Times are tough. Recent reports confirm the fact that the local rate of unemployment exceeds state and national averages. Retail sales are down. The housing market is still in a slump. Credit is tight or even non-existent. State budget cuts will ultimately affect local services and are likely to cause an increase in local tax rates. Federal deficits are increasing exponentially with no real plan to rein in the spending or pay the bill.
News on the international scene is just as bad. We still have soldiers engaged on the battlefield. Terrorists continue to plot our demise. Iran and North Korea seem to intend to build nuclear weapons which they will then sell to our enemies. Natural disasters, drought, famine and regional wars all take their toll. How many people will die today?
How about you? How are your circumstances? In the midst of all this trouble can you or I find a reason to rejoice?
The apostle Paul penned these words nearly 2,000 years ago: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all. The Lord is near." (Philippians 4:4-5 NASB) He was writing from a prison cell. Christians were being persecuted for their faith. The Roman Empire was a pagan culture ruled by Caesars who often thought themselves to be gods. Life was neither simple nor easy for the people who first received Paul's letter. Even their local church was struggling with internal conflicts that were public enough for Paul to have heard about them. Still Paul tells them to rejoice.
How can they? How can we? Paul doesn't just throw this at us as some pious platitude that is unrealistic or unattainable. He follows the exhortation to rejoice with the very secret to our joy. "The Lord is near." Here is where we find joy and inner peace though all the world about us be a storm. God is still God and He is in control. There is nothing in your life or mine that is too big for God to handle. There is also nothing so small or insignificant that God does not care about it. He already knows all the details of every circumstance we face. He also knows what we don't know yetHe knows what lies ahead.
God did not promise to spare us from the things in life that are difficult or troublesome. He did promise to be with us always, no matter where life leads us, no matter what we face. "For He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5 NASB)
Whatever you're facing today, know that you are not facing it alone. Keep yours eyes on the One who has promised to be there with you. The Lord is near. Rejoice!
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