Celebration Must Resist Cynicism

The month of May brings wonderful opportunities to celebrate! We affirm our moms and congratulate students who reach the milestone of graduation. We buy gifts. We gather. We eat. We laugh. We connect. This mental picture reminds me of the lyrical description: “Seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”*

Can you imagine a Mother’s Day or graduation gathering where the attendees are grumbling and complaining? No thank you. Count me out. I prefer gratitude and affirmation. I appreciate curiosity and childlike enthusiasm.

In the final chapter of his book Beautiful Resistance, Jon Tyson writes, “When we take time to celebrate, whether personally or communally, we are bringing the glory of God into the brokenness of the world around us. We’re accurately representing the God we serve and offering tangible grace to the world” (pg. 160).

Our world can be a dark, difficult place, and bad things do happen. The 24-hour news cycle and social media platforms constantly feed us a diet of despair, but the Scriptures declare that God is good! We see God respond to the evil in our world with sorrow and anger, but His character is defined by love, joy, and peace.

We are created in God’s image to be His representation in the world. May we be people of hope who can love others with joy and peace, giving out what we ourselves have received from the Holy Spirit (see Romans 13:15).

Our lives should celebrate the goodness of God because He is good. What He creates and accomplishes is good. God revealed to Job that when He laid the earth’s foundations: “The morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). May we also sing together and shout for joy as we celebrate the good that God is still producing in our world. Have you seen someone healed, set free, or restored? That’s the good work of God; let’s celebrate!

God is generous, reliable, ever-present, and strong. He has revealed Himself through the Word. Need I say more? I will! Forgiveness, restoration, and purpose is the “good news of great joy” that the angels proclaimed when the Father sent His Son into the world (see Luke 2:10). Jesus came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (see Luke 4:16-21). Tyson writes, “This is why Jesus came. He wanted not a year of Jubilee but a culture of jubilee. His whole ministry was to be defined as a celebration of our redemption and restoration by God” (pg. 153).

Take time to read the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15. These stories were told by Jesus to a group of muttering Pharisees and teachers of the law. Let’s be like Jesus and insist that the work of God includes celebration. Will we join the feast or refuse to participate?

To conclude, allow me to share one final thought from Jon Tyson: “Cynicism is killing our nation. It’s destroying our hearts. It’s putting us in a place where we cannot appreciate the joy that comes from the good news we have been given. But God has an antidote to cynicism—His presence, His redemption, and His fullness of joy. . . . May celebration overflow in your life and resist the cynicism we face today” (pg. 160).

*Home on the Range

Jon Tyson, Beautiful Resistance: The Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2020).

Sacrifice Must Resist Privilege

Sacrifice wasn’t really on my personal radar before I committed my life to Christ. I knew Jesus exemplified a life of sacrifice, but enduring a description of His Garden of Gethsemane struggle every year on Good Friday did not motivate me to follow suit—I was content to stay in the “let this cup pass from me” camp.

I became a believer late in my college years. After graduating, getting a job, attending an Alliance church, and starting to read my Bible more regularly, it wasn’t long before I ran into the biblical concept of sacrifice—specifically, tithing. My gut reaction was that 10 percent of my computer programmer’s salary was asking a lot, far beyond what I’d ever been motivated to throw in an offering plate on a “good sermon day!” But at some point, as the Holy Spirit did His work, I committed to this spiritual discipline. It felt like a huge sacrifice to me.

Imagine my surprise—and dismay—when the Holy Spirit further confronted me by the Scripture that says, “Present your bodies, a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). In view of the mercies of God, 10 percent of my salary was merely a good place to begin! I began to see that 100 percent of everything about me really belonged to Him. My worship should be a “total life” kind of sacrifice.

In his book Beautiful Resistance, Jon Tyson challenges those of us in the American Church to look out for the interests of others and reminds us that Jesus is the ultimate expression of sacrifice resisting privilege. He left the Father’s side, the most privileged place of all, to live with and die for us in ignominy and shame.

Each of us is born in the place and time of God’s choosing, and some places and times are very hard. It is important to recognize the advantages that we possess and to be keenly aware of and responsive to the disadvantages of others. Some of the categories of advantage and disadvantage that Tyson mentions are economic, racial, religious, family, and education. But consider this—no matter where you fall on the spectrum of any of these categories, there’s always someone who needs your help. No one who loves God is exempt from the command to look out for the interests of others; no one who loves God should see a person in need and close her heart against that individual.

Jesus’ sacrifice was motivated by “the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). It did not make His sacrifice any less painful, but joy was the promised reward. Our sacrifices will not be painless. When we give something away, it’s gone. But the same joy has been set before us. Let’s pursue joy together through sacrifice.

Enjoy God’s Good Gifts

“How is it with your soul?” I have not had the courage to ask this question of others, but it does come to mind as I see the hurried and worried expressions on people’s faces and in their posture. We live in a culture of information overload and 24-7 connectivity, and we are exhausted. Depleted. Numb.

As God’s representatives in this world, we must resist “third soil” culture. If you are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower, the third kind of soil was full of thorns that choked the growing plants and made them unfruitful. The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth are cited as thorns in one’s life (see Matthew 13:1-23).

So, perhaps another question must be asked, “How is it with your soil?” What is taking up space in my life that is hindering the fruitfulness of the gospel and my witness to the world? Jon Tyson, in his book Beautiful Resistance, wonders if perhaps this is why the church lacks credibility in our world. “Maybe we are just too tired to model agape love, too scheduled to show compassion, too distracted to pray, too much like the exhausted culture around us” (pg. 49).

I have good news for us all: Jesus offers the invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take me yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28). We are all yoked to something. We are yoked to the pace of our culture, or we are yoked to Him (Tyson, pg. 48). There is another way to live. God extends an invitation to 24-6 living. Take a day to rest—Sabbath. This is God’s gift to an exhausted human race.

When I was a child, Sundays—what I was taught as Sabbath—were less than pleasurable. In fact, I thought they were boring. My focus was on all the things I couldn’t do on that day. I did not see Sabbath as a good gift from God.

Now, as an adult seeking respite from a loud, busy world, I embrace this good gift! God invites me to receive whatever will restore my soul and de-thorn my soil. On some Sabbaths, I enjoy a luxurious nap. At other times, I take a leisurely walk, taking photos of what catches my eye in nature, enjoying simply being with Him. I’m invited to feast on beauty in nature or art or literature. I’m invited to linger over a good book or around a table, feasting on friendships and good food. I love this word picture: “On the Sabbath, we are reminded that Christians are called to order desserts and laugh till it hurts” (Tyson, pg. 57). Not all Sabbaths occur on Sunday, but I am better equipped to represent Him well when I receive His invitation to 24-6 living.

Receive from God what will restore your soul. Ask Him to help you remove thorns from your soil. Delight in the goodness of God. Find rest.