Rejoice Well

I know last week I said we’d talk about mourning this week, but I made the executive decision to go from hating well to rejoicing well.  Little more of a better fit.  So without further ado:

What do you rejoice in?  At the end of the day, what allows you to sleep peacefully (that is, if you sleep peacefully)?

If you’re a believer, do you rejoice in Christ, in all that He is for you and all that you are in Him?  Do we rejoice at all?

Rejoicing is commanded in Scripture:  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice,” says Paul in Philippians 4:4.  Paul is in prison, persecuted for sharing the gospel, but he is able to remind the church to rejoice!

How?  Because Paul rejoices, not in earthly circumstances, but in Christ.  He knows that he belongs to the Lord of the universe and that he has salvation in Him, therefore, no earthly trouble will kill his love and devotion and joy for God.

Christian, you have, in Christ, an eternal reason to rejoice:  You are His.  Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus.  Romans 8:17 tells us that our suffering in Christ proves that we belong to Christ and have a great inheritance in Him.  John 1:12 tells us that if we have received Christ, we are children of God.

So if you don’t have anything to be thankful for this side of heaven, rejoice in what you already have on the other side!  It is not some boyish fantasy, it is a blood-bought promise for everyone who has Christ as Savior and Lord.

While we should certainly thank God for all that we have in this life, God’s common grace should drive us to be thankful for saving grace and that a holy God would choose to call us His and make us new in Christ.

So rejoice well, brothers and sisters, no matter what is going on around you.  We have much, in Christ, to be thankful for.  Even in our continued struggle with sin, we have the promise that we will one day be like Jesus (Phil. 1:6), and the promise that God forgives us as we trust Christ (1 Jn. 1:9).  We have hope in the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).  In the troubles of this life, we know God sanctifies through suffering (James 1:2-4).

May you grant us the grace to rejoice in Christ, Father.  May we not fail to remember all that you have done, are doing and will do in our lives.  May we, in our weakness and sin, run to Christ in faith, believing that He is a sufficient and gracious Savior, and hold fast to Him.  May you finish what you started and allow us to rejoice along the way.

God bless,

Neal E.


Victory for the Christian

Like every other child that grew up in the church, I’m very familiar with 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath.

It’s a tremendous story of the little guy getting the victory over his highly favored opponent.  It’s used ceaselessly as an analogy in the sports world, when Louisiana-Monroe finds ways to beat SEC teams they have no business beating, or when the New York Giants beat the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.  We use it in our own lives as an inspiring example of what can happen if we “just trust God.”

And that scares me, because while there’s some truth in the saying, “God can overcome your Goliath, too!” that’s not a complete picture of the God of the Bible.

Before you call me a heretic for apparently not believing that God can overcome any obstacle, hear me out: Sometimes God overcomes our obstacles the same way He overcame Israel’s obstacle in 1 Samuel 17.  Example: You get diagnosed with cancer. Miraculously, you beat it.  You praise God for the victory over cancer. And you should! That’s wonderful, glorious news!

But so is the testimony of a believer who dies at 30 due to cancer who remains faithful, trusting in and professing the gospel until their last breath.  They did not experience defeat.  They experienced victory, because they knew they already had their greatest victory in Christ.

Our greatest victory was won when Christ saved us.  From that point on, the “victory” we should be seeking is growing in our faith, our confidence in Christ, our holiness, and God being glorified in our lives, no matter what happens. And that doesn’t always happen the way it did in 1 Samuel 17.  Sometimes, our greatest victories in our relationship with God come through defeat here on Earth.

Indeed, the very victory that won our salvation was done by Christ, the Son of God, submitting to pain and suffering and death on a cross.  Our greatest victory was won in what appeared to be defeat for God.  It was in His Son’s pain, suffering and death that God secured our salvation.

We cannot take 1 Samuel 17 as a comprehensive, all-encompassing view of how God defeats our enemies and obstacles.  The cross shows us that.  The persecution of the church shows us that.

The bigger picture in 1 Samuel 17 is God saving His people from their enemy.  In this particular instance, it was by military victory.  But what was the goal of God delivering them from the Philistines?  Surely it wasn’t just securing land and peace.  God’s design for us is always for us to trust Him more and learn to walk with Him, and He can accomplish that in both “victory” and “defeat.”  I put those words in quotation marks because if we grow in our faith, it is always a victory, no matter the circumstances of that growth.

So maybe you don’t make it out of your present trouble. Maybe you do get cancer. Maybe you do lose a job you don’t “deserve” to lose.  Maybe your life doesn’t get better.

But if you have Jesus, you have more than enough.  You can bank on Him, and know that even in your pain, even in your suffering, even in the obstacles, even when God seems to let “Goliath” get the upper hand, He still loves you, He is still at work in your life, He is still your Savior, and nothing can keep you from His love (Rom. 8).

Christian, your victory is in Christ.  Your victory here is growing to trust, love, and resemble Him more, regardless of the outcome of the battles you may face.  Pursue Christ.  Trust Christ.

Lord, may we never forget that you are the same yesterday, today and forever.  May we bank on your promises.  May we realize, in good times and bad, our greatest good, our true victory, is found in you, and in knowing you more and being like you.  May you finish the good work you started in us, however that may come.

God bless,

Neal E.