The Blessing of Shared Christian Joy

On Tuesday, our community celebrated Flag Day with local veterans. We marked our country’s founding and the flag’s ideals of a nation of “liberty and justice for all” by reciting the pledge. What have you observed with others lately? Have you been to a wedding, engagement party, bridal or baby shower, retirement, graduation, or team trophy party? I’m sure we mark some momentous things quietly, without much fanfare. But, it’s so much fun to celebrate a special event or a particular person with others. We have a heightened sense of community and unity of hearts when we get together. Celebrations also distract us from life’s difficulties, worries, and anxieties and relieve us from mundane weariness. According to LinkedIn, celebrating with others have five benefits: it relieves stress, shows appreciation, energizes us, creates valuable downtime, and acknowledges worthiness. This last item caught my attention. The website states: “In a world that can easily be seen as negative, acknowledging that something is important for you reflects a sense of worthiness to you.” (1) Of all the benefits of celebrating, this one seems obvious since the way we use our time is always an indication of what is valuable to us—even when it’s doing what is necessary to sustain life and take care of necessities. But going beyond life’s “necessary” things to celebrate, blesses us as we acknowledge something special together. Contrary to what we assume, we’re not restricted to celebrating periodically. Whenever possible, I begin my meetings and group Bible studies with shared praises and thanksgiving, celebrating God’s character and works. At other times, I try to open with a prayer that celebrates God. Christ’s family is to rejoice in God’s great salvation for us all. We celebrate our blessedness in God’s greatness when we worship, sing, pray, fellowship, and confess together.

Called to Celebrate Together

Many passages in the psalms call us to be joyful because of God’s blessings and salvation. I have extracted two verses in two different psalms today. “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’…Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalms 70:4; 144:15b) Psalm 70 is a brief individual lament; it is David’s prayer for God to rescue him from his enemies. In Psalm 144, David praises God for his power and victory promised to Israel. Regarding Israel’s care from the Lord, he says, “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!” (144:15a) “It is the will of God that he should be known in his gracious character, not only by one or two, but generally by all men. David, therefore, shows that he asks nothing for himself individually but what pertains to the whole Church. He prays that God would gladden the hearts of all the saints, or afford them all common cause of rejoicing.” (2) “It is good to be reminded that there are other righteous people, those who are trying to follow after God and do the right thing, just as we are. We often forget this. We struggle against our particular enemies, grow tired and discouraged, and find ourselves slumped under a juniper tree like Elijah, crying out, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too’ (1 Kings 19:10). When that happens we need to remind ourselves (or be reminded by God) that there are yet ‘seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him’ (1 Kings 19:18). It is important to remember that there are other people who are trying to do exactly what we are trying to do…[and] we should be able to praise God for whatever he chooses to do with us…It is a great thing when the people of God can say in any circumstance, ‘Let God be exalted!’ For he will be! It is fitting when we can acknowledge this and praise God openly.” (3)

Daily Celebration of Christ’s Salvation

I wonder how our Christian friends, co-workers, and family members might respond if we greeted them like this: “Isn’t God wonderful? Christ is interceding for us even as we speak!” Or, “What delights you about God today?” I confess that I often use my dog’s name to share my joy in the Lord. I named him GG (God’s Gift) intentionally because I wanted him to be a bridge to talk about the Lord as I move around in my community, at the vet’s, and in public places where I engage with others. It’s a bit easier to see why I named him this now that he’s glorifying God with his calm demeanor (vs. his former reactive, anxious behavior). But before, when he didn’t look like a gift, he reminded me and others that God’s blessings don’t always look like gifts to us. In Psalm 144, “David is extremely personal as he confesses who he had found God to be. He says my Rock, my loving God, my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, and my shield…The last lines [of the psalm] commend David’s God to the people. They say, in effect: Happy are those who can make the same confession I do, who can say as I have been doing, ‘My Lord and my God.’…the blessing is anchored in its only adequate source, God, which is why the psalm ends by saying that the greatest blessing of all is to have Jehovah as one’s God. How different this blessing is from the world’s way of thinking!…Having Jehovah as our God does not in itself immediately guarantee blessings, for we live in a fallen world. Even David did not experience uninterrupted blessings…But we are blessed by God all the same. Besides, to know God is the greatest of all blessings, and knowing and serving God is the best and surest path to every other blessing.” (4) As Christ’s family rejoices in his great salvation, we are to celebrate our blessedness together with joy. 

More Than Conquerers

Our pastor recently reminded us to thank God for Christ, our Savior, if we can’t think of any other reason to praise and thank God. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) “If Christ has triumphed over our spiritual enemies, then we, through him, shall be more than conquerors. This may encourage all that seek God and love his salvation, to rejoice in him, and to praise him. No griefs nor poverty can render those miserable who fear the Lord. Their God, and all that he has or does, is the ground of their joy…The promises are sure, the moment of fulfillment hastens forward. He who once came in great humility, shall come again in glorious majesty.” (5) Celebrating Christ joyfully together blesses us all. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust…You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” (Psalms 40:3-5)

Related Scripture: Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 33:29; 2 Samuel 7:23; Psalms 16:11; 33:12; 35:27; 40:16; 111:6-9 146:5; Proverbs 16:20; Isaiah 30:18; Jeremiah 17:7-8; 31:33; John 13:12-14; 1 John 4:11, 20-21.

Notes

  1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-5-benefits-celebrating-something-keryn-rose
  2. Calvin, John, Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, Psalms 70:4, P & R Publishing, 1999.
  3. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 70, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Boice, Ibid, Psalm 144.
  5. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Psalm 40, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/psalms-40.html

June 16, 2022

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