It’s easy to find reasons to despair these days. Christians are losing their lives overseas, while our religious liberty faces increasing threats back home. The passing of Antonin Scalia has made this year’s election even more crucial, yet Donald Trump seems to be steamrolling all the other GOP candidates while expressing an odd version of Christianity.
Yet we as Christians need to remember that all is not lost. If anyone should be happy, it’s us. I’m not talking about a glass-half-full mentality; rather, I think we should always bear in mind the words of the apostle Paul:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)
Two books I’ve read recently (other than the Bible, of course) have helped me maintain the mentality of a happy warrior. Erick Erickson & Bill Blankschaen’s You Will Be Made to Care, which I recently reviewed, and Russell Moore’s Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel have served as encouragement to lead the life of a happy warrior (or a joyful warrior, since we all know that joy is better than happiness).
Here are four ways Christians can be happy warriors in 2016:
4. Remember that you’re part of an eternal kingdom that will continue through eternity.
“…perhaps most importantly, in the kingdom of God, we see who we are and where we are headed.”
–Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel
Even Christians can put too much faith in the things of this world. Moore says that we don’t even realize sometimes when we put this world first because our temporal concerns are more immediate. If we look at our lives with a kingdom mindset, we think of eternity “as a mission and an adventure” rather than as the “afterlife.”
A kingdom focus also leads us to take our eyes off of ourselves and look at how we may serve God and others. No, it’s not easy, but as Moore says, our life here on earth is a dress rehearsal for eternity, so we might as well make the most of it—and do it filled with joy!
3. Don’t forget that, even though you may lose some battles, you know Who has won the war.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
–Jesus, John 16:33 (NIV)
Let’s face it: it’s easy to rise and fall on political decisions. The Supreme Court issues a ruling, and we get down in the dumps. A state legislature passes a measure, and we jump for joy. We can allow politics to dominate our thoughts and emotions, and that’s not how it ought to be.
We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we’re never promised an easy life. We should expect the world to hate us, as Jesus told His disciples. Believers in other parts of the world have it much worse than we do, but the church seems to flourish in those places.
The old cliche goes something like, “you win some; you lose some.” What Christians need to remember is that we know the end of the story, and we win the final battle! Never, ever lose sight of that fact; it ought be enough to instill endless courage and joy in Jesus’ followers.
2. Remember that this world isn’t your home.
“Don’t make an idol of this country, but while you’re here, do your best to change it.”
–Erick Erickson, Atlanta’s Evening News with Erick Erickson, 2/15/2016
One way that many Christians in American tend to get it wrong is to idolize America. I hear far too often from fellow believers the overblown belief that the United States is a nation that is especially blessed by God as though there were some Biblical mandate of blessing for our country. As much as I love America and feel privileged to be a citizen, this notion simply isn’t true.
American Christians have conflated Christianity with “American values.” Russell Moore puts it this way:
Most Americans agreed on certain traditional values: monogamous marriage, the nuclear family, the right to life, the good of prayer and church attendance, free enterprise, a strong military, and the basic goodness of the American way of life. The argument was that this consensus represented the real America, and that, for evangelical Christians, evangelical Christianity represented the best way to preserve those values and to attain those ideals.
Those of us who are believers should never forget that we are travelers here on earth and that we have an eternal true home. We should do what we can to make this nation the best it can be, but at the same time we shouldn’t make an idol of our earthly home. We need to keep our eyes on the prize of eternity, because that’s where we can get our greatest encouragement.
1. Know that you’re not alone.
“If our faith is to survive—let alone thrive—in the times of testing that lie ahead, we need to surround ourselves with a community of fellow believers.”
–Erick Erickson & Bill Blankschaen, You Will Be Made To Care
I had the privilege of taking part in a conference call with the launch team for Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen’s book You Will Be Made to Care last week. Blankschaen asked Erickson what he thought readers should take most from the book, and Erickson replied that he wanted people to remember that “it’s OK, and you’re not alone.”
There’s a tremendous amount of encouragement that we can glean from remembering that we are part of a community of fellow believers, and we should take advantage of that community. Erickson suggests that we should band together, encouraging and strengthening each other more often. We shouldn’t wait for a perfectly clean house or for all the other circumstances to line up to have other believing friends over.
From the early days of the church, the Christian life was meant to be lived in community, and every believer needs the strengthening of other like-minded (and like-hearted) friends. We need to be there for each other, surround each other, and encourage each other now more than ever.
To my fellow Christians: don’t forget the words of Jesus when He reminded His disciples that “no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22). We live in tough times, but they’re not the end for us. Keep eternity in mind, and be a happy warrior!