These are snippets from my journal and I think they clearly show the way that God uses the valleys to reinvigorate our hearts and reawaken our love for Him.

04/28 – Pain is a necessary part of our spiritual life. I HATE this reality. As a child, I rarely saw pain as good, if ever. So growing this mindset in me will take time. 

05/02 – The world is unfair. The world is dark. In light of this Lord, I need to place my hope in You. There is joy to be found in the gospel of grace. 

05/04 – You know how to rescue the godly from trials. So if you’re choosing not to do so for me at this time, it’s for a reason. 

05/18 – God, I am fighting for the light in the midst of darkness. I don’t want to be anxious every day. 

05/30 – As a disciple of Jesus I should passionately be removing from my life all the things which lessen my love for Him, and intentionally do that which grows my love for Him. 

06/04 – When I don’t spend time in Your Word, or in prayer, or in transparent fellowship, I fall apart and fall off into fear and anxiety. 

The transition from OBU to the West coast was hard. This Spring I started to come face to face with the darkness that exists in our world, as well as the reality that pain and hardships were a necessary aspect of my walk with Christ. For months I clung to Jesus as best I could. There were moments where I was angry, moments where it took all of my effort to see the silver lining in some of the clouds I was facing. There were moments and days where it felt like it took all of my energy just to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other.

I despised this season.

That is until God began to open my eyes to that which I needed to learn from this season, as evidenced by the final two snippets I shared.

First, He reminded me that being a disciple of Jesus is an active thing, rather than a passive state of being. As a disciple, I should be passionately striving to remove from my life those things that lessen my love for Him, as well as intentionally practicing and doing those things which grow my love for Him.

I was also reminded that if I’m not in the Word daily, in prayer daily, and in transparent Christian community daily, I will backslide into sinful fear, worry, and despair.

Just today I came face to face with one of the most convicting components of this passage from 2 Corinthians 12. Paul did ask God to remove from him the thorn in his side, whatever that may have been. So asking God for rescue is by no means wrong of us. Yet, Paul eventually accepted that aspect of his life as part of his life for the glory of God, and chose to rejoice in it.

Wow.

I tend to ask for the removal of things that pain me three thousand times, not just three.

It is my prayer and hope that this blog post will encourage you to be open with your Christian community about the state of your heart on a regular basis. God uses the valleys of my life to teach me, but I still am learning. I will be learning till my last breath, and I hope we are all willing to admit the same. Not only that, I pray that this blog post will encourage you to engage in the difficult practice of rejoicing in your weaknesses and hardships for the glory of God.

His grace is sufficient for you.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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The Search For Joy

Joy. grace

According to the the Merriam-Webster dictionary, joy is defined as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

I strive for joy. I yearn for joy. Yet when I chase after joy in the sense of its worldly definition, I’m left empty. You see, the Webster definition doesn’t exactly lend itself to the idea of having joy in all circumstances. Instead, joy is the emotion associated with being healthy, successful, fortunate, and having possession of what one desires. So what about the times when we’re unhealthy, unsuccessful, unfortunate, and devoid of our desires? What then?

The book of Philippians is saturated with the idea of sovereign joy. It is built upon the belief that joy is wrapped up in the fact that God is our deepest desire, and that because of Christ, we can truly possess communion with the One we love.  It is filled to the brim with the idea of learning to have joy in every circumstance, because we know that God is sovereign, and that all He does is for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. It’s easy to just rake over the leaves of this Pauline letter without digging down deep and seeing the wonderful depths of this dramatic and incredibly applicable thematic thrust of having sovereign joy. We see also in the book of Philippians that this joy is often produced and built up through the trials and sufferings of life, rather than the happy and easy moments. This joy is most prevalent when we unashamedly pursue the mission of God, the spread of His Name and fame.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:1-2

In just the opening of the letter to the church at Philippi, we can glean where we can find joy. I love beginnings, and so I always seem to pay extra close attention to the greetings in Paul’s letters. What I’ve come to learn is that Paul would infuse even his greetings with gospel truth. In the words of John Byron, “In Paul’s hands everything, even the opening address, becomes an opportunity to remind his readers of God’s work in their lives.” 

In the case of the search for joy, this greeting awakens our hearts and opens our eyes to the joy we can find in serving God and the joy we can find in being God’s.

1. Joy In Serving God

Paul refers to both himself and Timothy as ‘servants’ of Christ Jesus. In some translations the word used is ‘slaves’. The Greek word used here is ‘doulos’ which according to Strong’s Concordance means: ‘one who gives himself up to another’s will; those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men.’

Paul found joy in submitting to God’s will and advancing the cause of the gospel, and he was willing to give his life for it. – Britton Sharp

Paul’s life was not devoid of struggles, trials, pain, or suffering. Yet we see that Paul also lived with a joy that was again founded on the sovereignty of God. Even still, his joy was multiplied by his submission to the Lord, and His commitment to advancing the cause of the gospel, no matter what the cost.

Brother or sister, there is joy to be found in serving God. There is joy to be found in advancing the Name and fame of the one who has redeemed you. There will be trials and tribulations in the journey of missional living, but there is unending joy to be found in full submission to the mission.

Consider giving yourself up as a servant of Christ. Trust His will, trust His hand, trust His heart. Find joy in the advancement of the gospel.

2. Joy In Our Position Because of Christ

Let’s not gloss over what Paul refers to the church at Philippi as. He calls them ‘saints’. Now, we know that the church at Philippi was indeed doing exceedingly well. However, they were not devoid of struggles or sins. Yet Paul knew that in the eyes of God they were considered to be saints because of Jesus Christ.

As someone who sins, it is a joyous realization that my sin doesn’t change my position before God. Because of the perfect life of Jesus Christ, I am seen as a saint. No matter what. My struggles do not change the way that God sees me.

I am more and more convinced that if we were to grasp at the heart level the truths of who we are in Christ, of what the gospel message says about us, then we would find the fountain of never-ceasing joy. This is why re-preaching the gospel to ourselves every day is so vastly important. Let us remember what the gospel says that we are.

You and I, as followers of Christ, are saints.

Find joy in the mission of Jesus Christ and in the position we have before God because of Jesus Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach