July 12, 2015 | Andrew Davis
It’s no secret to many of you that yesterday was one of the happiest days of my ministry. I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of my son, and that was a joy unspeakable, and to see him so happy with his bride. I would say for me, one of the richest parts of yesterday was at the reception, looking around in the room and seeing members of our church and of our Christian family and then Christians that I didn't know that were friends of Nathaniel and Dorothy's there too, and I knew that what drew us together was Christ. These were people that were rejoicing with us as we rejoiced, they were celebrating someone else's happiness. What was amazing to me was looking at specific people who I know are carrying a burden, who have been recently bereaved or are going through medical trials that are unspeakable, they're going through all kinds of things, and they're able to set that aside and rejoice with our family. That's incredible to me. Then I had this thought. What if no one came to the reception? What if you got married and no one came to your reception, if you threw a party and no one cared enough to come, no one rejoiced with you over your joy and how empty that would be? I thought about lost people in the world, who live their lives like that, and it brings my mind to one of the saddest days of my ministry.
It had to do with a funeral, and I was called by a funeral home on behalf of a woman who had died. I didn't know her. As a matter of fact, no one knew her, and her neighbor who had met her three months before that had gotten to know her and had enough compassion on her to pay for a graveside funeral. Would I be willing to do it? I said, sure, and I went with my son and this neighbor was there with his son, and two members of the funeral home and no one else. It occurred to me that one of the saddest conditions there could be in this world is to have no one at all who knows you, who rejoices with you when you rejoice, who mourns with you when you mourn. Isn't it one of the great delights of being a Christian, that He has settled us, no matter what our biological family condition, He has settled us in a royal family in the church, and we have brothers and sisters who will obey the text I'm preaching on today, and who will celebrate the happy moments of our lives, so we're not celebrating alone, and frankly by their celebration will greatly multiply our enjoyment of it, but then who will also at other times come alongside us and mourn with us and lift burdens from us and live life with us.
My desire today in preaching this message is that First Baptist Church would be filled with corporate compassion, that we would be a congregation characterized by heartfelt sympathy and compassion for other members, and praise God it already is. I see it, and rivers of that kind of compassion are already flowing, but like Paul says in Thessalonians, you are in fact loving the brothers, now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do so more and more, so that we would be more compassionate than ever before. That's my goal.
The Natural Heart in Not Compassionate
We live in a cold-hearted world, don't we? We live in a world that just simply doesn't care, characterized by indifference. When I was growing up, I loved to read history. I remember I was, I think maybe 12 or 13, and I read a particular history book about World War I, and I found out something there that I didn't know. During the midst of World War I, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks. Something hit me in the account, the world was largely indifferent to their fate. I thought how could that even be? How could it be that 1.5 million Armenians could be slaughtered and the world be indifferent to their fate. That stuck with me, that expression, the world was largely indifferent to their fate. It occurs to me that that goes way back, back to the time of Cain and Abel. Remember when Cain had murdered his brother, then God confronted him and said, Where is your brother Abel? Remember what he said? “I don't know, am I my brother's keeper?” That's indifference. “I don't care where he is now.” It’s also a gross hypocrisy because he knew exactly where the body of his brother was. We see it also in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This man is attacked and is laying bleeding by the side of the road. A priest sees him and moves on by on the other side, and then the Levite comes along and he sees him and moves by on the other side. Jesus is very precise that both the priest and Levite saw this bleeding man and went to the other side, they were indifferent to his suffering, they just didn't care. The natural heart doesn't care.
I would not say the natural heart is a murderous highway robber. That's not true, that's not normal. But what is natural is for us in our sin, not to care at all about other people's things, good or bad, to be indifferent, and I believe the only remedy that there can be is the gospel of Jesus Christ, that's the cure. In this world, that is a congregation of people, a community of people who have been transformed, who have had the heart of stone removed and the heart of flesh given, and who actually genuinely do care about other people. It is for us to be an oasis of God's mercies and God's compassion in the midst of this indifferent world. That's what I yearn for, and that's a beautiful thing, to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
Now, as we come to this single verse. As we try to understand it, it has to do with emotions, feelings. It has to do with joy and sorrow, and as we come to the realm of emotion, of feeling, many of us are tempted to think, "Do I really have any control over this at all? Can I actually feel something about another person, can I feel genuine joy for someone else or genuine sorrow?" It brings us to that question, can I control my emotions? Is that something I can do? Some people just say, "I can't help, it's just the way I feel." Have you ever known someone like that? Have you ever been someone like that? I can't help it. it’s just how I feel. The command implies that we do have control over our feelings, that there are some things we can do to be transformed in terms of our compassion, but most of us know that there's a work that needs to be done in us. You hear somebody's good news and you put on a happy face and, well, that's great. I'm so happy for you, some are better at faking it than others. I don't think this text is talking about acting, that's hypocrisy, it's talking about a genuine work of grace in which we actually do rejoice, or then someone comes along and there's a friend at church and you say, "What's up?" Then he would say, "Oh, well, I'm just feeling kind of down right now." Then they start to unload on you, and the river starts coming out, and feelings inside you start to rise of, frankly, irritation, and they're burdening you with their problems. But right here in the midst of Romans, we have this implication that God's grace is able to transform our hearts in those situations and give us compassion as he has.
God is Compassionate
Now to us, our emotional life is patterned after God. God is an emotional being, and that's perfectly reflected in his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Christ was an emotional being. You can see his emotions flowing, so our redemption is being transformed, conformed to the image of Christ, that we would actually be like him. He was very compassionate. The Bible talks about Jesus's emotions and He has joy in some places, and He has sorrow in others, but the number one emotion that's ascribed to Jesus is compassion, and in this way He is a perfect reflection of God. The Greeks, especially the Stoics, posited a God who had no emotions at all, perfect thinking machine, so lofty and so distant from the daily events of human life that he was literally apathetic. That's what the Greek word “apartheia” means, feeling nothing. But the God of the Bible is not so. As a matter of fact, in Exodus 3, when God was calling Moses at the burning bush, He said to Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I've heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering, so I have come down to rescue them.” That's the compassion of God. Isn't it amazing that God, though He could be every bit as infinitely loft, even more lofty than the Stoics ever thought God could be. He sits enthroned above the circle of the Earth, and the people are like grasshoppers, and the nations are like a drop from the bucket. Yet He has chosen to link his feelings to us in our grief and misery, in our sin and be compassionate toward us, and the perfect display of that is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
That's how the father of the prodigal runs out to meet us in our misery through Christ, in compassion. We see the compassion of Christ, we see it again and again in his healings. Remember when the leper came to Jesus and said, "Lord, if you're willing, you can make me clean." The text says, "Jesus moved with compassion, said, 'I am willing, be clean,'" and he was clean. One of my favorite stories of Jesus's compassion I've mentioned a number of times is when he meets that widow at Nain whose only son had died. It was a funeral procession, and they are weeping in ways that are hard to imagine, the economic side of being a widow anyway, and then your only son, dead. The text in Luke 7 said, "When the Lord saw, he had compassion on her and said to her, 'Don't cry.'" I love the order of the sequencing, first thing, go to the woman, tell her not to cry. He hadn't done anything yet, but He's about to do something. He stopped the procession, He touched the bier where the corpse was, and the coffin, and said, "Young man, I say to you, get up," and he came to life. That was Jesus, He was moved by compassion. Or then again, the feeding of the 5000, He said to his disciples, “I have compassion with these people, they've been with me several days and they have nothing to eat, if I send them home, they may collapse on the way.” That's why he did the feeding of the 5000. The Holy Spirit works in our cold, hard, distant hearts to make us like Jesus. That's the work that I'm preaching about here.
Let's look at the text in its context, Romans 12:15 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn." The context is the section of Romans, which is a very practical application, beginning at Romans 12:1, onto chapter 16 of the incredible unfolding, the most meticulous careful unfolding of the gospel of our salvation, there is in the Bible. Eleven chapters of Romans and he begins there in 12:1 saying, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God... " Or “in view of the mercies”, plural, “the mercies of God.” We were singing earlier “Come Thou Fount,” “streams of mercy, never failing.” God has compassion on you every day, his mercies are new every morning, he's pouring out compassion on you through Christ. In view of that then practically, how shall we live? Romans 1-11 tells us what the gospel is, this is the power of God for salvation, for us, cold-hearted distant sinners who are indifferent to other people. The power of God is the gospel, and we need this kind of transformation because we are sinners. Romans 1-3 makes that so plain, culminating in those powerful words that come like a pile driver on our lives and on our hearts. There is was no one righteous, not even one, no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, they to together become worthless. There is no one who does good, not even one.
For our purpose today, what we're saying is, none of us are compassionate, all of us are indifferent. We're all the priest and the Levite walking by on the other side, that's who we are. But the grace of God has appeared in Christ, and God presented him as a propitiation, a sacrifice of atonement, taking all of God's wrath for our sins on himself, He died in our place. God raised him from the dead on the third day to show that the atoning sacrifice was acceptable, and we can be forgiven for all of our cold-hearted indifference. We are justified by faith alone, not by works. You'll never be justified by how compassionate you are. you're going to be justified by how compassionate God the Father has been to you. How much goodness He has shown you in Christ.
But we're justified by faith, and then having been justified, we have had peace with God, complete forgiveness of all of our sins, past, present and future, and now the gift of the indwelling Spirit. Now we are on this journey of sanctification, and part of it, a subset of it, is this issue of compassion. We're not to just give in to our sins and just say, "This is who I am, I'm somebody who doesn't care about anyone." That's not acceptable. The Holy Spirit is coming and saying, "You must be changed. You must be transformed,” and it's hard, Romans 7 makes it very plain. The very thing that we would do, the good that we would do, we do not do. And the very thing that we hate, we do, because of indwelling sin. But in Romans 8, by the power of the Spirit, we are enabled to overcome the flesh and walk in the pattern of the law. So that's what we have. He says that "In view of the Gospel, in view of God's mercies, I urge you... " And then he goes, vertical, "Present your body to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to him."
God Enables us to be Compassionate
So it starts there, in view of the gospel, present yourself every day to God. Make me a different man or woman, boy or girl, make me someone different, and then he gives us some very practical ways that we are to be different. In verses 9 and following, "Love must be sincere, hate what is evil, cling to what is good, be devoted to one another in brotherly love, honor one another above yourself, never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord, be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer, share with God's people who are in need, practice hospitality, bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse." Those are just different short statements of the command of how to live a Christian life in view of God's mercies. We come to our verse now, verse 15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn."
Rejoicing with Those who Rejoice
What I want to do is take them separately and look at them individually, first, rejoice with those who rejoice. What does it mean to rejoice with those who rejoice? It should go without saying that this is in reference to godly joys. We're not going to be celebrating someone who has come up with a scheme to defraud the IRS of half of their taxes. It's like, "Oh good, how do I get in on that?" That's not what we're talking about here. We're not rejoicing in sinful things. This is a godly joy, and it's a genuine joy. Again, we're not talking about “fake it till you make it”, we're not talking about hypocrisy. We want the real thing, we want genuine joy in our hearts because somebody else is being blessed. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that this is the more difficult of the two. I actually spent almost a whole day meditating on that insight. Why is it hard to rejoice with those who rejoice? He said, it's because when you're mourning with those who mourn, that person is down and you're up, or you're more up than they are, and you're in a stronger position and you're reaching down to help them up. But in rejoicing with those who rejoice, it's generally reversed and they're in the strong position, in the up position, and you're in the down position and you're celebrating their up situation, it's hard. I mean, fundamentally, the reason is because we are covetous, we are jealous of other people's blessings. We think, "It should have been me. Why wasn't it me?" We may even direct it toward God and say, "Don't you love me, look at all the blessing you're doing to him or her, and look at me. Don't you love me?" So we feel insecure. We wonder if God loves us. We see everything from our selfish point of view, that's what the flesh is, we're born with it as infant, a fanatical commitment to self. Have you ever seen that in an infant? Only the Gospel can train us. That's our homebase, fanatical commitment to self. It's hard to rejoice with somebody that's rejoicing because we're wondering about ourselves. Also, it's hard to be in competition, so we feel, for the blessings and good stuff of the earth. Have you ever seen like a food truck going to some famine-ravaged area or some poverty-stricken area, and they're throwing things out and people are actually fighting, they're at war with each other to grab the boxes that are coming off the truck. We actually kind of behave like we're in competition for these blessings, like there's a limited supply and you got to go fight to get yours.
There are so many scenarios in which we can imagine how it would be hard to rejoice with those who rejoice. Let's take healing for example. Suppose you are a man or a woman who's recently lost a spouse to a disease, and then some time in the next course of the year, one of your friends' spouses is healed from that same disease, and they want to share their joy with you. They get tears coming down their face, and they're just so happy. Do you see why it'd be hard to rejoice with that person? You say, "What happened in my case, Lord? Why didn't you heal my husband or my wife? Why not?" Or you could imagine on the issue of marriage, Imagine you could have a young woman who yearns to be married, thinks about it every day, is getting older day by day, and maybe the last of her single friends just got engaged, and she wants to come over and show that friend her engagement ring. You can see why it'd be hard to rejoice with someone who's rejoicing. "What about me? Is there someone out there for me? Is there something wrong with me? Lord, don't you love me?" What about children? You could have a situation which there's a childless couple that really yearns every single day, and they're praying, and maybe even have taken medical steps to try to get pregnant, and they're beginning adoption proceedings and all that. They're surrounded by fertile couples, and baby after baby being born. It's just, "I want to rejoice, but I feel sad, there's something missing in our lives, and I don't know why God couldn't just simply bless us the way he is abundantly blessing other families." It’s hard to rejoice with those who rejoice. Then there's finances, possessions, lifestyle. This is kind of home base on covetousness, it's in the 10 Commandments, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house." You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. But then you see that one of your Christian brothers or sisters is living at a higher level than you are, maybe better home, better car, isn't having the struggles you're having. It’s just very, very easy to be jealous and covetous and not rejoice when they get that promotion or they get that bonus or some other thing happens. Any honor, any award, any achievement, any time that someone else stands up on the podium of life and bends over and gets the medal draped around their neck, it is just so easy to be jealous and covetous and not rejoice with that person in their honor.
Then there are spiritual blessings. They go, "Well, at least we do well on that." Not always. I mean, sometimes we're not delighted to see somebody else just do well spiritually, or grow or make progress or memorize the book of the Bible. Maybe one church could be jealous of another church where God is just pouring out blessings and tons of people are getting baptized at that church and not so much at this one, and so it's just easy to feel jealous. So that's why it's difficult. How do we do it? How do we actually obey this command? Let's start with conversion. You can't do what I'm saying if you're not born again. Let's go back to Cain. The root of his murder of his brother is that the Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, He did not look with favor, and so Cain was filled with jealousy and he rose up and murdered his brother. 1 John 3:12, "Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous." You will not be able to rejoice with those who rejoice, or mourn with those who mourn if you are not converted. So you must have this work of grace, the Gospel work in your life. Be sure that you are in Christ. If you would find in Christ, forgiveness for all your sins, and you know that God has been merciful to you and has shown you compassion, then you're going to have a fountain open of compassion to give to others. Come to Christ. I plead with you, don't leave this place unconverted. If you don't know Christ, if you're not certain whether you're Christian, talk to me after the service, talk to one of the other elders, talk to someone here. I don't want you to leave unconverted. So start there, start with conversion.
But secondly, understand this, God's blessings never run out. There's not a limited supply of them. They just multiply and multiply and multiply. It's a river of blessings. There's plenty of blessing for everyone, but God doesn't bless everyone in exactly the same way, and God doesn't bless everyone to exactly the same degree. We just need to accept that God is sovereign-concerned. There's no lack of love toward you, and there's no lack of blessings. He's just wisely apportioning blessings as He sees fit. Imagine being one of the 5,000 being fed, and you're told, and it's right there in the text, to sit down on the ground in groups of 50, etcetera, and you're seeing other people getting served and you haven't had yours yet, and you get up and start to clamor and fight for it. The Lord could say, "Sit down and wait. I have you in mind. It's coming toward you. Be patient. There's no lack of my power, there's no lack of my love. I will bless you. Be patient and wait."
Thirdly, thank God more for the blessings you already have. You may be a single young man or woman waiting for a spouse, yearning for that, but if you're a Christian, I tell you, you've already been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Think about it. God chose you by name before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. He predestined you to be adopted as his son or daughter. At the right time, He drew you by sovereign grace out of darkness into light. He adopted you as his child. He put his Holy Spirit in you, and He has given you an absolutely secure place in heaven. Is that not enough for you? I say this to myself a lot. Has Christ, crucified and resurrected, done enough for you to be happy today? So know the blessing you already have. Beyond that as God said to David, "If this had been too little, I would have given you even more." Look at all of the blessings He's given you of a temporal nature, how richly blessed you are. Thank him for your blessings.
Fourthly, pray more for other people, specifically for other people that they would be blessed. That'll get you up out of yourself and start looking to others and say, "Oh, I wish you would bless this brother," "Oh, how I yearn for you to bless this sister," and you just start doing that. As a matter of fact, I would urge that you go right for your weak areas. If you're a childless couple, pray for other couples, childless or not, it doesn't matter, that they would have children. Because you know what it feels like to be waiting on God for that blessing. Again, if you're one who's recently been bereaved, pray for others that are going through a similar thing that you went through, that God would heal them, that He would because you know what it feels like to lose someone. So when they are healed, you won't be jealous, you'll just thank God He answered your prayer.
Fifthly, thank God for your own afflictions, lacks and shortcomings. Every single one of them has been carefully measured out by God's sovereign grace. You need your lacks and your shortcomings and your weaknesses. You need them. I do too. Paul says, "Therefore, I will boast in all of my weaknesses, because when I'm weak, then I'm strong.” [2 Corinthians 12:10] Sixthly, ask God to work compassion in you supernaturally by his Holy Spirit. Ask him to move in you supernaturally to make you a genuinely compassionate person. Seventh, meditate more on the body of Christ, the doctrine of the body. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, "If one part of the body, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part is honored with it." Is that really true? If somebody else gets it, yes, that's your brother in Christ, your sister in Christ, you're part of the family, you're honored with that person. Meditate on that.
Eighth, especially, can I urge you, focus on spiritual joys. Rejoice with those who are blessed spiritually. Let's start with conversion. Let's start with rejoicing when you hear that other people get converted. Think about the cycle of three parables in Luke 15, The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son. All three of the parables end in a party. The shepherd says to his neighbors, "Rejoice with me, I've found my last sheep." The second, the woman is searching and searching for her lost coin and she says to her neighbors, "Rejoice with me, I've found my lost coin." Then best of all, the father of the prodigal son, they killed a fatty calf, they have a party. They celebrate. They celebrate richly. The only one who isn't celebrating is the older brother. Do you want to play that role? Do you want to be the one who doesn't care?
God the Father is saying through these three parables, "Rejoice with me, what I've been looking for for years, I found today." There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents and God is saying, "I want you to celebrate with me. This is the work I'm doing in the world, so you need to celebrate." What that means is when we have a baptism here, you need to just be moved, and if you cry when you're happy, then cry. You need to care that that brother or sister is getting baptized today, and rejoice in it. It doesn't matter whether you are instrumental in leading that person to Christ, that's a person who's been brought from darkness to light, and so rejoice in that. Join God in his celebration. Charles Spurgeon at a baptismal service for 118 people joining at his church, 118, what a richly blessed ministry that was. He preached on this text, Romans 12:15, and he zeroed in on this, he said, "Dear friends, if you do not praise God for souls snatched from the jaws of hell, and by divine grace, taught to walk in the way of Heaven, what will you praise him for? If heaven itself is glad, you who hope to go to heaven, will you not participate in the joy?"
