Christian Character Part 4

Serving God and Others

At a wedding we attended yesterday, we were struck by the gravity of the minister’s admonition to the couple: “Your happiness will be found in your spouse’s well-being.” The quest for marriage, and the right marriage partner is often defined in the question of who makes me happy. This admonition challenged that definition, by, instead, asking the question, “Who can you make happy?” This admonition challenges and encourages all of us, and will challenge and encourage this fine couple, to live lives of love, which is measured by service, starting in the home.

I am very particular about the use of the words and concepts of happiness and joy. Our popular culture would have us think that these two words really mean the same thing, but they don’t. Popular culture has long taught, in an ungodly manner, that parents should want their children to be happy, to do whatever makes them happy. This popular cultural mantra would legitimate a life of self-indulgence, a life without responsibility, a life without service, a life without love, a life without Christian Character.

The English word, “happiness” appears far more sparingly in Scripture than does the English word, “joy.” In Professor Vine’s Expository Dictionary, he helps us with the translations: In the New Testament, the Greek word for happy is makarios, an adjective, and in the Greek it signifies “blessed” and in the verb form, makarizo, it signifies “to call blessed”. On the other hand, a different Greek word, chara or (in its verb form, chairo) is the word we translate as joy, wherein it is understood to connote exultation, in contrast with weeping and sorrow, to signify the circumstances attending co-operation in the authority of the Lord Jesus and His work.

I take from this word study, that being blessed, being made happy, is what may happen to us; on the big other hand, joy is our response to what happens to us. Hence, neither Romans 5 nor James 1 tell us to be “happy” in our troubles and trials and tribulations, but rather to “take” joy. Taking joy takes, if you will pardon the pun, a little work, and sometimes a lot of work: it is the labor of co-operation in the authority of our Lord and His work.

The Gospel of John speaks clearly from God about the source of joy: John 15: 9-11, “As the father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

When we abide in our Lord, we are co-operating in the authority of the Lord Jesus and His work, and it is that circumstance of co-operation, an act of taking our place with Jesus, in His work, and in His sufferings, that produces our joy.

In the application of this to marriage, and family, we find our joy in serving, as Christ served. Ephesians 5: 25, 28, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. . . . so Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.”

This passage also speaks of the respect of a wife for her husband. Professor Vine explains to us that the Greek word, Apoblepo, means to “look away from all else but one object”. And of course, so should a husband confine the object of his gaze.

As is so clear, our harvest fields begin at home, and it is there where we are first called in Christ to serve. In I Timothy 3: 1-13 and in Titus 1: 5-9, the qualifications of leadership in the church include knowing how to rule one’s own house, setting into place the credentials of service and its always accompanying humility and selflessness.

Paul described himself as a bondservant of Christ (Romans 1: 1), and Jesus Himself said He came as our servant, Matthew 20: 26-28, “. . . but whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

In II Corinthians 11; 23-30, Paul gave us a summary of the sufferings of Christ in which he shared, because of His love for Christ, his abiding in Christ, and in Romans 5, Paul told us to glory in those tribulations, which is to rejoice in them, or to take and re-take joy in them! Paul knew and learned that joy is not necessarily fun, and that the blessings of spiritual happiness are not necessarily fun.

The foundation of Jesus’ and God’s service to us is their love for us (see John 3:16), and if we accept their love for us, we must find conviction of sin, and through that conviction, then we would find repentance and forgiveness, and in that we are set to serve in a godly manner, beginning in our homes. Love conquers all and keeps no account of wrong-doing (I Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter). Thus are the headwaters of the Sea of Forgetfulness and every marriage needs those headwaters so they have a Sea into which to leave behind the things forgiven.

The issue is not the indulgence of your selfishness, but the surrendering of yourselves to God, through Christ, so that in serving others, starting by treating your spouse and children and parents as your first “neighbors”, you are obedient to God by loving Him and your neighbors!

In John 15: 7-8 it is explained to us that if we abide in Christ, and if His word abides in us, then what we desire will be done for us, and we will bear much fruit, which will glorify the Father, and we will be Jesus’ disciples.

In Part III of this study in Christian Character we focused on the Ten Most Wanted individuals in our lives, and we learned that only by depositing in each of them the 9 fruits of the spirit, could we hope to harvest similar fruit from their lives to enrich our lives.

When we pour out our love and service for another person’s, our spouse’s, our children’s, our parents’, well-being, we are cooperating in the authority of Jesus Christ and His works, and with Christ, even as we suffer, we are defeating the works of the Devil, and so we are abiding in Christ and His word, and by that abiding and co-operating, we are taking joy. Taking joy may not always bring us happiness in the popular cultural sense, but it will bring us blessings, even if not always fun, in the spiritual sense of happiness: It is more blessed to give than to receive. This is a mantra for family relationships, it is a description of the results of service. Be like Paul, be like the other old and current disciples of Christ, be like Christ: SERVE, especially those to whom you have committed love!