Faith is the joy!
Merry Christmas! I wonder if you are busy finishing up your shopping, or mailing packages to loved ones far away, or putting up decorations which bring back memories of years past. Perhaps you are baking your favorite Christmas cookies -- it is our family tradition to make fudge -- or maybe you are caught up in a whirlwind of Christmas programs and parties. No matter what you are doing, may all be done with great joy at this blessed time of year!
Sadly, I know part of the joy will be missing for some whom I dearly love. My good friend, Nancy, who patiently shared the gospel with me many years ago, has just lost her husband. Clint was a man who loved the Lord and faithfully served Him. But Clint had been suffering for over a year, completely paralyzed and relying on a ventilator to keep him breathing. There had been many ups and downs through the course of the year, with heartfelt hopes that the Lord would heal him. But just a few weeks ago, the Lord took Clint home. Nancy is blessed with a large family and children who love the Lord, love her, and love one another. That will bring much joy this Christmas. But the joy of Clint will be missing. There will be an empty spot beside the tree and at the table. There will be the hole in Nancy’s heart. I know all too well because my heart and mind vividly remember the grief of my first Christmas without my hubby, Barry.
You also may know someone who is having difficulty finding the joy in Christmas this year. Perhaps that person is you. Death is not the only loss that can bring heartache and pain at this time of year. There is loss of a job, a home, a friendship, a reputation, health, hope, and more. Being far away from family can bring loneliness, and estrangement from family can be devastating. There are prisoners who will spend Christmas alone behind cold steel bars. There are soldiers on foreign soil who long for a hug and the warmth of home. Or there is just the stress of living in this fallen world that denies God and Jesus and Christmas. As the world in its downward spiral, with its demands and its grief, presses in on you, where do you turn? Jesus told us that in this world we would have tribulation. But He also told us “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Yes, we know that in the end He will be victorious. “The wrong shall fail and right prevail” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). But what do we do until then? How do we find victory over fear, grief, sorrow, and sadness here and now?
The apostle John wrote, For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4). Faith is the victory! By faith we have victory here and now, over every fear, every sin, and every sorrow. It is by keeping our eyes on Jesus with humble gratitude for all He has done for us that we can transcend the troubles of this world and find joy in our blessings in Christ. Faith is our joy! So if you are feeling down and depressed as Christmas approaches, open your Bible and read, get down on your knees, go to church, pray with a friend. Faith is the victory!
And if you are already filled with joy this Christmas and counting your many blessings, will you reach out to someone who is hurting? Will you deliberately reach out in faith to lift someone else to joy? What would God have you do? You could make a phone call. Or write a note -- a real note on paper they can hold in their hand and read over and over for encouragement. Or bake some cookies or make some fudge and take someone a plate of comforting sweets. Give a hug. Lets put the joy of the Lord into Christmas for ourselves and for others. And don’t forget to say Merry Christmas -- loudly and from your heart -- and with a big smile.
With Christmas love and joy,
What do we do now?
I wonder how many of you reading this blog believe that we are living in difficult and uncertain times. Do you find the world today unsettling? Do you ever stop to think about how you should be living in times like these? I wonder how many pastors have been preaching on that subject lately.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what God is calling me to do or say and how He is calling me to stand for Him in a world that has grown so far away from Him, denied Him, distorted Him, and defied Him. I have not been sure how to deal with it. How about you?
Well, this week my Bible study group was directed to the letters from Peter in the New Testament. The original recipients of Peter’s letters were churches in Asia Minor and he wrote to them about the importance of being diligent in holiness and reflecting the truth of their salvation in their lives. Peter and those first recipients of his letter lived in difficult times. They were experiencing persecution. They were suffering. Peter wrote to remind those suffering Christians of the importance of clinging to the truth of God’s Word and purposefully living out their salvation.
Through his letters, Peter is telling us the same thing today. We are not like the world around us. The apostle Paul described the difference between Christians and “those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We are those who have great hope in the promises of God. We know that for us this world is not the end. Our Savior is coming for us and we look forward to an eternity of glory with Him. We are to live like we believe it. We are to live here and now practicing for eternity!
When you come to the end of the last chapter of Peter’s second letter, you find seven clear and specific rules for living, for practicing for eternity here and now. I typed them out and made a bookmark for my Bible so I can be reminded every day of God’s requirements for me to live my life in the hope of His promises. These are meant to be an encouragement to all believers as we live as sojourners here on the earth.
*Be of good and holy character
*Earnestly and expectantly long for the Day of God
*Set your hope on the new heaven and new earth He has promised
*Be at peace with God and man
*Live clean and blameless in His sight
*Do not be carried away by error and lose your foothold
*Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
(2 Peter 3:11-18, Phillips Translation)
I pray that Peter's counsel will uplift your heart and inspire you to live for Him with hope and perseverance. Perhaps you may want to print them out as a daily reminder of God’s desire for you. Perhaps you will share them and stir up someone else by reminding them (See 1 Peter 1:13).
May you always dwell securely in His grace and peace,
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.