When we hear that there's a baptism, we should just come with an expectancy of joy and celebration. We should celebrate whenever we hear of the advance of missions. We should be searching out stories to celebrate, find out what's God done in the world this week, how has he reached an unreached people group, or what are some stories, and then you celebrate. We should celebrate other people's spiritual development and growth. I think that's the core of a culture of discipleship I want to see happen here in this church, that we will actually celebrate a younger, less mature Christian as they take faith steps, as they start developing their quiet time life, as they maybe start to memorize a few verses of the Bible. When you see the mentor, a man or a woman, working with that younger man or woman, say, "Well done," or "Good job.” That's part of a culture of discipleship, celebrating other people's growth. I yearn for this church to be like that, a culture of discipleship. We should rejoice with those who rejoice.
Mourning with Those who Mourn
The second half of the verse says, "Mourn with those who mourn." Again, I’m going to ask the same kind of questions. First of all, what does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Secondly, why is it difficult? Thirdly, what blessings can come from it? Fourthly, how do we do it? What does it mean to mourn? To mourn with those who mourn is to have your heart wrapped up in the condition of another, to be genuinely moved with the sorrow of another person, to have your heart melt, to grieve as though it were happening to you. It is conformity to Christ, who it says in Isaiah 53, was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. The next verse says, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows." He took them into himself. When I was preaching a few months ago in Isaiah 53, I pictured two people going along, hiking out in the Rockies, and one of them getting attacked by a rattlesnake, and then the other friend immediately ripping the pant leg and sucking the poison out of the leg. Jesus has done that for us, for the world. He came in here to suck the poison out and take it into himself and die. That kind of compassion, that's what the Holy Spirit is working in us, you hear of misery and move toward it, not away. That is hard, isn't it? You hear of misery and you move toward it, you don't shrink back. You go to the house of mourning that had a recent death and you comfort the grief-stricken family. You hear of a sister in Christ whose boyfriend of several years, who she thought was about to propose, actually broke up with her today, and you go and sit with her and cry. You're moving towards sorrow, not away from it. You reach out to a lonely person and draw them close, maybe a single man or woman who doesn't seem to know anyone well and is suffering with loneliness. There was a critical time in my life when Mark Dever, who's pastor of CHBC, Capital Hill Baptist Church, was up in Massachusetts at that time. It was a really, really rough day for me, and he came up next to me and he knew what was going on and he said, "How was today for you?" "It's so hard." And then he asked this question, he said, "Andy, who's loving you right now?" That is just one of the greatest pastoral questions you can ever ask. Look at that person and think, what do you know about them? Who's loving them right now in the church? I drove home, it was about a 45-minute drive away. As soon as I got there, the phone rang. It was Mark. He's a very persistent guy. He said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm just home." He said, "Who's there?" I said, "No one." He said, "Come over here, now. Come here." I was just there, but he had a guest room and he didn't want me to be alone. I drove all the way back and slept in the guest room, and he just got me through. It was just compassion. I'll never forget that. And that's the church, isn't it? That's what you do.
It's like you're looking at who's lonely, who's isolated, who's on the outside, and who's loving that person right now? You hear a misery and you move toward it, not like Job's friends. Don't do that. They were really good when they were quiet, did you notice that, when they go sit with him, they saw how great his suffering was, and they sat with him silently. If that's the best you can do, do that, but if you're going to do what Job's friends do, which within a couple of chapters, "Is not your wickedness endless?" Where'd that come from? That's not comforting—this is the most righteous man on Earth, and they're saying, "Is not your wickedness endless?" I'm wondering if they even knew him. But it's a ministry of presence, a ministry of being there.
Again, the special focus here is on spiritual troubles, sin troubles. The greatest misery in this world is caused directly by sin. Sin makes people miserable. I remember a friend saying, "Sick sheep bite." So when someone's in sin, they're going to give you a hard time, but do it anyway, go and help them through, say, "I want to help you with this." Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 11. "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin and I do not inwardly burn?" That's a compassionate person who's worried about his spiritual children and wants to be sure they're not sinning.
Why is it difficult? Well, it should be obvious. It's miserable. Someone's miserable. You're fine, you're doing great, and you have to go and take on a sorrow and a misery onto yourself, and it's hard to do. You worry also that they're going to suck you dry. One thing you learn about needy people is, well, they're needy, and you're like, "Am I going to have what it takes to be with this person and walk with them through the valley of the shadow of death?" and you worry about that. "Am I going to have the resources? You tend to move from them rather than toward them. Sometimes people can feel like a burden and you tend to avoid them. Don't be the priest and the Levite that see misery and goes by on the other side.
