Week 3 of Advent: Rejoice

Need help?

Most of us realize that we need God’s help every moment of every day. There’s a story of a woman’s prayer that goes like this:

Dear God,
So far today, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped. I haven’t lost my temper. Nor have I have been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I’m very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed…and from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot more help. Amen” 

Happy is the one whose help is the Lord his God

Could you imagine trying to live this life without God’s help? In reality, many of us have tried it and most often it ends in disaster. David knew first hand what it was like to rely on God for help and what it was like to receive help from God. In Psalm 146:5-10, he says:

Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry. The Lord frees prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are oppressed. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects foreigners and helps the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reins forever; Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!

I did it my way means rejecting God’s help to do it His way

Frank Sinatra’s popular song says:

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Unfortunately, when we do life “my way” what we are really doing is rejecting God’s help to live life His way and we usually end up messing things up – big time. Look at this list of people from the Bible that tried to live life their way and the disastrous way the events played out.

8 times people chose “my way” over God’s way:

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate the tree they were not supposed to. Result: kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Adam now works for his food, Eve will bare children in sorrow and pain, death entered the scene, and all of humanity are now born in sin.

Abraham and Sarah

God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. They got tired of waiting for God to deliver on His promise and Sarah tells Abraham to marry her maid and have a child by her – and he does. The result is a jealousy between the two women and their sons that stirs up trouble even into today’s time since Isaac (the son of the promise) is the race we know today as the Jews, while Ishmael, the son of Sarah’s maid, is believed to be the Muslims.

Moses

Although called by God to lead the Israelite nation out of Egypt, Moses tries to do it his way and kills an Egyptian. When Pharaoh hears of it, Moses has to run for his life. He does come back later – in God’s timing and God’s way – to bring the nation out of Egypt. Proof that God can still use us when we mess things up!

Tamar

Tamar left her family at a young age to marry into the family of Judah. In these times, a woman’s value was determined by her offspring, but she was unable to conceive with her first husband, Er. When a husband died and left his wife without children, she was married to the brother who would give her a child in her deceased husband’s name to keep his line of the family going, so Tamar married Er’s brother, Onan. Onan refused to conceive with Tamar, so God punished him and he also died. By law, Tamar then married a third brother, and was still did not conceive.

Faced with the fear of being childless and destitute, she set out for justice. Dressed as a prostitute, she coerced her father-in-law, Judah, to have sex with her and she bore twin sons. While her actions were unethical and she almost lost her life for it, one of the sons was the ancestor of King David—a direct lineage to Christ.

David

David is called “a man after God’s heart” yet David has a moment of “WHOOPS!” as he gazes out a palace window and sees a woman bathing. Now David’s army was out fighting a battle, so why was David in the palace? Also, why was a woman bathing on a rooftop where everyone could see her? The woman’s husband is out fighting that battle so she is left home alone. As a result, David lusts for her, has her brought to the palace, and sleeps with her. She becomes pregnant.

He tries everything he can think of, including bringing the woman’s husband home thinking he will sleep with his wife and then think the child his wife is carrying is his. But the man is honorable and refuses to find pleasure in his wife when all his battle buddies will not get to see their wives. David ends up sending him back to the battle and has him placed on the front line, essentially signing his death sentence. He as guilty of both adultery and murder. As a result, the son that Bathsheeba bares to him becomes ill and dies.

Jonah

God told Jonah to preach to the city called Nineveh. Jonah ran from the assignment, trying to hide from God. He jumped on a ship but when the ship got out to sea, a storm came up that results in Jonah being thrown overboard, swallowed by a big fish were he stays for three days before he repents and God causes the fish to “throw up” Jonah. In the end, Jonah does what God wanted him to.

Simon Peter

Jesus even gives Peter a “heads up” and Peter still messes up. Jesus told him that before the rooster crowed Peter would deny Jesus three times. Peter arrogantly claims he would never deny Jesus, but when Jesus was arrested, Peter does exactly what Jesus said he would. However, this is also the disciple that Jesus said “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” Peter would go on to be very influential in the spread of the gospel and bringing many people to salvation.

Paul

Before his conversion to Christianity, Paul was called Saul and he was a very zealous Jew with Roman citizenship and he persecuted the Christians. In fact, we find him present in the story where Stephen is stoned to death. But then he meets Jesus on the Damascus Road and Saul becomes a changed man with a changed name. Whenever we encounter Jesus, it is impossible to be the same.

