I’ve always been motivated by a good kick in the pants from time to time. Whether it’s a stern encouragement from a coach, a less than favorable grade from a teacher, or just “that look” from my mom I used these things for motivation to do better.
From time to time in my spiritual life I need a good kick in the pants from God too and the Apostle Paul is usually there to oblige.
Here is my most recent upper cut to the face.
“ Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” - Galatians 4:8-16
This hit me so hard lately because I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual funk. Not a huge one where I’m doubting all that I know, but just a spiritual fatigue that has zapped a bit of my zeal for God. I guess you could say some of my joy is missing.
In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul was asking where was all their joy? They had started to forget what Paul had taught them about the Gospel and instead had begun listening to a group called the Judaizers. In short, this group believed that believing in Jesus alone for salvation was not enough. They taught it was Jesus + other things that saved you which hacked Paul of something fierce. The reason this was so frustrating to Paul was not that they were not listening to him, but that they were not listening to God’s design for salvation and as a result, their joy was being sucked out of them.
He says in verse 12 “how is that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?” which basically means, “What the heck are you doing? You are turning back to all this garbage that sucked the life out of you after I told you Jesus is all you need!” I had to ask myself this same question.
What are the areas that I crawl back to in my life that are nothing more than joy suckers?
What are the things that I have left behind by being made new in Christ, but yet find myself coming back to in moments of weakness?
It didn’t take long to get my answer.
I quickly realized, I had allowed my joy to be taken by my pride, my fear, my fatigue, my doubt, and my stubbornness. It shouldn’t be shocking that my spiritual funk was directly related to my joy tank being syphoned out by my sinful nature creeping back in. I realized that I needed to refocus myself back to the truth of the real Gospel of Jesus and find my strength and joy in Him.
I needed my spirit to be renewed knowing I am a new creation in Christ and the old Brian is dead. That my purpose and meaning come from being known as a child of God and that true happiness is found in my pursuit of holiness. I needed to remember that Jesus was enough and I didn’t need to add anything to Him to be more accepted or loved by Him.
When I did that my world seemed to tilt back to the way it should be. Not a world void of tough times or challenging moments, but a world that is refocused on Jesus alone.
Now, it’d be great if God equipped us with a joy gauge we could look at from time to time to see how our joy level was doing, but sadly I haven’t found it. However, he did leave us with His word, prayer, and a community of believers to live life amongst. I pray you and I can lean into these more and prevent having our joy robbed.
A kick in the pants is a good thing, but it’s better when it comes from those that love us and have concern for us. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves kicking our self out of a spirit of guilt and shame and those are two things God never designed for us to feel as Christians.
Take a moment now and ask God to search your heart for the areas you’ve let joy leak out. Ask Him to forgive you for those areas of sin you’ve returned to, but then to strengthen you with his Love of grace as you pursue thing differently. Remind yourself that He alone is worthy of our praise and He alone is to receive our worship because He is all we will ever need. Then move on with your day refreshed by the renewing power of Christ working in your life.
Boy I needed that today…how about you?