In the last devotional I mentioned that each day we need to learn to rejoice. When we do this it will help us to overcome our circumstances during difficult times. But what exactly does it mean to rejoice in all circumstances? We need to rejoice when times are good and when times are bad.
Surprisingly some Christians I have met seem to find it hard to rejoice when things are going well. They are often worried about what might happen when things turn bad, or even worse they become complacent and stop doing the things they should be doing. They seem as miserable with a life of plenty, as the people are who have none.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6 v17)
How about you? Do you have food in your stomach and a roof over your head? Then you have much to rejoice about, a lot more than many others. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the things God has provided for us. Everything God has provided for us should be enjoyed in the way the God intended, with thanksgiving and grace. Indeed there is a warning to us if we don’t take joy in the things he has provided.
“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.”
Why would a loving God do this? Because he wants us to live happily ever after. This means he wants us to have joy in all circumstances – good and bad. This can only happen if we learn to find joy in what God has provided, using them to serve the Lord with joy and gladness. If we don’t and he lets us go on that way then we will never be happy. So sometimes he takes away the things we have so that we learn to recognise that our abundance comes from God and is provided so that we are able to serve him with joy and gladness.
There are other reasons why suffering help us to eventually discover and appreciate true joy. The passage we are studying tells us “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12 v12). Our joy is in hope. When we are in a position of despair we are forced to learn some harsh lessons. But if we maintain our hope then these lessons, in whatever form they take, will eventually strengthen us and build character.
Our hope is not just that God exists or that things will get better, it is also a sure and certain knowledge of who God really is – a God of restoration. He wants to bring us new life, new joy, and a new hope. He made us in his image, and he wants us to return to that state.
Our example is Jesus. Through suffering, he gained the glory of God. Through suffering, we too can gain that same glory becoming like Christ. “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5 v 2b-5)
If you are suffering – take refuge in God. Learn the lessons he might want you to learn, be patient and prove that your faith is strong. Never lose hope and in the process develop all the characteristics of God.
If you are not suffering at the moment then for God sake (and yours) appreciate what you have and ‘ serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything’.