Dear Lord, help and empower us to make Your joy over saving us complete! Move us to speak Your truth in love with boldness and confidence, knowing that the Spirit stands behind those words and thereby fills hearts and souls with Your joy. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: Philippians 1: 3-6: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Roughly 100 years ago, the American poet Earnest Thayer, captured what we’re all feeling today in his poem, “Casey At The Bat.” I’ll read excerpts from this poem to show you. “The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day; The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play, And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same, A pall like silence fell upon the patrons of the game. A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest, clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast; They thought, ‘If only Casey could but get a whack at that—We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.’” It sound like the Red Sox lately, doesn’t it? It goes on….until the final stanza: “And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go, And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow. Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright, The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light; And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in Mudville—the mighty Casey has struck out.”
Where’s the joy in America today? Have we all struck out? Well, this is where you come in, dear Christian. It’s up to you and me to make Paul’s joy, which is really Christ’s joy, complete!
Rally Day in any church is a time of joy. It celebrates the joy of believers coming together, receiving Christ’s love and forgiveness, and being inspired to go and show it to the world. Christian joy is tangible, palpable, and very real. It manifests itself in both loving kindness and helpfulness. Just like Jesus, the Source of it all, was loving, kind, and eternally helpful towards each of us. Think of it this way: Did Christ ever ignore of turn down a cry for help from another? In one instance He made them wait a little while, but the answer is: No. It made Him joyful to help and it fills and enriches our lives when we do likewise. Being stingy when it comes to doling out loving kindness doesn’t breed joy. Perhaps that’s America’s basic problem today? We’re stingy with our love and helpfulness. Yes, “bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of love” which is: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul says that we’re “partners in the Gospel” with Christ. Do you think of yourself that way? Do you view your churchmates from the oldest to the youngest as partners in Christ? They are, you know. For each of us has shared in His sufferings for our sins. Each of us shares in Him making us: “dead to sin but alive to righteousness.” Each of us also shares in the joy He experienced over making dead souls “alive in Christ.” That, by the way, is why infant baptisms at church are especially joyful for all!
True Christian joy gives birth to helpfulness in doing for the Lord and sharing yourself with others, just as Christ did. It includes volunteering when a need is perceived, and even when it isn’t obvious. It includes: “helping and befriending your neighbor in every bodily need.” And thus, through each of you, God carries out His work until the final day of completion in Christ. God doesn’t live in a vacuum. Faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And neither will joy. Joy is like a mighty home run which soars and soars….
Today we begin a new year of joy in our midst. We’re ready for some excitement and for good news. In Jesus we have that “good news.” We have eternal life and total forgiveness for any and all sins. And since the Spirit stands behind our joy-filled labors—always—unlike the mighty Casey, we’ll never strike out! Amen
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….
Pastor Thomas H. Fox