Well, Christmas is over. We have celebrated the birth of the Gift of Gifts by giving gifts to each other. All the Christmas gifts have been opened, and the relatives and in-laws have gone home. The celebration is over.
After a wedding, when the reception is over and the bride and groom whip off in their limo to their honeymoon, the real work at marriage begins, when they realize they had no idea that they were doing when they agreed to get married.
After Christmas, when we have focused so much on the coming of Christ, and all the joy, love, grace, and hope that He brings, we have to go back home where the real work of His coming into our hearts and lives begins.
And it is work isn’t it?
It seems that even before we finish enjoying all the grace that Christmas brings we encounter all sorts of negative people, problems, messes, illnesses, hurts, jerks, scrooges, liars, cheats, gossips, complainers, and killjoys that seem to suck the joy of His coming right out of us. Have you noticed that?
What I have been learning is that God gives us special signs, seasons of joy, extraordinary experiences with Him, and times where we come face to face with His love for us where our souls are rested, our hearts lifted, our hope renewed, so that we will trust Him and follow Him as we go down to work through the next valley.
The outcome of the Civil War was determined at Gettysburg, but Gettysburg was not the end of the war. The outcome of WWII was determined on D-Day, but there were still many battles to be fought before that war was over. Christmas set things in place for victory. The outcome of the war of Satan verses God was determined at Christmas. That’s the joy of Christmas. But there are still many battles to fight.
While none of those battles can change the fact that “Your Redeemer is coming, and His reward is with Him,” they can make us forget it! They can cover over it. They can cloud it over like a thick morning San Francisco smog.
We need to be aware of the following facts:
- There are spiritual forces at work in this world who have made it their goal to keep you from holding on to the victory that was assured with Christ’s coming. Paul says in Ephesians, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The number one offensive scheme these powers employ, is to get us so distracted, that we forget God’s promises. This is played out plain as day for us in the book of Job.
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
Remember, Job is not the exception; he’s the rule. That was not a one-time play. It is the theme of every strategy in the Accuser’s playbook.
- Our own distrust and doubt in God’s ability to carry out His promises often leads us to give up on Him. When Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, they became scared because of all the obstacles they saw ahead of them and would not go in, even after all the Lord had done for them.
So, as we wrap up the Christmas Season for another year, as we all head back out to all the “wonderful things” out there that are just waiting to try to steal our joy, our vision, and our purpose in Christ, let me leave you with four thoughts to help you as you continue to run your race with God, wherever you are in that race.
- It takes work not to worry and to trust God’s promises. It is not easy, and it is not natural. It is supernatural. You need to be constantly feeding your spirit these truths and promises in order to stay strong. That means, reading your Bible, coming to worship, take part in small group ministries or Bible studies. Make time to pray regularly.
Do not define who you are by where you are. Your circumstances do not mean didilly squat when it comes to defining who you are in Christ. I don’t care how good things are or how miserable things are. Where you are, where you have come from, what you have done or not done, does not define who you are in Christ. Where you are going, who you are going with, and whom are you going for—those determine who you are. Don’t be fooled into thinking your circumstances define who you are!
On that first Christmas Jesus came into the world. The question is: has He come into your heart? Has that advent happened? Have you accepted the Father’s Gift and taken Jesus as Your Lord and Savior? If you have then you are His. If you are going with Him, He will lead you home. If you have, then your life, your destiny, your destination are all wrapped up in Him, and nothing can take them from you. No struggle. No sin. No difficulty. No past. No future. No power in heaven, earth, or under the earth. Don’t be fooled into thinking your circumstances define who you are.
The rewards of your faith are greater than the pain you are suffering. In Hebrews we are given this fact about God, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” God has given incredible, unbelievable promises of reward as reasons to follow and obey him, the greatest and most valuable of which is life with Him in heaven!
When you want something really bad, you will go through all sorts of pains to get it because you believe that having it outweighs the price of getting it. If however, the reward of attaining that thing is less than the perceived pain and cost of getting it, you will not work for it. You will doubt that you can get it or that God wants you to attain it at all.
The rewards God promises us are immeasurably greater than any amount of trouble we could possibly go through here to get them, but the devil is going to use negative people, problems, messes, illnesses, hurts, jerks, scrooges, liars, cheats, gossips, complainers, and killjoys to try to convince you otherwise. Don’t fall for it!
- Lastly, do not become complacent in your salvation or in your victory in personal trials that God has brought you through. Celebrate your victories. Soak all that joy, courage, strength and belief in like a thirsty sponge. But don’t let down your guard. And don’t think it is God’s plan to leave you forever on this mountaintop. You don’t grow on the mountaintop. You grow in the valley. Where are the great big trees in the forest? Are they on top of the mountain? No. The closer you get to the top, the smaller they get until they are gone and only rock remains. There’s a spiritual metaphor in that waiting for you. Don’t miss it.