June 1, 2014
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls
(1 Peter 1:8-9 NRSV).
It is possible to be contented and unfulfilled at the same time. Even though our deepest longings won’t be completely satisfied until our Lord returns, we can still live in the present with a sense of satisfaction at God’s goodness. And looking at it from the other direction, even though we experience the peace that passes understanding right now, we can live with a joyous expectancy that the best is yet to come. Contentment and desire need not be contradictory. We can long for God with a joy that’s just as deep as our longing. Indeed, our longing can be a part of our joy.
Peter wrote that we can “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,” since we are "receiving the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls.” It’s important to notice that this inexpressible, indescribable joy can be ours even though the end of our faith, the final salvation of our souls, has not yet been received. Our joy is the joy of hope. It’s the joy of those who are confident that they are on the path that leads to their Father. We are grateful to be going home!
And yet our joy can be more than the joy of hope: we can learn to enjoy the process that is leading to our salvation. We are indeed on a path, and we haven’t yet reached the end of it. But the path itself is full of pleasant things, things that have been created by God for us to enjoy along the way. Surely it would be wrong to have our hearts so set on heaven that we failed to appreciate the goodness of the journey by which God plans to get us there.
The Christian really does have the best of both worlds. So when we say godliness is profitable for all things, for “the life that now is” and for “that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8), we ought to be espousing more than a theory; we ought to be stating our own experience. We need to be people who reach forward eagerly, but also those who reach forward gratefully. We need to long for God fervently, but to long for God with a joy that is real right now.
We are not to make the ideas of contentment and aspiration quarrel, for God made them fast friends. A man may aspire and yet be quite content until it is time to rise; and both flying and resting are but parts of one contentment. The very fruit of the gospel is aspiration. It is to the heart what spring is to the earth, making every root, and bud, and bough desire to be more.
...Henry Ward Beecher