The Christmas season is upon us...and there is truly much to be joyful about.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how excited I was to be with the people of GCC because they are people who find their passion and joy in Christ. And how wonderful it has been to experience it over these last few weeks.
The kids & I have been here now for 3 weeks...spending quality time with Grandpa & Grandma (lots of wrestling and story-time), reconnecting with friends & family, and enjoying some R & R. We have also been able to worship with our church family at GCC and even hang out with the women at our brunch last weekend. (What a blast!)
In each of these situations, I have been overwhelmed by the joy that permeates the lives of these people. And that prayerfully should overflow in mine as well...
Check out the quote by Oswald Chambers over on the left...that speaks about the joy of Jesus being "self-surrender and self-sacrifice".
He goes on to say that "The full flood of my life is not in bodily health, not in external happenings, not in seeing God's work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the communion with Him that Jesus Himself had."
During this season of "joy", there is much sorrow as well. We are surrounded by children in abusive families, disintegrating marriages and selfish disrespect in our youth...not to mention fatal attacks on Christians worldwide, continued terrorist aggression and people everywhere who have no hope. You know the issues in our world, and you have probably experienced some form of suffering firsthand.
How can we speak of joy?
About a month ago, I was privileged to hear Sono Harris (wife of Greg Harris, of HOFCC in Gresham), share a short exhortation on joy. She provided some good reference points for how we find our joy...
"Rejoice always." 1 Thes. 5:16
"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord." Phil. 3:1
"Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven..." Luke 6:22-23
"...but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20
"Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full." John 16:24
"But now I am coming to you and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves." John 17:13
And as John Piper states in his book What Jesus Demand from the World...
"Jesus does command the feelings. He demands that our emotions be one way and not another...the demand that we be happy is not marginal or superfluous. It is a shocking wake-up call to people who are finding their happiness in all the wrong places. God's saving presence and sovereign reign are so valuable that when people see them for what they really are--treasure hidden in the field--they count everything as nothing compared to the vast fortune of being part of that reign." (pgs 52, 84)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:3-9
And so, I would encourage you with joy that, as a redeemed people, who have been saved from eternal death and hell...this element of God-given, life-permeating, Christ-centered joy should define us.
Not fake or drummed up. For many of you know that it is almost impossible to "act" joyful in the midst of pain and suffering. You have been there. And prayerfully, you have experienced the comfort in knowing that our sovereign God is in control and nothing can separate us from His love. The joy may not be smiling faces or happy words. But it is a joy that is deeply rooted and through tears can say "Great is the Lord and worthy to be praised".
So, this is the joy I am seeking and praying for in these times of good. In these moments of R & R, I am trying to fill my mind with the truths of His word. Because, I know that there will be times when joy is hard to find. And I pray that it would be these promises and truths that would fill my mind as I seek God in the midst of pain.
Let this be a season of joy in your homes...for Christ has come, and will return...
...now that is a reason for joy.