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Called to Suffering, Partakers of Joy: An Interview with Ajith Fernando

 

Pneuma Review: If true happiness is a life well-lived, how does understanding the place of joy and pain help us to live better lives?

Ajith Fernando: Joy is one of the great incentives to holiness. It is such a wonderful treasure that we will not allow anything to take it away. We know that unholiness drives away joy, so joy becomes a motive for us to pursue holiness.

When people are not theologically prepared for suffering, often they move away from God’s call and settle for something much less glorious than what God intended for them.

It is the same with suffering for our convictions and principles. The lack of integrity is such a huge problem not only in society but also in the church. If we knew that the greatest treasure in our life—joy—is going to be lost by us breaking our principles, we will stick to our principles because we want to remain rich! When we suffer for our principles we are not being fools, which is what people often say we are. Actually, we do this in our own best interest. We want to be happy; and we will suffer anything in order to preserve our happiness. Some people break Christian principles in order to succeed in life because they think that their success will make them happy and contented. But they are mistaken. Those who stick to their principles remain contented because they have the greatest treasure in life—the presence of Jesus and his joy. Paul was right: “…there is great gain in godliness with contentment” (1 Tim. 6:6).

 

Pneuma Review: In The Call to Joy and Pain, you spend a good deal of time talking about servanthood and discipleship. Why include meditations on this subject in a book about suffering and joy?

Those who stick to their principles remain contented because they have the greatest treasure in life—the presence of Jesus and his joy.

Ajith Fernando: All Christians are called to be servants and disciples of Christ. But servanthood and discipleship involve suffering. So if you are not willing to take on suffering you will not be able to be a servant of Christ and of people and you will not be able to be a true disciple. So we need to reflect on the suffering that comes with servanthood and discipleship because these latter two areas are essential features of authentic Christianity. But we could be detracted away from servanthood and discipleship if we knew that it includes suffering. Not if you realize that you have the great treasure of joy with you. So servanthood, discipleship, suffering, joy are all enmeshed into a life that is truly fulfilling.

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2008

About the Author: Ajith Fernando is the Teaching Director of Youth for Christ after being its national director in Sri Lanka for 35 years. He and his wife, Nelun, are active in church ministering primarily to the urban poor. His ministry includes mentoring younger staff and counseling Christian workers. He is the author of fifteen books published in nineteen languages. www.ajithfernando.org. Facebook.

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