For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. Philemon 1:7 (KJV)
What brings you joy? Are you taking joy in your possessions? Are you rejoicing over the government's decisions? Are you finding great pleasure in what Hollywood has produced lately? Are you finding solace in the success of your favorite sports team? Are you spending hours playing video games?
Our American society takes great pleasure and delight in many activities. Recreation has become a place where we hide from our stresses and seek a time of rest and comfort. There is nothing wrong with enjoying ourselves, provided that what we derive our pleasure does not become our god.
Paul sat under guard when he wrote Philemon. He had endured stonings, he had endured beatings, he had endured desertion of friends. Life boiled down to existence. When all was stripped away from him, where did he find his joy and comfort? From those fellow Christians who loved and served the saints (those people who are saved by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ).
A while back, my husband and I took an account of our recreation budget and laughed. According to Dave Ramsey*, this portion of our budget should be 5 to 10% of our overall spending budget. We laughed because our recreation budget didn't even make 1%.
However, this finding made me reflect on where our "joy" (that is, our pleasure) is placed. How are we spending our spare time? For us, our spare time is spent with our immediate family and our church family. We don't attend sports games. We rarely go to the movie theaters. While we do enjoy playing board games (and now, via the Internet so that we can include or kids that live a few states away), the purpose is the fellowship, not the games.
When I look at what brings me the most joy, I realized that spending time with my father, or my adult children, discussing some Biblical passage is something I look forward to doing. I love getting together with other Christians and discussing God's work and things of His Word. My favorite family times are around the supper table when we are talking about some Bible story. These are times of real joy.
I don't believe these "joys" are natural. When I am daily studying God's Word, meditating and praying, and listening to good music then my joy and consolation comes from knowing others are walking with Him and enjoying fellowship with them. When my mind is cleared of the things of this world, then I discover great joy in the things of God as revealed through fellow believers.
I wonder if we better off to be as Paul and have all things stripped from us except the essentials of life to experience the great joy and consolation that Paul found in knowing others love and service to fellow Christians.
* Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University Workbook (The Lampo Group, Inc., Brentwood, TN, 2008) 52.