RejoiceThe world at the end of 2009 can seem like a much less hopeful, happy place than the world of last year. The global economy went into meltdown, with millions of homeowners and credit customers suddenly going into default. Unemployment across the country stands at near 10%, and locally around 12.5%. The Middle East seems to be heating up again, with Iran desperate for a nuclear bomb with which to threaten us. The Aghan War is going poorly. Even the weather seems to reflect the nation’s mood with a cooler, wetter summer than usual and a fall that is quickly turning gray and cold. In the midst of all this bad news it’s easy to be depressed and discouraged.
But we as believers in Jesus Christ have a lot to be encouraged by and a lot in which we can rejoice. First and foremost, we can rejoice because our sins are forgiven (1John 2:12). Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27). We are the sons and daughters of God himself (1 John 3:1) and possess already the eternal life which God promised to those who follow his Son (1 John 5:11-13). Our salvation is ours forever because we are kept in Christ not by our own efforts at righteousness, but by the perfect holiness of our loving Father (Jude 24-25). On top of these things, God chose us before the foundation of the world to give us his glorious grace in redemption, adoption, sealing and empowering through the Spirit, and blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (Eph. 1:2-14). And now, since God has already done the most for us in our glorious relationship with him, He can only do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
I believe that in the midst of what has been a very challenging year for our church that we are still seeing God work to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. For example, we have seen God use our congregation to reach four adults on our Evangelistic Relational Sphere of Influence (R.S.I.) wall of prayer. We had 60+ kids come and participate in VBS over the summer. There are 20+ women involved in MOPs, many of whom do not attend our church. We have 60+ kids coming to AWANA each week, learning God’s Word and hearing the Gospel faithfully proclaimed. We baptized 10 people at Great Oaks in August and have added 7 new members as of the end of September. God provided funding for the L****** (name withheld for security) people group prayer guide to be printed by our Missions Team so that people all over the world can begin using it to pray for a people without the Gospel. We have distributed dozens of Bibles to prisoners across the US. We have given food and financial assistance to a large number of our community’s families, touching their lives at the point of their need so that they might “see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Kids are continuing to come and hang out, study, and play at the Café, experiencing Christ in the love they are shown there and our Youth Ministry is reaching out to all types of students in our community – rich and poor, band kids and skateboarders, athletes and academics.
For none of these things can we take credit. It is God, after all, who did the work through us and deserves and glory for the results (Phil. 2:13). But in these things, as well as all of the other things that God has already done for each of in our salvation, we can rejoice. And we have plenty of reasons to do so. So even as 2009 winds its way toward 2010, let us not forget in the midst of all the challenges that we can (and should!) REJOICE!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4