In a time of great darkness like today, we who serve the Lord must seek His face constantly. The darker it gets, the closer we need to get to the Shepherd of our souls. What does the Lord God counsel us to do in these dark days?
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In the midst of the ongoing oppression by the enemy, the Spirit of the Lord has impressed upon the servant who writes to you the importance of Rejoicing always. After some reflection on this concept here are some takeaways:
1. We are not rejoicing that we have problems/trials/tribulation, we are rejoicing in spite of them. This has an aspect of asymmetric warfare to it that is very powerful.
2. We cannot control what happens but we can control how we respond to what happens (rejoice instead of despair, anger etc)
3. Shifting the focus as an act of our will-instead of focus on the problem we focus on the promises. We get to choose what we focus on, the Lord has instructed us how to do this.
4. It is not easy when our feelings are betraying us. After feeling like we have been punched in the gut or kicked between the legs it is not easy to shift the gears off the pain but we have to do it. It is not a matter of feelings it is a matter of 1. willpower and 2. choice
1I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
The Lord instructs us this ^^ is a matter of willpower, decision and disciplined response. Paul gives us an example of what we are talking about here:
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
So we can see our principle in action here ^^. Paul is beaten and thrown into prison. Response? Prayer and singing hymns. Which resulted in what? Breaking the chains and freedom....
It must be said again that this is not easy but it is what must be done. We all have a prison being built up around us, most people just cant see it yet. The Lord told us what to do and what not to do. More of what to do (most of Ps 37 tells us what to do) and what not to do here:
1Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
7Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
10A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
11But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
12The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
14The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
18The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
19In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
20But the wicked will perish:
Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.
21The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
22those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed.
23The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
25I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
27Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
28For the Lord loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed ;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
30The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
31The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.
32The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
33but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
34Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.
35I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
36but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
37Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
38But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
39The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
The good news is He told us what to do and not to do. We just have to follow instructions. This will not be easy but we know what to do. The Lord knows how to settle accounts, that is not our job :). We need to practice the asymmetric warfare outlined for us. In the midst of killing, stealing and destroying by the enemy and his servants, we are to rejoice, pray for what we want and need, and continually give thanks.
Thankfully we do not have to figure everything out, the Lord knows all the plans of the enemy and how to do deal with them. He is our Commander in Chief, we are His servants. Let us be good pawns/soldiers/servants in this spiritual battle. In the end, whatever happens we will be able to say we were faithful. We did what we were told to do. Again, the Lord told us to do many things but thankfully one of those things was not "figure everything out on your own." We just have to follow orders. The Lord knows what He is doing, He has a plan. The enemy is being played whether he knows it or not. Faith and patience to the end :).
Glory to God
Grace and Peace