What blessings come from it? First, bringing glory to God as you are more and more conformed to Christ, as you become more and more like Christ, it glorifies God. Secondly, you can feel the power of the Spirit of Christ moving in you as you do this. You know that the Holy Spirit is helping you do this. In that there's a partnership with Christ by his Spirit as he works in this.
Thirdly, there's a realism about the world in which we live. It could be that you are abundantly blessed right now, financially, with good health, everything's going well in your life and in your world and all that. Concerning the mana, it said, "He who gathered much did not have too much." It could be that God has accumulated resources so that you can go be generous to others, and that's not just financial, it could be spiritual resources of energy and vitality to go into somebody who's really low right now, and for you to pour out and go home tired and sad because you did it, and that's why the Lord has done it. Fourthly, with unity in the body of Christ, we grow, if one part suffers, the whole body suffers with it, to understand that way, the body of Christ. Fifthly, it's attractive evangelistic power when a community is actually doing this. I had some unsaved relatives at my son’s wedding. I am delighted at how the body of Christ was displayed in front of them. It was a joy. This has evangelistic power when there is a kind of a community that will come alongside people and rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Lastly, there is a reward in Heaven, Jesus in effect, saying, "I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was weeping and you wept with me. Enter into the joy of your master.” You never lose your reward.
How do you do it? Start with prayer for yourself. Be honest. Tell God what He already knows about you, but you're only learning now about you. He already knows that. Tell them, "God, honestly, I don't care like I should. Would you please transform me and enable me to mourn with those who mourn? Would you please work in this?" Then just pray for others. I would urge you to pray for different categories of people. Just have uploaded in your mind, categories of people that you're going to fill in with different names over time, but find someone who is sick and needs healing and pray for them. Find someone who's lonely on the outside and needs a friend, pray for them. Find someone who's financially hurting and pray for them that their needs will be met. Find someone who's struggling with sin, with indwelling, besetting sin, and pray for them. Find a single person who's yearning to be married and pray for them, or a childless couple that's yearning for a baby and pray for them. Pray for those categories. These categories will be ongoing. You're just going to have those kinds of suffering, pray for those people. Then after having prayed for them, go get to know them and listen to their troubles. Talk to them about what's going on and be part of that. Keep alert to the suffering in the church. Ask the elders if they know of any suffering people. Care about brothers and sisters around the world. Care about the persecuted church. Find out about brothers and sisters that are incarcerated. It says in Scripture, pray for them as if you were in prison with them, as if it were happening to you.
Let's develop not only a culture of discipleship that I mentioned earlier, but a culture of evangelism. Remember how Jesus looked out and saw the lost? They are the saddest people there are in the world. They're on the outside. Jesus saw that they're harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, and said, "The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers." Compassion for the lost, a culture of evangelism.
A Time of Rejoicing without Mourning
Now, finally, our heavenly destination, where are we going? Some of you know that one of the most influential sermons I've ever read was by Jonathan Edwards, "Heaven is a World of Love, it's the End of Charity and its Fruit." I meditated again on that in reference to this topic. You're going to a place where you are going to be liberated forever from your selfishness, and you are going to celebrate other people's honors and glory with a perfect joy as though it were yours. It won't matter if it's a greater honor and glory than yours, it will not matter because it's all coming from Christ. You will be so completely free of your selfishness, you will be able perfectly to delight in the honors and glories and performance given to others, and it will not matter to you at all that they weren't given to you. You will rejoice and delight in that. You will rejoice with those who rejoice as you have never done here on earth, and you will do it perfectly, because all of those beams of glory are going back to the source, Almighty God, He gave them. On the flip side, you won't mourn at all. There won't be any mourning people. Death and mourning and crying and pain will be gone forever, so you can focus entirely on the first half of the verse at that point. All you'll have to do is rejoice with those who rejoice, because mourning will be no more.