I am not sure about you, but I take a lot for granted when it comes to worship and my relationship with God. When I worship God with my great church family, I get to do so in a really nice building, in a country with religious freedom, without the threat of credible persecution, in the midst of relative financial stability, and with hardly any opposition. Very little sacrifice is required, at least in comparison to what many Christian brothers and sisters around the world are asked to sacrifice in order to worship the Lord in faithful obedience.
Do I rejoice in this reality? More importantly, though, do I rejoice in the Lord?
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Ezra 3 on “Reclaimed Joy” when life lets us down. For the people of Israel in Ezra’s time, worshiping God was not nearly as “comfortable” as it is for people in our setting, particularly here in America. Does that mean they did not rejoice, though? Does that mean they had no reason to celebrate? No, of course they rejoiced and celebrated because their situation was not their reason for joy. God was. Yes, they wept over their sin and the devastating effects, as should we, but they rejoiced in their God, as should we.
What if things change in this country? What if we lose our religious freedom? What if our beautiful facilities are destroyed? What if opposition to the gospel continues to rise and persecution drastically increases? Will we no longer be able to rejoice? Should we no longer rejoice? No, just like the people of God in Ezra’s time and just like the people of God throughout history, we never stop having the reason to rejoice – God. For He is good; His faithful love endures forever (see, for example, Ezra 3:11; Psalm 100:5; 136:1).
Nothing and no one else – no person, no country, no culture, no building, no job, no treasure – is perfect with faithful love that endures forever. God alone is, and He alone is the One who enables us to reclaim the joy He created us to have. Rejoice because of Him, and in Him you can always rejoice.
When Paul wrote the following words, he was in prison for his faith:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:4-8).
He did not say (nor does the rest of Scripture teach), “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes. Rejoice only when you are comfortable, safe, and secure.” Rather, rejoice in the Lord always.
God is our reason for joy. He is the point. Is your life marked by joy? Why or why not? If your answer is not yes because of Jesus, then you will end up devastated, if you are not already. Turn to the Lord and rejoice in Him today.
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Thanks, sweets. I love you!