Joy in the Valley

Nov 16, 2022

It is probably safe to say that the latest midterm elections made nobody happy. Things are far

too conservative for liberals, while conservatives are looking around and wondering where the

tsunami went. The only things that have survived are the anger and confusion. There's plenty

of that to go around.

Well, brothers and sisters, what did you expect the end times to look like?

Prophecies throughout both the Old and New Testaments paint the pictures of our societies and

map in intricate detail the landscape of our political landscape. It isn't pretty, and we have both

the privilege and the misfortune to be the ones to live it out.

But is that any reason to despair? Nope.

I've been reading the book of Philippians this week. If anyone had reason to be despondent, it

was Paul. He was in chains in a Roman prison, surrounded by coarse prisoners and hardened

soldiers. Not a place to encourage hope, but to Paul, it was as rich an evangelistic field as could

be found. His chains were just one more tool to further the Gospel. His letter was triumphant,

excited that he could harvest here where hope was a rare commodity. How many lives were

changed? We don't know, but it was enough to set Paul's heart to singing. He was exultant and

triumphant; giving up was not an option.

But how could a man who was probably walking around in sewage possibly write of such

determined, overwhelming joy? Why did he so often instruct in his letters for the church to

rejoice? Because his joy wasn't based on his circumstances. His joy sprang from this

incredible, precious fellowship with the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ.

Joy doesn't depend on outward circumstances. Suffering and persecution couldn't dim it.

Adversity couldn't tarnish it. His joy was dependent solely on his close and growing

relationship with Jesus. Even the threat of death couldn't dim his ardor. In fact, in this glorious

new kingdom, death could even be a friend because it would bring him into the undimmed

presence of Christ. He longed to see Jesus face to face, but had to admit that there was still too

much work he had to do to leave right at that moment.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." - Philippians 1:21-24 NIV

This is not the cry of the despondent or defeated. This is a man who has pulled death's teeth

and is refusing to surrender his assignment. He leaves us a road map to follow, directions to

keep our focus on the one sure thing that comforts, encourages and grows us into the warriors

we were called to be. We stand in Christ, and that is enough.

Our circumstances may change, but one thing stands forever true:

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." - Nehemiah 8: 10b