Why Be Joyous?
- 2003 4 May
Okay, so here's today's news:
- Baghdad Explosion Kills At Least Six
- SARS Epidemic Continues To Spread
- Scott Peterson To Face Death Penalty For Murder of Wife/Son
I understand there's also a tropical storm brewing somewhere out there, I've had a rotten cold for nearly a month-the prescription for the antibiotics alone cost me nearly $100!!-one of my children is struggling to "find herself," there's a leak in the front bathroom from who knows where, and I have a tooth that has to be drilled down to a nugget and then "crowned" this week.
And I hate going to the dentist.
I hate leaky faucets and struggles and drug companies that charge outlandish prices just so I can breathe without choking again. I wouldn't worry so much about the storm except that I'm planning a trip to the beach tomorrow and I really need this getaway time.
I also hurt immeasurably that this lovely woman with the infectious smile-Laci Peterson-died, at the hands of anyone. If it turns out to be true that the man she pledged her life to, took her life, I'll be even more heartbroken.
A disease like SARS concerns me. I would say that it's not in my backyard, but the TV News just told me differently. People are dying and there seems to be no stopping the rampage.
Personally I supported our president's decision where Iraq was concerned and it grieves me to read that Iraqi militants shoot carelessly toward ammunition guarded by our brave men and women, leaving so many behind to grieve and cry, "This is the safety Bush promised us?" and "No Saddam! No Bush! Yes to Islam!''
Yes to Islam, the fastest growing religion in our country. Even after 9-11. According to expert Rajendra Pillai "Islam is thriving in America. It is the fastest growing religion in the world and in the United States. There are more Muslims in America than Quakers, Unitarians, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mennonites, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Scientists, combined. It is on the verge of overtaking Judaism as the largest non-Christian religion in America. In the 1960s, there were hardly any mosques in the United States. That number has grown to over 2,000 today, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The U.S. Department of State estimates the number of converts in U.S. mosques to be around 30 percent."1
With all this "good news," I fall to my knees, no...I fall on my face and ask my Heavenly Father, the Creator of all, "Why should I be joyous, Lord?"
God Is Good
Isn't it just like the Lord to answer my plea with a nudge toward His Word? I can't say that I blame Him. After all, I'm an author. I like for people to discover little things about me in the words I have penned. So, in that respect, God and I are a lot alike.
Look with me at 1 Peter 1:6b, 7: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
In this you greatly rejoice...
Rejoice.... The Greek word is agalliao (pronounced: ag-al-lee-ah'-o) and it means to be exceedingly glad. Exceedingly. It's the same word used in Luke 1:47, the Magnificat, when Mary, the mother of Jesus said, "my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." It is also used in Revelation 19:7, which reads: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."
Well, sure...I can rejoice at the Wedding of the Lamb. After all, I get to be a part of the bride. His bride. And Mary had good cause to rejoice, right? She was about to give birth to Messiah, the Anointed One, the One Israel and the whole world had waited on since time began. Sure, she'd have a few loads to bear. After all, she was betrothed to the carpenter named Joseph and this wasn't going to look too good...being "with child" and all. And being His mother would mean heartache unlike anything the rest of us have ever known. To give birth to Messiah...to watch Him die a brutal death...and yet to know...
And that Wedding? Being the bride means a lot of preparation. We're in a time of preparation here. Jesus said, "So with you: 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 (Author's suggestion: read John 16: 17-24)
It's easy to say, "be joyous," or "you will be filled with joy." It's encouraging to read of the joy the disciples experienced at the hands of those who abused them after Jesus ascended. We take these things to heart and still find it difficult to be joyous when our time comes to "suffer." Worry. Doubt. Be concerned.
So why be joyous?
Back to Peter
Let's go back and look at what Peter said before he insisted on this little joyfest.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice... (1Peter 1: 3-6a)
When I read these words recently-as I struggled through an emotional time of uncertainly and spiritual frustration and spiritual exhaustion-I found myself overwhelmed by their meaning. It's almost too much to take at one sitting, or even at one breath. To help myself digest it (for the Word is spiritual food to me), I broke it down. Allow me to do the same for you.
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...
New birth into a living hope.
Have you ever wanted to start over? Recently, as I walked through the campus of a writer's conference, notebook in hand, I said to an editor who was heading in the same direction as me, "Why do I feel like I'm a teenager in high school again?"
"That's a scary thought," he joked back. "High school...."
"Oh, to go back and do it all over again," I bantered back.
"Would you really, though?" he asked.
"Can I know what I know now?"
If you're an adult, you've probably said it at least once: if I could only go back and do it over again. New birth is what you're asking for. A second chance. Well, guess what? You've got it! 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
We can be joyous because, as believers in Christ, we get to start over-do it right, do it better. Not just once, but every single day of our lives.
New birth into a living hope.
What is hope? Furthermore, how is it that it becomes living? In and of itself, hope is inanimate. In your basic dictionary, it is initially described as "desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment" (Merriam-Webster). However, the second definition is more closely associated with the word Peter wrote (translated into the Greek word, Elpis): someone or something on which hopes are centered. (Emphasis mine.)
That someone is Jesus...and He is alive and well, ladies and gentlemen. He is alive, standing at the right hand of the Father, and together they are preparing for that day we talked about earlier-the Wedding Day of all wedding days.
Because He is alive, we have both new birth and will spend eternity as His Bride.
And that's a reason to be joyous!
Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams & Summon the Shadows and an award-winning national speaker. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at Bridegroomsbride@aol.com or you can go to her website here.
1 Pillai, Rajendra Reaching the World in Our Own Backyard (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO.; 2003)