What About the Middle?
The Christian life begins with a BANG! How thrilling it is to obey the gospel and receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)! No wonder the Ethiopian eunuch and the Philippian jailer rejoiced immediately following baptism (Acts 8:38-39; 16:33-34).
And the Christian life culminates in being ushered into the very presence of God--joys without end!
And what about the middle? Is joy only for the start and the finish? Can we still rejoice between baptism and heaven?
Our first-century brethren did! How could they maintain their joy, and how can we? They kept rejoicing because of what they knew: "... we also exult [rejoice] in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope" (Rom. 5:3-4 NASB--emphasis added; compare James 1:2-3).
"For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one" (Heb. 10:34 NASB; compare Matt. 5:11-12).
What they knew we can know. What they knew brought them joy, and it can bring us joy too. It's important not just to know these things but to remind ourselves of them often. We can keep rejoicing because we know that trials produce spiritual growth in us. We can keep rejoicing because we know that what God has in store for us far outweighs whatever losses we may experience. Suffering is only temporary. Our inheritance lasts forever!
Our faith and our hope are based on solid facts and on the promises of God. We can know with certainty that God will fulfill His promises. He has always kept His promises. He always will. This we know and in this we rejoice!