We can make it our life goal to make things pleasant for ourselves, getting things more stable, more fun, and more luxurious, but all the while not feeling any joy. Or we can be obsessed with our troubles, constantly focused on all that is wrong and unfair, convinced that we will never feel peaceful so long as we are so burdened. But joy is a metric of an internal state, not an external one. It has nothing to do with either our comforts or our discomforts. Rather, it is directly proportional to our alignment with what is right and true.
When I am guilty of wrong, when I am hiding the gifts God gave me, when I am giving less than I know I could, then I will never feel joy, no matter the life that surrounds me.
On the other hand, when I have a clean conscience, when I am shining the light God gave me to shine, when I know that I gave it my genuine best, then I will always feel joy, no matter the life that surround me.
Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
He that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope There have been times when I have proselyted the gospel from a sense of duty only. I did it because it was what I was supposed to do, with very little sincerity behind it. I did not expect to make any real impact in the lives of others, which resulted in a passionless effort, which resulted in a self-fulfilling failure. You can plow all you want on rock, but you’re never going to raise a great crop on it. And you can proselyte in pessimism, but your ministry will never flourish. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, then you might as well not do it. For the work alone is insufficient, what matters is whether the heart lies in it. If ever we want to reap the fruit of hope, we need to do our work in hope as well. Not begrudgingly and not half-heartedly, but sincerely and with all our hearts.
That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man And if we cannot plow in hope and cannot thresh in hope, then the problem lies within us, not the work. If we reach into ourselves and find only pessimistic, half-hearted efforts to offer, then we need to pause and ask ourselves what is wrong with us. Before we can do our duty to our fellow man we’ve got to sort ourselves out first. Only when we’re right inside will there be good things that can come out of us and be shared with others.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Ye make clean the outside of the cup, but within they are full of extortion and excess Jesus’s condemnation of trying to only clean the exterior rings all too true for me. I would vigorously endeavor to put on a shining appearance, while holding to vice and doubt within. I wanted people to think that I was a Godly person, while privately keeping Him at arms length.
Cleanse first that which is within the cup, that the outside of them may be clean also This first hypocrisy I was aware of, even at the time, yet there was another fault in my discipleship that I did not recognize until performing this very study. I have also polished my exterior in terms of trying to “make myself useful” to God. I, and others like me, put a lot of effort into trying to be intelligent, well-spoken, and persuasive, hoping that this will allow us to champion God’s cause in a bold and eloquent manner. There isn’t anything inherently wrong in trying to be a more convincing person, but I have seen in myself how it can become a distraction. I can be so concerned with being able to say things well, that I forget to gain a personal testimony of the things I am even trying to say! This is once again cleaning the outer vessel only. The best preparation for communicating the gospel is by living it earnestly and whole-heartedly, without worrying about what the external appearance will be. As Jesus promises, those that first clean themselves within will find that the outside takes care of itself. I have seen how those that simply try to purify their hearts end up also becoming more intelligent, kind, and sincere without even trying.