Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
December 26th. You might recognize the date as the day after Christmas. And let me tell you… I was in a mood. Looking around my house at the post-Christmas chaos, I knew I really should get to work at straightening things up. I thought back to all the garbage I had eaten over the last week and knew I should really get a workout in. Glancing at my email inbox for work, I thought about all the tasks I’d neglected in the frenzy of Christmas Eve prep. And yet, I just couldn’t get up the energy to do any of it.
Instead, I chose to sulk. I played Candy Crush on my phone. I had a cookie (or two) for breakfast. Instead of patience, I displayed frustration with my children when they wanted me to get their new toys out of the packaging. I went to work for a few hours in the afternoon and complained to Pastor about this, that, and the other thing.
Do you know what Pastor said after listening to me whine? “I’m sorry. I’m praying for you.” He had nothing to be sorry about. (No, he hadn’t attacked my desk with glitter… on this occasion, anyway.) But he knew that Christmas had been hard this year for our family, and he displayed empathy. His compassion made me realize that I needed an attitude adjustment.
The whole theme of our Advent series was “What If…”. What if there was hope… joy… acceptance… more. I know all this; in fact, I helped prepare the sermon series! But, here’s my confession: I forgot. In the busyness of the Christmas preparations, in the sadness of celebrating the holidays with the gaping hole left by the death of a loved one, the truth and love of Christmas escaped me for a bit. Pastor’s acknowledgement of my struggles made me realize that I needed to snap out of my funk and snap into something more positive: Jesus.
Let me be clear: we don’t choose Jesus. Faith is a gift given to us by the Holy Spirit: By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). But we can choose our thoughts and attitudes about this gift of God. So, over the next few days, I processed what it means to choose hope and joy.
God doesn’t promise us that life will be perfect. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: “Because of sin, this world is full of reminders that it can never be our true and lasting home.”1 Reminders like friends moving away, loved ones meeting Jesus, war, famine, natural disasters. I realized that sadness is okay, that faith in Jesus doesn’t always mean earthly joy.
I thought back to a statement Pastor Bill made in one of the “What If…” sermons: “Our source of joy is not in what we do for God, but rather in what God has done for us. That bring us joy… Instead of get-backs for our sin, we receive forgiveness [from God].”2 True joy isn’t a feeling; it’s a steadfast truth. In the book of John, right before he was arrested by Roman soldiers, Jesus tells his disciples, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22). We have eternal joy in Jesus, knowing that we’re safe in His arms forever.
Joy in Real Life
So what does eternal joy mean to me? It doesn’t mean that I’ll be happy every day… Parenting is difficult at times, marriage takes hard work, and living as a Christian in a post-modern world doesn’t always make Christians popular people. It doesn’t mean that I’ll always do what’s right… I pretty much blow that from the moment I step out of bed in the morning.
Eternal joy means that, no matter what happens, I can find peace and comfort in my Savior. “Into the messiness of life, in a manger, we find the infinite becoming an infant… Jesus provides for us what we can’t provide for ourselves: peace.” 3 And I can confidently proclaim this joy to my friends, family, and community.
I was thinking about this joy and peace as I put our upcoming sermon series up on the website. This is the graphic for Living Forward (designed by the talented Naomi of Naomi Paper Co.). This is one of my favorite series graphics we’ve had. The abstract contrast between light and dark remind me of the battles we face every day. When we choose to go to church or stay in our warm beds, read our daily devotion or binge-watch Friends on Netflix, bring our anxieties and troubles to God in prayer or worry incessantly in our own heads, we’re fighting a battle between darkness and the light of God.
The arrows also make me think of what Jesus calls us to do in what has become known as the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Living forward in Christ means striving to rely on God for peace and comfort, as well as share the Gospel that gives us this peace and comfort.
So here’s how I’m adjusting my attitude and living forward. I’ve committed to the Chronological plan in the YouVersion app, which guides me through reading the entire Bible throughout the course of the year. (Confession: I started a few days early to give myself some wiggle room if I miss a day.) I’ve recommitted to regular time with God. And I want to be intentional about inviting others to the Gospel. Reading the Bible and inviting people to church is all about joy; it’s about building your relationship with God, not following the “rules” or just “getting it done”.
How About You?
Hold me accountable for these commitments! I’d love to chat with you about how this is going for me, and about how you’re working to build your relationship with God in 2019.
What is your attitude adjustment? How are you living forward in 2019? I look forward to learning about and growing in Christ with you in this new year of God’s grace.
1 Kuerth, B. (31 December 2017). Eternal perspective. What the World Needs Now sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/eternal-perspective-new-years-eve/.
2 Limmer, B. (9 December 2018). There is real joy. What If… sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/what-if-joy.
3 Limmer, B. (23 December 2018). What if… there was more? What If… sermon series. Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/what-if-there-was-more/.
MEET THE BLOGGER
Sammi Goodger is the Office Manager and Director of Communications at Victory of the Lamb. She’s not an expert in family and faith, but she’s hoping to help herself and others grow closer to God and their families through sharing research and practical tips on relationships and faith. She can be contacted here.