If the Kingdom of God is an organism, it needs nourishment to stay healthy and to grow. As Jesus said, the branches must remain in the vine in order to be fruitful, and one way that we can do that is by rejoicing. (Yes, we weep with those who weep, but the Law and the Psalms say we should recount how God helped us in the past.)
This is why I try to get people to say what God has done in their lives, recently or historically: it encourages them — it nourishes them! And me too. For example, on Friday, I got together for lunch with a small group of men. We took a look at chapter 1 of “Embracing the Journey” and talked a little about the first exercise. This basically asked us to recount how we came to faith in the Lord Jesus.
Sharing our stories proved a powerful reminder of God’s care for us — how he took the trouble to know what each one of us needed, and to arrange for those things to happen. For one of us, the work situation was so awful that he asked his wife to pray for these terrible meetings and memos. It pleased God to answer those prayers. God didn’t have to do that, but he chose to do so. I think of my own story — how I ignored piles of evidence for Jesus, but God took the trouble to know what I needed and got my attention.
And it’s not just in the lives of our brothers and sisters — God is good to all; as Jesus said, God sends sunshine and rain on all alike. I had a marvelous time at a reunion party, where I found out that old friends are doing things in their professional lives that seem like a perfect match for their gifts, skills, interests — things that bring them joy and fulfillment in this life.
Of course I wish I could feel confident in their eternal future, but I have no idea how to influence that, other than by praying for them. In any case, seeing them happy and fulfilled brought me a great deal of joy, both for them and also because it reminded me of how good God is and how he loves to give good gifts to everyone.
Will thinking about all this stuff make me more mature? I’m not sure, but I think it’s following the Master’s advice (command actually) to remain in his love. And whether it sounds “spiritual” or not, I’ll add this: It sure feels good, too.