When I was at boarding school during the eighties and early nineties, I had to attend Cathedral services at least once a week, but for the most part, that was the bare minimum. For most of us, religion (in our case high Anglican) added up to not much more than some slightly camp, middle aged men, dressed up in extraordinarily ornate gowns, mumbling sermons or endlessly chanting collects in vast, cold, medieval cathedrals. And then I grew up and found passages like today’s in the Bible. Is it any wonder that a huge proportion of our society has turned its back on the church? Nobody is going to take the community of believers seriously unless they can clearly see us genuinely and effortlessly rejoicing in the Lord. I spent ten years being preached at by the Anglican church and for the following ten years I termed myself an atheist! Today’s passage is so important I hardly know where to begin. There is not enough space in one devotional to do much more than just read the scripture itself, think about it, and take it straight to heart.
Philippians 4:4-9 NLT
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
I feel I should say immediately that my goal is not, and never would be, to attack the Anglicans or any other specific denomination. My point is simply to highlight the importance of living in the light of revelation and genuine hope, that faith in Jesus brings to a community of believers. My goal is to encourage us all to focus our lives on the joy and abundant blessing that salvation has brought into our lives. We need not worry any more because we know we can pray about our concerns and know that our needs will be met. We need not dwell on the evil things of this world because we know that Jesus has won the ultimate victory over evil and death on our behalf. We can now live immersed in his love, we may look on the true and the honourable, the heavenly things. The decay and cynicism of the world need no longer trouble us or take up our time. Imagine the effect on the world if every church member alive today was able to show that they were always full of the joy of the Lord.
Jeremiah 1:1-2:30, Philippians 4:1-23, Psalms 75:1-10, Proverbs 24:17-20