by Jesse L. Smith
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"...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content." -Paul, Philippians 4:11
Has there ever been a time in your life that you felt, for no good reason, a sense of joy? Maybe it was sometime during the holidays when everything around you was decorated and you felt both excitement and anticipation in the air... and you rationalized away the feeling you had by assuming it was because of the circumstances around you. Or maybe you sat down for a cup of coffee one day and felt an abnormal sense of tranquility and contentment in that moment and thought, "Wow... this is a really good cup of coffee..." I would say that all of us have felt this at scattered and unpredictable points in our lives, but have always incorrectly pinpointed the source of that joy...
In a sense, all of us are 'scientists' in our own way... we seek by expirimentation to recreate the feelings of happiness, joy, or pleasure that we have known at different points in our lives. From our earliest years we associate feelings with experiences. Maybe we had an incredibly fun time at a birthday party once and couldn't wait for the next one, and when the next one came it was also fun... but not quite the same. Maybe then we reason subconsciously that it wasn't the birthday party 'itself' that was so fun, but the excitement of being around friends at a big gathering... and so we seek out that next event, looking to recreate the feeling we had so long ago.
As years progress we modify our 'theory' as it were and frame our entire life around obtaining something that really isn't tangible at all. 'Joy' after all isn't something that you can touch or handle... it's an invisible quality that we always mentally associate with visible things. But what if we are all wrong in our assumption that 'Joy' is only a product of our circumstances? It seems that all of us know exactly what will make us happy... if only it were in our power to obtain it. We spend our entire lives looking for 'that something' that, in theory, will bring us Joy. In the end however, we are all left a little empty and dissapointed. That Christmas gift you wanted... didn't bring it, the relationship you wanted...didn't bring it, the job you wanted...didn't bring it, the house... and so forth all the way to the grave...
Why is it that we spend all of our energy in this life pursuing physical things when what we REALLY want isn't physical at all? What we are all really looking for is an invisible qualtiy - a spiritual quality, that only God can give. We are all spiritual creatures at our core, but because we are also flesh and blood, we tend to ignore or forget that most of our 'feelings' have nothing to do with our physical surroundings - but are really a response to our 'spiritual surroundings'. I can guarantee that ALL those times you felt that inexplicable Joy - what you were really feeling was a taste of the Heavenly things.
The difference between Paradise and Hell is very simple, and it has nothing to do with the architecture, arrangement, or ammenities offered... it is the presence or absence of the Spirit of God. There are 'beautiful' houses and places on this earth that foreshadow Hell, and homely unkempt places that foreshadow Heaven. What makes the two places different has nothing to do with the visible world, but the invisible background behind it. To find what we all really want therefore, we need to appropriate the Spirit of God.
Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly." -John 10:10 What Jesus came to offer all of us is really what we have been searching for all our lives. It has nothing to do with the physical world, but the spiritual world. Romans 14:17 says, "For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Jesus came to give us the Holy Spirit! As followers of Christ, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is the source for that Joy that all of us are seeking. And the most beautiful thing about the Holy Spirit is that He is not poured out only in times of perfect circumstances! You can have Joy in times that are like Hell for other people... because of the Holy Spirit.
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