Don Goulding - Blog

Uncommon Joy

And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose … (Romans 8:28)

When Paul wrote about all things working for good, it was after he’d been hunted, imprisoned, lashed five times, beaten with rods three times, shipwrecked three times, and pummeled with stones. God accomplished much through Paul but, more than anything, it was his patient endurance that made him an eternal hero.

In A.D. 64, Emperor Nero burned Rome, blamed it on the Christians, and then, “punished them with refined cruelty,” as an eyewitness reported. Some he dressed in animal skins and watched as dogs ate them alive. Others he lit as human torches in his garden. He held a flame near their tar covered feet and offered a last chance to go free, if they would renounce Jesus Christ and declare Caesar as their God.

The stalwart Christians refused to recant. Before blacking out from the excruciating flames, they sang praises to God, and were promoted to the heavenly realms as grand victors.

Paul succeeded in enduring to the end. Nero’s victims made it to the end. Now it’s my turn. 

My challenges may not be as severe as the martyrs’, but I have to face the same darkness. By choosing to hold the hand of Jesus in even minor trials, rejection from the world is converted to heavenly applause, illness changes to celebrated fortitude, and temptation transforms into glorious overcoming.

My current life is not a disposable failure to be tolerated until heaven. The great purpose of these sacred days is that I should store up endurance so I can rejoice in those victories with Jesus for eternity. Now is the time spiritual giants are forged. All I need is uncommon joy in the face of common hardships.

Prayer: Sovereign King, work a holy endurance in me today.



Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. (Psalms 37:5-6) (NIV)

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthew 13:43)

Near the top of my list of ill-conceived adventures was when I, and some college friends, tried to join the flotilla of spectators at the Seafair hydroplane races on Lake Washington. We paddled a tractor inner tube toward the event, several miles away. Progress was slow, and halfway there the race ended. On their way home, a whole navy of boats—many with alcohol fortified captains—came directly at us in the open water.

Our circular tube navigated in slow motion, and our only hope was that the captains would see us and steer around. We waved a red shirt on an oar, and I think there may have been a Coast Guard helicopter involved. Eventually a good Samaritan tossed out a line and towed us to safety.

More prudent boaters carry a simple rescue device we would’ve done well to employ. It’s a small mirror with a hole in the middle. The hole serves to line up the sun’s reflection and signal for help up to twenty miles away.

Both testaments of the Bible say the light of the righteous will shine like the sun. Those verses trouble me because, if I’m honest, I know I’m not righteous. How then can I shine?

The answer is in the rescue mirror. The mirror doesn’t shine, it reflects. Its effectiveness is all about alignment with the sun. When the reflected beam is properly aimed, the result is almost supernatural. Aircraft or boat captains squint at the intense reflection from miles away.

I don’t have a righteousness of my own, but when I line up the Son of God in my life, his righteousness shines to others. Saturating my heart with Scripture, praying through each moment, implementing the Spirit’s ways—these are the habits that keep me face-to-face with Jesus and reflecting his perfect holiness.

Prayer: Righteous One, shine from me today.


The Voice

I tell you the solemn truth, a time is coming- and is now here- when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (John 5:25)

I floated on a sea of confusion that was the darkness of my own thoughts. The future wouldn’t materialize in the night. My head throbbed and body pain stole the pleasure of movement. All that was sweet or whole or musical was gone and I could no longer remember what the color green looked like. I was conscious but dead nonetheless.

“I am here,” a voice called to my spirit. 

The rich timbre was like a defibrillator on my arrested heart. It beat once, twice, then continued.

Three simple words cut through the fog. I am here. Coming from any other, they would’ve been meaningless, but from this speaker they meant life. In the moment he spoke, fear vacated the space between us and we were forever linked.

There is still nothing to see but the voice soothes the air around me. It awakens excitement inside me. I strain in the direction of its sound, hugging the sweet notes to my core. This is my lifeline to sanity.

No matter that I’m still bobbing on the dark sea, I’m no longer confused. The direction of the voice gives me orientation. I know where I’m headed, I know my purpose, and I know there is green life beyond. The fearsome darkness is a serpent without fangs.

Where there is a voice there is a speaker and, in this case, a Savior. I don’t have to see him to live, I only have to hear his voice with childlike ears. I can do that much. All the rest—light, music, green colors—they will come when he says it’s time. For now, I have his voice and so I will live.

Prayer: Son of God, grant me to hear your voice of life today.


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