Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have an apostle like Peter or Paul still alive today?
There are many questions I have about them. What were they like? What would they think of American culture? What types of lives would they live? How would they preach, sing, pray, give and study?
More importantly, what would they have to say to the church? What church would they be pleased with? Which church would they find following the faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)? What positive comments would they have? What rebukes would they give?
One question I want to focus on is what would make someone like the apostle Paul joyful? I think we would all say that if Jesus or one of His apostles were living among us today, we would want to please them and bring them joy. Consider some things that the apostle Paul said brought him deep joy:
Paul rejoiced to learn of the obedience of Christians (2 Corinthians 7:15-16). He considered faithful churches that he had planted to be his “joy” or “crown of rejoicing” (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
He was one who took great pride and joy in the fact that people were faithfully following Christ. He did not view the Christian walk as a competition. He was not jealous of others’ Christian progress.
Paul found no pleasure in watching others mourn over their sin, but was joyful when God’s word pricked one’s heart enough to repent, realizing that it leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). No normal human being finds pleasure in the pain of others. We do not like to see others hurting or grieving.
Paul did not particularly like seeing others being pained when they were confronted with their own sins, but he did rejoice that this godly sorrow led to repentance, which led to salvation. Paul knew that repentance was a healthy thing. In the Christians it affected, repentance produced diligence, vindication, indignation (towards sin), fear (cause for alarm), longing, zeal and avenging of wrong. It “proved [them] innocent” and caused Paul to rejoice (2 Corinthians 7:11).
Paul was a man who found great joy in the fellowship of Christians. He loved to be around his brothers and sisters in the Lord. He loved to see his fellow Christians being encouraged by each other, even when he was not directly involved.
Paul rejoiced to learn his fellow workers were refreshed and encouraged by the godly example of other Christians (2 Corinthians 7:13). Paul had “great joy” in knowing of the encouragement one brother-in-Christ showed to other Christians (Philemon 7).
He rejoiced when he learned about the church’s “mourning” and “zeal” for him in his afflictions (2 Corinthians 7:4-7). Paul rejoiced at the prospect with being reunited with his faithful and trusted fellow-worker in the Lord (2 Timothy 1:4).
Paul prayed for Christians with joy because of the prospect of their spiritual growth and ultimate completion when Christ returns (Philippians 1:4-6). Paul rejoiced when Christ was preached to people even when the messengers may not have had the noblest of motives (Philippians 1:15-18).
Paul’s joy was “fulfilled” when Christians had loving unity with one another: “same love,” “one accord,” “one mind” (Philippians 2:2-3). By implication, Paul was not pleased when Christians acted out of selfish ambition or conceit (Philippians 2:3).
Paul’s rejoicing in faithful Christian brethren was so strong that he felt any thanksgiving he could offer to God was wholly inadequate. The joy he received was an indescribable reward for Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:9).
If we are Christians, we certainly want to Christians in whom Paul would find great joy by seeing our faithfulness, perseverance, dedication to evangelism, sensitivity to the word of God, sorrow over sin, repentance, diligence, sense of urgency, mutual love, unity, spiritual growth, encouragement, and heartache and action towards needy and suffering brethren.
There is also a lesson for us in the types of things Paul found his deepest joy in. He didn’t mention physical possessions. He didn’t mention status. He didn’t mention sports. He didn’t mention nature.
In fact, Paul counted his personal agenda and even his own life as nothing to the point where he rejoiced in his sufferings because He had died to self and Christ was living in him (Colossians 1:24; Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:11).
If we are in Christ, let us determine to be Christians in whom Paul would find joy and root our joys in the things that matter the most.
Torrey Clark is the host of the weekly Christian worldview talk show, Culture Shock (www.thelightnetwork.tv/shows). He may be reached at email@example.com.