Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

4 Joy in the dark

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Isaiah 9:2-3 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.”

We often focus on this scripture at Christmas but this is more than just a Christmas passage this is about change for a culture caught in darkness. Here in the depressing land of deep darkness we see the hope of increasing joy.  It is likened to the rejoicing over the ripe harvest, when the fruit is full, and the waiting is over, or when the battle is over and the war is won. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, the plunder of a battle waged and won. This is the call to change our focus from our circumstances to Christ. Here Isaiah prophesies about the coming change, the contrast between dark and light, and how the people will no longer go on living dark joyless lives. That because of the transforming truth of the dawning light the people will no longer be stuck living in deep darkness. Today our culture teaches us that joy results simply from a change in circumstances, yet Isaiah prophesied that the people needed more than a change in circumstances they needed Christ. Change that results in joy always rests in Jesus. The people that Isaiah prophesied about were chained by the darkness of their circumstances, instead of thriving they were barely surviving. They were bound and blinded by the blackness, but what they needed most wasn’t less darkness but more light. The same is true for us today, we don’t need less problems we need more peace, and that is only found through the Prince of peace, Jesus Christ. At the center of change there is Christ, and today what we need most isn’t a situational change it’s a Savior. Today instead of craving Christ chase after a change in circumstance, but there will never be change without Christ.  As long as we focus more on our circumstances than Christ we will always chase false change. We don’t need the lottery we need the Lord. Why waste our lives on a gamble when God has given His Son. When we chase circumstantial change we trade one form of darkness for another, living with a counterfeit instead of true contrasting change.  Today we are surviving with a substitute instead of thriving with the Savior. We have substituted happiness for the holiness of God’s light, a holiness that can heal the disease of our darkness by piercing our problems and revealing our rottenness. Happiness hinges on circumstances, but joy results in Jesus. As we chase the happiness we replace the Savior with the substitute of stuff. Today instead of turning to the truth we are trusting in our technology. With every substitute comes a new set of problems, like our technology and our toys to time dilemma. The time and money we spend accumulating the stuff verses the time we have to enjoy it. Today many families let their financial decisions revolve more around feel goods and happiness than godliness and holiness. In our pursuit of pleasure we have fallen prey to fast paced lives, blindly buying into the belief that busy is better. Today we are a culture caught up in a flurry of activity and false affluence, a fast paced frantic financial farce, believing we can charge our change. In our false affluence we have become infected by the deadly disease of affluenza, where the driving force of our lives revolves around accumulating more and more stuff while we suffer from less and less time. We are a sold out society, foolishly financing the fun, borrowing till we are bankrupt, so we can pay the debt of our past pleasure. Our god of more is providing less, leaving our lives in a mess, instead of peace we chase pleasure that leads to pain, instead of Christ change we have chaos. Our craving for comfort comes early, shortly after being born babies discover that when they are uncomfortable and cry someone comes to take care of them. This care comes from outside so they learn to look and lean on external sources for satisfaction and fulfillment. This could be good if we would stick to resting in relationship and not riches. But as we become children and earn an allowance, we meet money, discovering its power to purchase pleasure.  Remember the excitement when you bought your first ________.  In that moment money gave us the power to purchase happiness ourselves. Yet over time our purchases had to become bigger and better for us to feel the same wave of warmth. And so it went, with each new acquisition having to be a more costly thrill, yet a high that didn’t hold us in happiness as long. Until we finally find ourselves with more and the best that money can buy, but with less happiness than when we got our first bicycle as a kid. What started out as pleasure has now become a problem, and the hope of happiness is replaced with more responsibilities, more worries, more commitments, more to lose if robbed, and more taxes. Yet even as we see the dream of happiness dying in the debt, we still stubbornly stick to the stuff. In the addiction of accumulation we have become the silly society, where our second hand stuff is spilling over into our garages and displacing our much more valuable vehicles. Yet the slow downward spiral of dwindling pleasure and increasing problems doesn’t seem to stop us. We watch shows like hoarders in horror, failing to see the hoarder hiding in our own hearts. We have become the happiness hoarders, homeless and displaced by the unquenchable desire for more.  At some point we all hit the fulfillment ceiling, but most of us never recognize when the formula of money fulfillment not only stopped working, but started to work against us. Caught in the darkness of desiring and the blackness of buying more we fail to see that we don’t need more money we need more of the Master. Isaiah tells us that Christ was coming to crash into the blinding blackness of our culture with the light of love. That joy is found not in our cash, but in the cross. That is why Paul preaches in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The challenge for us is to change our focus from cash, from circumstances, from comfort, from convenience and anything else that replaces Christ. So where do you need to change your focus? What’s keeping your eyes from Christ? Do you have a father focus or a feel good focus? What’s the secret to increasing joy? Jesus. Paul in Philippians 4:4, as he preaches from prison reminds us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” He doesn’t say, “Rejoice in your possessions, paycheck or the place where you live, he says, “rejoice in the Lord” This is about returning to the source of our joy, Jesus not the rust of our riches. Christ not your circumstances is the true source of your daily joy.

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