Challenge Central: a CBC devotional
By: Shannon Green
If you know me, you know how much I enjoy the Christmas season. My friends often mock me for how early I get my tree and decorations up in my home. I love to enjoy the warm glow of the tree lights and hear Christmas songs for as long as possible. Songs such as “Joy To the World” fill my home for a good two months. But what does that joy mean, especially when sometimes we do not feel so joyful? It can be extra difficult to watch others in excitement when we are not feeling all that joy-filled. Is this joy not supposed to give us strength? What happens when that strength is waning?
The verse in the Bible that says the “joy of the Lord is your strength” comes from Nehemiah 8:10. In this passage, the children of Israel have come out of exile and returned to Jerusalem. They were listening to the law being read and were overcome with the gravity of their sin and were weeping about how they had been living against God’s law. However, instead of being condemned, they were told by Nehemiah to celebrate because of the “joy of the Lord.” The children of Israel are God’s people; He loved them, and now they were out of exile. Focusing on God’s joy and love for them should be the strength they need to be in a right relationship with Him.
Other passages about joy in the New Testament are Romans 15:13, where it says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” This is the source of our joy, the hope we have in Christ that He has conquered the world and He is coming again. He has also given us the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and lives and direct us to a right relationship with Him. Romans 14:17 reminds us, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Finally, our instructions in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say rejoice.” This joy of the Lord is given when we accept His provision of righteousness by grace. This is something to rejoice in!
The well-known Christmas song “Joy to the World” is often sung during the Christmas season, but it is not just a Christmas song. It directs us to the hope of Jesus’ return.
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.”
Philippians 2:9-10 says that on that day, all of heaven and earth will sing and repeat the song of joy for all eternity. We are not there yet. Many are not rejoicing in the Lord, and in fact, many are on the attack. God promises to return, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
“No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.”
This is not the case in our world today. There is so much sorrow, sin, and strife. This makes finding joy difficult. If we look at the state of the world today, it is no wonder we can be filled with a sense of hopelessness. God says that the story is not done, and we have hope that needs to be shared with the world. This is not our home! We have a future with Christ, and this song’s truths point us to that promise.
“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove,
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love.”
We are promised that this is not how things will be forever. He will wipe away every tear, and death will be no more (Rev. 21:4). This should give us hope and rejoicing in our hearts regardless of the situation around us.
The challenge this Christmas season and beyond is to not just look at the circumstances around us but to hope in Christ. This gives new eyes for the future and a joy to share with others. There is an urgency to spread the gospel’s joy and good news in a world that desperately needs the strength and joy only found in Jesus. May we look beyond this world with a newfound joy and celebrate the grace bestowed on us through the unending love of God. Now that is something we can be joyful about! “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”