The Light of this world came upon the darkness of this earth to make His glory known. He was the light of the promised Messiah which was foretold, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light.”
By trusting in God’s promises a person receives the Light. By remaining in the Light, a believer is placed upon a hill to illuminate His presence to the world…
Even when we are feeling dim.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
The new Christians in Thessalonica were struggling. They needed encouragement to remain strong in the faith despite terrible persecution. It would have been easy to give in to the world if they did not trust God’s promises. Their faith needed to be real and grounded on a sure hope that would never disappoint. The Lord inspired Paul to write about how to receive true joy in the midst of darkness. Like the Old Testaments prophets, Paul pointed toward the Light.
Finding True joy
The threat of persecution would cause many of us to turn out the lights in our home and turn away from the light of our faith. Today we read about acts of terrorism, changes in our climate, and reports of shootings. These are all signs of living in darkness where fear and anxiety are amplified.
What happens when darkness arrives at our doorstep? How can we “be joyful always” when difficult circumstances threaten to consume us?
The answer is found when God first created the world.
At the moment of Creation, the Word spoke and there was light. In the Word, the light of faith is created and received. Through the Word, the light of faith is renewed, strengthened and restored. The call for all believers is to remain in the Light. The encouragement Christians received in Thessalonica is that true joy and freedom can only be found “in Christ Jesus.”
God sometimes allows the darkness of sorrow and strife to enter into a believer’s life so they may discover joy at its purest.
But I believe there is something more.
When life is at its darkest, the Light of Christ in a believer shines the brightest.
How a believer responds to news reports and difficult circumstances is a strong testimony to the Light and a witness to their trust in His promises. The Bible even warns believers and prepares them for struggles.
When struggles come, it is the presence of the Light within believers that the world watches carefully and observes.
The Lord granted me an opportunity to respond well when I lost my job. With four young children at home and my wife staying home full-time, I was the sole bread-winner. Difficult circumstances forces you to trust God’s promises on a far deeper level. In that process of unemployment and job-seeking, our next door neighbors were watching us. They observed my wife trusting God and not panic. They watched us patch together a series of part-time jobs that God provided. They peeked out their window and watched us return from another morning of delivering newspapers in the sub-freezing winter temperatures of Minnesota. The Lord eventually answered our prayers in a miraculous way. It was here that the Lord provided by allowing me to start work full-time in the ministry.
Later that spring, our next door neighbors revealed to us that as a result of our response to a difficult time, they started to go to church. They saw in us something that did not have – peace and joy. They found the light of Christ by observing the light of Christ in us.
Even when we felt dim.
New Year Resolutions
I believe the Apostle Paul gave the Christians some good resolutions: 1) Be joyful always, 2) Pray continually, and 3) Give thanks in all circumstances.
When darkness seems overwhelming in the coming year – or even when it arrives at our doorstep, we can embrace this as an opportunity to deepen our joy in the following ways;
It draws us closer to Him
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hop. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
It purifies our faith
“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.” (1 Peter 1:7)
It provides opportunities to confess our faith and hop
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” (James 1:2)
Unflinching hope rests in Christ. Pure joy comes from being anchored to a sturdy rock and foundation which is found only in Christ. In the midst of life’s storms, we are often unaware of our witness because we are just holding on. The light of Christ within us shines the brightest during darkness.
Our strongest witness to the world can come when we are clinging to God’s promises.