Rejoice always. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16
For the Chinese, 2016 will be the year of the red fire monkey. For me, it will be the year of joy.
Compassion has challenged Christian bloggers to come up with a one-word theme for the coming year. To be honest, aside from some encouraging strides in my relationship with my father, 2015 wasn’t such a great year for us. We’ve suffered personal losses, professional challenges and other struggles. So I was a bit surprised when, after some prayer, the Lord began to impress the word “joy” on my heart.
I wasn’t feeling it.
Then an old friend – grateful for answered prayer I had offered on her behalf – texted me and said: “Merry Christmas, Cheri. Included in my prayers for sweet friends like you, I’m also asking for inexplicable joy to totally fill each one.” Inexplicable joy. I like the sound of that.
You can have your red fire monkey. I’ll take inexplicable joy.
Joy should define the Christian, even if the circumstances of our lives are anything but joyful. Apart from Christ, I’m not sure I could have endured all that 2015 brought. But I’m not apart from Christ. I am found in Him, and He is found in me. So by His grace, I endured. For that, I can count it all joy (James 1:2).
Jesus did not find joy in His suffering and death. He did not look forward to it with glee. In fact, He pleaded, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). He despised what must become of Him, yet He endured temporal hardship in view of eternal joy.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2
The anticipation of joy sustained Him. The cross would soon be behind Him, and His joy would be before Him. And the horrific nature of the cross would make His joy all the more precious.
So it is with us. Our day – our year – may not bring much joy, but even in the worst of times, we who are in Christ have the joy of our salvation. That is a joy no one can steal and no storms can damper, and that is a joy that someday will find its perfect fulfillment in eternity.
And the ransomed of the LORD will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. – Isaiah 35:10
This year I choose joy. I choose to allow the joy of the Lord to be my strength. I choose to rejoice always. I choose to count it all joy. What will be the theme of your New Year?