Good news, my friend.
He’s not making a list.
He’s not checking it twice.
And He’s not gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.
Why? Because He already knows. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). Not you, not me, not anyone.
Even so, He is coming to town.
He came to Bethlehem two thousand years ago.
Over the centuries He has come into millions of hearts.
And one glorious day He will come again.
While we wait in anticipation, we honor Him most by reading and obeying His Word. This week’s verse for A Season of Joy covers a lot of ground in ten short words. Grab your hot chocolate, your latte, your Earl Grey, and let’s dive in.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope,… Romans 12:12
God calls us to “be happy” (CEB). It’s not a feeling, not a mere emotion. It’s a being thing. A doing thing. An act of obedience. A verb: “joying” (WYC).
I can’t wait for somebody to ask, “What are you doing today, Liz?” so I can say, “I’m joying.” Love. It.
In Greek the word for “glad” and the word for “grace” come from the same root. That means God doesn’t expect us to do this gladness thing on our own. “Be happy or else.” No way. He provides the grace, the gift, and the reason for our joy: ”Base your happiness on your hope in Christ” (PHILLIPS).
Your Savior wants you to be “cheerfully expectant” (MSG), thinking about “all God is planning for you” (TLB). Just imagine what surprises He has in store for you today, tomorrow, next week, next year…oh!
Embracing our hope, our future, our “confidence in Christ” (AMP) means we can weather the happy times and the hard times. It’s wonderful to visit with family and friends, to share a festive meal, to open presents, to laugh until we leak. But in the end, such joys are reduced to memories. Only our hope in Christ lasts forever.
…patient in affliction,… Romans 12:12
Oops. Things suddenly got serious. No happy-happy-joy-joy in this part of the verse. The Greek word for “patience” literally means “to stay behind, to await, to endure.” Once again, a doing thing, not a feeling thing.
God is gently but firmly telling His people to “stand your ground” (CEB) and “do not give up when trouble comes” (NLV). We’re talking heavy stuff here: “tribulation”(ASV), “distress” (AMP), and “suffering” (NET).
Maybe that’s why He mentioned joy and hope first. To bolster our faith. To prepare us for hard times—yes, even at Christmas. Maybe especially at Christmas, when everyone is determined to wear a smile, if only to cover their pain.
Sadly, I’m there. My older brother John passed away on Tuesday. Even as I write these words, I don’t quite believe them.
More than 17 years and 1700 miles separated us, but in my heart he was always the handsome Air Force pilot, who visited home now and again to regale his little sister with hilarious stories before he took off on another adventure. Oh, Johnny. You had the best laugh.
If you are missing a loved one this Christmas season, I hope this truth will comfort you: God knows, God cares, and God is listening.
…faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
Joy, sorrow, and then the perfect landing spot: prayer. People who “steadfastly maintain the habit” (PHILLIPS) know that prayer is the heart of our relationship with God.
I’ve startled a few people, launching into a spoken prayer with my eyes open and my hands on the wheel. Especially if they miss my first words—“Heavenly Father”—they look at me askance and whisper, “Are you talking to me?”
Not this time, my friend. If we’re urged to be “instant in prayer” (DRA) and “never stop” (CEV), I figure it’s best to just “keep on talking with God” (WE). So, I do, pretty much anytime, anywhere. We know He’s listening. Why not reach out? Why not right now?
Heavenly Father, how remarkable that You hear our words, spoken and unspoken, and You care about what we care about. Nothing is too small for you, Lord. No pain or heartache goes unnoticed. Even so, You call us to look beyond ourselves and see the broken world You plan to mend and the empty souls You intend to fill. When we catch a glimpse of your glory, Lord, our joy overflows and our hope knows no end.
Your grateful sister, Liz