by Brent Amato
The 2017 CLS National Conference theme is Discovering Joy in the Law. Our devotionals will concentrate on the theme of "joy" through October.
“Things” are everywhere. They surround us. They weave their way into our minds and hearts, both tangible and intangible. What is your attitude toward your “things” and how do they affect your joy?
Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on the book of Philippians, entitled Be Joyful, identified four “joy-stealers”: circumstances, people, things (tangible and intangible), and worry. Can there be joy in spite of things? Wiersbe suggests that the key to such joy is the “spiritual mind,” looking at “things” from God’s point of view (Philippians 3:18-20).
The recent hurricanes have framed the issue for all of us with regard to our tangible things. What if your house was totally destroyed in the flood waters or by the hurricane itself? What would be on your mind and heart?
The Apostle Paul’s “things” were not of a tangible nature (Acts 20:33), but rather of an intangible nature (Philippians 3:4-6). He references his vocational training, religious standing, position, accomplishments, conduct, character, and reputation. Lawyers and law students live in this world as well, including education, accomplishments, law firm prestige, partnership, and reputation; however, sometimes those intangibles are elusive - law students fail in law school, law school graduates have not landed lawyer jobs years after graduating, associates have been passed over for partnership, and seasoned attorneys suffer from firms that have imploded or clients who have left them. Have these intangible things ever gotten in the way of your Christian joy?
The Bible has a lot to say about “things of this world.” Jesus teaches “‘Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed, for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions’” (Luke 12:15). John, the disciple tells us “not to love the things of the world” (I John 2:15-17).
Wiersbe writes, “We want to possess things and then discover that things possess us…. People who live for the things of the world will never experience real joy because they must constantly protect their treasures and worry lest they lose their value.…For the believers with a spiritual mind, their treasures are in Christ, which can never be stolen or lose their value.”
Philippians presents Paul’s spiritual biography, in which he exercises the spiritual mind and experiences joy in spite of things.
First, he examines his past before his encounter with Christ (Phil 3:4-11) and counts it all as “loss for the sake of Christ” and “rubbish in order that I may gain Christ…be found in Him [and]… know Him.” He adopts new values.
Second, he examines his life with Christ (Phil 3:12-16), pressing on and reaching forward, “toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He refuses to be satisfied with his spiritual state, living with devotion, direction, determination and discipline. He adopts new energy.
Finally, he reflects on his future, viewing himself as an alien on earth and a citizen in heaven (Phil 3:17-21). He contrasts two types of people with two different destinies -- one leading to destruction, the other leading to ultimate transformation, with joy along the way. As a result, Paul adopts new vision.
Paul exercised the spiritual mind. Paul exhorts us to “join in following my example” (Phil 3:17). May it be so for you, as a lawyer or law student for Jesus Christ, for whom you are willing to give up all things of this world and discover joy along the way.
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Brent Amato is the CLS Chicagoland Coordinator and former CLS national president and board member. He meets with lawyers, law students, and other professionals in the law in and around Chicago. He also is looking for others like himself to train and do the same work in other big cities.