One of my favorite Christian songwriters is Michael Card. One of his songs says:

There is a joy in the journey

There’s a light we can love on the way

There is a wonder and wildness to life

And freedom for those who obey

This song, as a whole, insists that while the Christian life will be filled with many challenges, it will also involve much joy.

This passage from the Book of Acts says something similar:

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52)

Of course, this is not the only passage that connects joy with the Christian life. Other passages that do the same thing include: Acts 16:34; Romans 12:12; 14:17; 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; and 1 Peter 1:8. According to all these passages, there should be joy in the journey we call the life of Christian discipleship.

So, what’s the deal then? Why is it that so many of us Christ-followers live our lives as if there was no joy in the journey? Why is it that so many of us Christ-followers live our lives as if we are always getting ready to be happy, joyful and fulfilled?

When I think of the way many of us live our lives, I can’t help but think of a story that Jesus once told about a man who spent his whole life getting ready to be happy, joyful and fulfilled and then died just before that day arrived (see Luke 12:15-21). (It’s true that Jesus originally told this story to encourage people not to focus all their attention on the acquisition of material things. But the story also illustrates the phenomenon of people living their entire lives always getting ready to be happy, joyful and fulfilled. The guy in this sad tale died just before he was ready to start really living his life.)

Wouldn’t it be awful if something similar happened to us? Wouldn’t it be awful if we spent our entire lives getting ready to be joyful and then died before that day of joy finally arrived?

Here’s another story we should ponder and learn from:

Once upon a time, a stonecutter lived all alone. Though he had acquired great skills, he was very poor. He lived in a tiny bamboo hut and wore tattered clothing.

          One day as the stonecutter worked with his hammer and chisel upon a huge stone, he heard a crowd gathering along the streets. By their shouts he could tell that the king was coming to visit his humble village. Joining in the procession, the stonecutter gazed in as the king, dressed in marvelous silk, was greeted by his subjects.

          Oh, how I wish I had the power and glory of the king, he thought. He has soldiers at his command. There is no one more powerful.

          His cry was heard in the heavens, and immediately the humble stonecutter was transformed into a powerful king. He found himself riding on a great horse, waving at the crowds of people who had flocked to see him.

          This is power, he thought.

          As the summer progressed, however, the new king watched the effects of the heat upon his people. Men and animals became weary, and plants withered under the powerful rays of the sun. As he looked at the sky, the new king realized that the sun was more powerful than any earthly ruler.

          How I wish I were as powerful as that, he thought. I wish I were the sun. Immediately, his wish was granted.

          The stonecutter relished his new role as the sun. He gloried in the power he felt as he surveyed the kingdoms below. As he sent his bright rays to earth, he watched kings and princes hide under their parasols; he watched as powerful warriors became weak under his gaze. Even the crops in the field were under his command.

          Then one day a tiny cloud moved over the land, shielding the earth from the sun’s bright rays. Seeing that here was something more powerful, he thought, I want very much to be a cloud.

          Again, his wish was granted. Now he blocked the sun’s rays and felt important. He gathered all his strength, becoming a gigantic cloud, and began to pour down rain on the earth. Rivers formed where previously there were none, and water flooded the streets of the cities and the farmland. Everything—trees, animals, people—seemed to be awed by his power. Only the massive rocks were unswayed.

          There is nothing, he thought, as powerful as a rock. How I wish I were a huge stone. His wish was granted.

          As a stone he remained motionless and powerful, unmoved by sun, wind, or rain. He felt exempt from all the forces that shaped the existence of those around him.

          Then one day a man approached, carrying a bag. When he stopped, he pulled out a chisel and a hammer and began to chip away at the rock. Realizing that the man with the tools was more powerful than any rock, he cried out, “Oh, I want to be a stonecutter.”

          Once again the heavens heard his cry, and he became a stonecutter. Once again he lived in a bamboo hut and made his living with hammer and chisel. And he was content.

What is this story saying to us? Is it telling us that if we’re not careful we could spend our entire lives wishing for something that we already have at our fingertips?

Here’s yet another story we should ponder:

         A rich industrialist was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat.

          “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.

          “Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.

          “Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?” the rich man asked.

          “What would I do with them?”

          “You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”

          The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”

          “You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.

          “What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied.

If you are like me, there is a part of you that wishes you could be as contented right now as the fisherman in that story is. Am I right?

If we’re not happy, joyful and contented now, when will we ever be?

What are we waiting for?

  • Are we waiting for more money?
  • Are we waiting for more time?
  • Are we waiting for more friends?
  • Are we waiting for more education?
  • Are we waiting for a promotion at work?
  • Are we waiting for a new career?
  • Are we waiting until people respect us more?
  • Are we waiting until our talents are finally recognized?
  • Are we waiting until we have kids?
  • Are we waiting until the kids to grow up?
  • Are we waiting until the kids move out?
  • Are we waiting until we can retire?
  • Are we waiting until we’ve built bigger barns and can finally say to ourselves: “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Now you can take life easy; eat, drink and be merry”?

What are we waiting for?

University founder John Henry Newman once warned:

 “Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but rather that it shall never have a beginning.”

And in his book Celebrate the Temporary, author Clyde Reid writes:

“Don’t wait. You’ll end up waiting forever. Celebrate the now with all its pain and difficulties. . . . But also celebrate the wonder of being alive. You and I are living miracles. So jump into the now and begin the process.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that Clyde Reid is right on target. Life itself is a wonderful miracle. We need to “jump into the now” instead of waiting to be happy and joyful. It seems to me that we desperately need to start practicing three very important spiritual disciplines if we are ever going begin experiencing the joy in the journey.

  • First, we need to learn how to begin and end each and every day of our lives counting our blessings!
  • Second, we need to do a better job of celebrating—throwing more “parties.”
  • Third, we need to form the habit of not letting a single day go by without pressing some experience of joy into it!

Remember that fisherman in the story I told you earlier?

According to the Apostle Paul, it’s possible for us to be content . . . right now!

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. {8} But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:7-8)

We don’t have to wait for anything else to happen. If we choose to, we can be happy, joyful and fulfilled . . . today.

There is a joy in the journey

There’s a light we can love on the way

There is a wonder and wildness to life

And freedom for those who obey

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52)

Something to think about.