Doing it “my way” often leads to sorrow and regret

Each time one of these people stepped out of God’s best for them, they ended up with sorrow and regret. Doing life our way is much like trying to sail a ship on dry land. It just doesn’t work. Can you think of time in your own life when you knew God wanted you to do one thing, but you chose to do something different? How did that turn out for you?

When we depend on God, we can rejoice even in bad times

When we depend on God for help, we can be happy and rejoice. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who give me strength and power.” How can we be happy, even when life tosses us some bad circumstances? Psalm 146:5-10 tells us there are 10 things we can remember for those times when we need God’s help.

1. Remember that our hope is in the Lord

Not in yourself. If you depend on yourself, you’ll fail miserably – every time.

2. Remember the Lord is the maker of heaven and earth

If He can make our world out of nothing more than the spoken word, then he can most certainly make something beautiful out of your circumstances.

3. Remember He is Faithful

If you feel like someone has wronged you and there is nothing you can do to right it, then know that our Savior will execute justice for the exploited and he will give food to those who are hungry.

4. Remember He frees prisoners

Remember that He frees prisoners. You may not be behind some iron bars, but most of us are prisoner to something. Perhaps it is addiction to drugs or alcohol. Maybe your “prison” is cussing. Maybe it’s something that happened in your past. Or maybe its a health issue. Maybe it’s a worldly influence from a friend that has caught you up into believing something is ok when God says it isn’t. Maybe it’s food that has resulted in excessive weight or you’ve developed an eating disorder.

Whatever keeps you locked up – a silent Christian – that’s your prison and if you want to be freed, then look to the Lord.

5. Remember He opens the eyes of the blind

There is a true blindness where one cannot see. However, more of us probably struggle more with blindness than a person who is truly blind. Sometimes we see just what we want or expect to see and we never slow down to see things from God’s perspective. But if we ask God to give us eyes to see situations they way He does, You might just find your eyes being opened.

6. Remember He raises up the oppressed

When we think of oppression, we think of human slavery. But you can also be oppressed by certain sins or by the lies that Satan feeds into your subconscious that will keep you from living a victorious life in Christ. Satan loves to put chains on you so that you do not grow and mature as a Christian. So if you feel as if a certain sin is weighing you down – it probably is. Ask Jesus to raise you up out of your oppression.

7. Remember the Lord loves the righteous

But Wait! Romans 3:10 says there is no one righteous. So does the Lord not love us? Of course He loves us – enough to die for us. Righteousness is the perfect holiness of Christ. It is an essential attribute to the character of God; quite literally meaning “One who is right”. Think of it as the polar opposite of sin. To commit sin is to go against God’s design for our lives, therefore righteousness is the only living standard that is acceptable for us to stand before the Father.

All of us are born into complete bondage to sin, unable to produce any sort of righteousness on our own (Romans 3:9-12). Therefore, if we are to be righteous, we must repent of our sin and be washed in the blood of Jesus. I am completely incapable of changing my own heart. Only He can do that. When we stop trying to produce righteousness and begin to simply trust in the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, He will make us righteous.

8. Remember the Lord protect foreigners, the fatherless, and the widow

These are always the most vulnerable of people and they have protection from God. Deuteronomy 10:18 says, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus when we care for these vulnerable people. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

9. Remember the the Lord frustrates the ways of the wicked

If someone has done you wrong, we can let it go and know that vengeance belongs to God and he will repay it. We don’t have to carry it around, allowing it to weight us down or to make us bitter and angry people.

10. Remember that the Lord reigns forever!

He is always in control. Even in an election year. Even through a pandemic. He is on the throne and in control. He promises us that He will work all things out for our good when we love Him and are called by His name.

Jesus is our hope and our help

We may not be able to understand why something happened. We might be overwhelmed by the current circumstances we are in. But when we remember the the Lord is our hope, our Maker, he is faithful, he sets us free, he opens our eyes, raises up the oppressed, loves the righteous, protects us, frustrates the wicked, and that he reins forever, then we can find joy in even the worst of circumstances. If we are not able to find joy, than we are focusing on the circumstance instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Finding joy in difficult circumstances doesn’t mean you won’t feel sorrow or grief, hurt, disappointment, confusion, anger or any other emotion. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus and turn to Him for our help, He will give us the strength to endure the trial and He will walk with us as we go through it. I would much rather go through a trial with the Maker of heaven and earth who loves me enough to pay my sin debt than to attempt to go through difficult circumstances on my own.

If you’re in a difficult moment, go back through these verse and for each of the ten items see if you can find the Lord in your circumstances.


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