One of the things I have to fight daily is discouragement. Mind you, this is coming from a person who is by nature an optimist! But the shear amount of discouraging news and events on any given day is enough to dishearten even the most ardent optimist. Part of this is fostered by the nonstop, 24/7 availability of news and information sources that depend upon sensationalism to attract attention. But it’s also caused by the evidence of sin and pain in the lives of people in our circles of friends, family, and acquaintances. Sin’s impact on our lives—whether directly or indirectly—is always discouraging.
So how are we to go about our lives in the midst of discouragement, distress, and pain? The Apostle Paul would say to us:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
This is an amazing exhortation that has huge implications for how we are to live our lives. And this was written by Paul whose sufferings were far worse and more numerous than most of us will ever experience. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, if you’re unsure. The exhortation must mean, therefore, that our circumstances are not the primary determinant of our ability to be joy-filled in the Lord.
The prophet Habakkuk expressed this truth very clearly as well (Habakkuk 3:17-18):
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
So even in the midst of the disastrous situation in Habakkuk’s prophecy, he could still “rejoice in the Lord” and “take joy in the God of [his] salvation.” And we can too. This is our hope. This is our distinctive nature as believers in Jesus Christ who has secured our salvation that we might have eternal life with Him forever.
It is this truth, that we can rejoice in the midst of suffering, that sets us apart from all other people. It is this truth, that demonstrates to the world, that we treasure Christ above everything else: health, prosperity, peace, popularity, etc. When we have joy while we’re suffering, we are showing the world that He is better than anything the world has to offer.
May the Lord grant you joy as you put your hope and trust in Him.
PS: This week we begin a new weekly feature entitled “The Bethlehem College Education”, authored by our faculty, showing the treasures to be found in a college education aimed at studying the Great Books in the light of the Greatest Book for the sake of the Great Commission. The first installment, by Professor Joe Rigney, on Christian Discipleship is available now.
- Please pray as we head into the fall break this coming week. The students are in need of the respite. Pray that they would be refreshed and ready for the second half of the semester.
- Please also pray as we continue our preparations for the Decennial Convocation. Pray for Dr. Mohler, Pastor John, and others who will be involved in the event, that the Lord would anoint them and use them for His glory.
- And, as always, please continue to pray for our finances. Pray for our ongoing operational needs and that the Lord would allow us to significantly grow our endowment fund to help ensure the long-term financial stability of this amazing school.