JOY: ADVENT DEVOTIONAL BY ELLIOT AND NAOMI MICHA
Happiness is a fleeting emotion, isn’t it? As followers of Jesus, joy is not a synonym for happiness, but is directly related to our hope in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
John the Baptist tells us that God is coming. We get a first glimpse of this in Mark 1:4 as John the Baptist preached a, “Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And then as we keep reading, it says, “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him, confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan river.” Repentance means to turn from our sin and put our trust in Christ. John the Baptist points us to Jesus, the one who came and is coming again, as the source of true joy.
Sometimes as believers, even though we have joy knowing Jesus is Lord and are grateful for the forgiveness of our sins, there can be life circumstances that can attempt to steal our joy. These circumstances begin to stir up other emotions that might start small but can take a hold of your heart and grow beyond measure. Bitterness, for example, can begin with what seems like a small seed planted by hurtful words but when not acknowledged could take root and grow into anger, resentment, depression and so much more. Just like an annoying weed that can be so tough to pull, it won’t go away until you really get to the root of it.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Paul, the author of Ephesians, challenges us to examine our own hearts and to remember that just as Christ forgave us, we must also forgive. When we have an unforgiving heart, our eyes are not set on Jesus but instead, on ourselves. Forgiveness doesn’t always come easy. It requires you to pray, let go, trust and surrender whatever you are harboring to Jesus. Once you release this over to the Lord, He will begin to (maybe slowly and steadily) ease the root of bitterness from your heart. To fully be rid of the weed, we have to take the final step. Approach the one that you need to forgive, and if it applies, ask for forgiveness from them for harboring bitterness.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Following Jesus is a process. There is a critical element to our walk with the Lord that requires us to come daily and confess or surrender our fears to Jesus as a spiritual discipline. This is not an easy process. Allowing Jesus to pull up a root can be painful! Sometimes it can look like many of the heroes of faith that fill up the pages of scripture. They kicked, prayed, moaned and ultimately had to come to a place of centering themselves in the peace of Jesus. Joy comes from knowing Jesus, and when we realize we are His beloved, we are able to be truly found in Him.
Take some time to pray and go deeper:
- Is there any bitterness, anger, or unforgiveness left unchecked in your heart? Ask the Holy Spirit to bring it to mind.
- Ask God, “what do you want to do with this?” Take time to listen.
- In the midst of good times and hard times, what are a few ways you have seen the nearness of Jesus in your life? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you.
- Take time to praise God for His presence, His help, His blessing, His forgiveness. You are a beloved child of God.