Inright, Outright, Upright, Downright, Happy All The Time?

Inright, Outright, Upright, Downright, Happy All The Time? May 30, 2022

There’s a song we used to sing in Sunday school, for those of us who grew up in Church:

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright, happy all the time!

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright, happy all the time!

Since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin,

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright, happy all the time!

Sunset, Beach, Silhouettes, Jump, Jumping, Youth

Image via Pixabay

 

(I was going to post a YouTube link here but didn’t want to torture the uninitiated by having that tune stuck in your head all day.)

For those church kids who already knew it and now will most certainly have it stuck in their heads all day, I do apologize.

So – catchy kids’ church music at its best.

Repetitive, earwormy, simple enough for kids to grasp, sharing a truth that they can grab onto, etc.

And of course, endorsing a theology that is far too simple for real life.

We’re not literally happy all the time.

Even Jesus wept (Jn 11.35).

But of course, the truth of the joy that we have in the Good News is an important one, and it’s good to teach it to our children.

The apostle Paul gives us a more in-depth and nuanced look at how this works alongside the struggles of real life.

First, consider the kind of life Paul lived as an apostle of Jesus Christ:

 

23I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2Co 11.23-29)

 

Sign me up! You don’t hear this sort of thing in too many evangelistic messages: “Suffering is coming!”

And yet, even in all of this, Paul lived his difficult and persecuted life from a place of peace:

 

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (Phil 4.12-13)

 

Paul knows a “secret!”

That’s great marketing.

If Paul was writing today, he could have called the book of Philippians “The Secret” and made a billion dollars.

But there is a crucial key here – there is something that Paul has learned that he wants us to know.

Regardless of circumstance, he can be content.

He’s not probably literally “happy all the time,” but he has found the secret to contentment, to being at peace in his soul, without worrying about circumstances.

The solution is this: Paul can do all things through Christ who gives him strength.

It’s the Sunday School answer!

“How is your soul at peace in the hard times?”

“Jesus!”

More specifically, Paul finds his peace through resting in Christ, receiving the strength that can only come from His Spirit, getting everything that he needs from abiding and communing with Jesus and being strengthened from that place.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” gets posted on social media a lot and makes a great bumper sticker, but it’s not at all about “I am going to go and do great and important and impossible things because of Jesus!”, which is how it often gets interpreted.

It’s actually about, “Regardless of what my circumstances say, my soul will be content and at peace in Him, and I can do this because of Him and Him alone.”

If we are waiting for our circumstances to get better, assuming that peace will come then, then we are missing the point.

There is a contentment available to us now, no matter what circumstance we are in, and that’s actually better news.

There is a contentment we can access regardless of circumstance, so that we don’t need to wait for a change of circumstance to find it.

Where in your life do you feel close to Jesus?

Where do you sense His presence?

Where does your soul find refreshment in Him?

Where does your faith, hope, and love get stirred up?

Unapologetically run to those places.

Unapologetically carve out time for them.

Unapologetically make them a priority.

As we seek and find the Lord in these places, there is strength, peace, and contentment for our souls, not denying our circumstances, but finding the Spirit regardless of circumstances.

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If you’ve enjoyed what you read here, you can follow Third Way Christians on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up here to get new columns emailed directly to you! As well, you can track along with Chris’ Sunday morning teaching at Meadow Brook Church’s YouTube page!

 


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