The very first sermon I ever preached as a pastor was on July 18th, 2010. I had freshly graduated from the seminary, had a whirlwind summer, been installed as pastor of Saints Peter and Paul the week prior and it was time to preach. The title of that very first sermon was “Joyful Struggle.”

Here’s a short excerpt:

“Joyful…struggle.  I wouldn’t often put these two words together.  When I think of joy I think of exuberance.  I picture someone bouncing up and down and clapping her hands. When I think of struggle, I picture somebody in the gym trying to push up that one last repetition on the bench press.  The veins popping out of the neck and forehead, turning red, and foaming at the mouth.  I’m not sure how to put those two pictures together at the same time.  I could see how the weightlifter would be excited after finishing that repetition.  But to joyfully struggle.  To enjoy the struggle.  To cherish the time of struggling.  I’m not so sure.  What I am sure of, is that Paul is clear that to faithfully be the church is to joyfully struggle.”

In chapter 30 of The Story, the Apostle Paul is joyfully struggling. It is not easy to be a Christian person in a non-Christian world. The world is not looking for Jesus. It wasn’t when Paul was bringing the good news. And it isn’t now. It never has been.

Yet, everything that the world desires, Jesus brings to the world.

Therefore, Paul has joy because Jesus has overcome everything this world can throw at him.

Paul is imprisoned when he writes a variety of his letters. He is literally “a prisoner for the Lord” (Eph. 4:1) while he writes these words. And yet, his words are full of hope.

“You, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18-19).

Breadth. Length. Height. Depth. The love of Christ. It’s big.

“Grace is big.” I’ve said these words quite a few times in the last couple of weeks. As a pastor, I’ve talked and spent time with many of you who are struggling in incredible ways recently. And I’ve shared with you how the grace of God is big.

It covers over a multitude of sins.  It brings peace in troubled times. It promises eternal perfection. It. Jesus. Is our hope, our peace, our joy.

I pray for you, today, my friends that as you face the struggles of this broken world, Jesus will be your joy.


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