Rev. May Etta Hall, Pastor
Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church * Kansas City, MO
Have you ever had one of those days where you felt like all hope was lost and that there was no joy left in you? Last night I was reading in the book of 1Thessalonians 5 and when I got to verse 16, I realized just how short it was. It is one of the shortest in the bible, but it packs a big punch especially in these two words: "Rejoice always." I know the way the world is spinning with Covid-19, the race for the presidency, mail in voting issues, racial issues, don't leave home without your mask, can't eat in your favorite restaurant and so on; makes it hard to rejoice!
I grew up in the "projects" of Columbia, MO with little or nothing and I learned at an early age that joy was not dependent on circumstances. "Joy," I originally thought came from having your priorities straight, living in a big beautiful home, with two or three cars, money in the bank, a closet full of clothes and all the things you want. But I soon found out that I was wrong. Joy doesn't stem from material gain but from the Lord.
Sometimes we're tempted to think that the level of our joy is causally related to the situation we are in. The more pleasant our environment, the greater our joy will be. The problem with that way of thinking is that we can't always choose or control our circumstances. For example our health may decline; we may lose our job; a loved one may die, etc. so it is there's no guarantee that a happy environment will always produce a happy heart.
Years ago, we used to sing a gospel song that began with the words "To the utmost Jesus saves! He will pick you up and turn you around, Hallelujah, Jesus saves!" Whenever the gospel is preached, it is a joyful sound to those that hear it. But is this not one reason that the unchurched have so little use for Christianity, when Christians seemingly have lost the sense of joy in the gospel, and are showing it so little by the way we live? I ask you why would anyone want to listen to what we have to say if that is the case? Perhaps preachers would do well to assess our own sermons and ask, "where is the note of joy?" If the gospel is profoundly good news, then we ought to rejoice and be glad.
The first proof of the gospel's power, for most people, will be what they see in us. For every argument, a preacher may make, and for every beautiful song that may lift the spirit, none of it has the impact of a life full of joy all the time. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to , that my joy may be in you." (John 15:11)
Because it works from the inside out, joy does not depend on whether I have a job or a paycheck or how my friends have treated me. Much less does it depend on my health, or the state of my marriage, or how my children are doing. Even less does it depend on how much money I bank, or what kind of car I drive.
The main thing to consider is the source of our joy. Remembering the only reliable source of joy is Jesus Christ. The external realities of our lives will change, but the internal reality of having Jesus dwell in our hearts never changes. If we stay connected to Jesus, the command to be joyful takes care of itself. During this pandemic let us stay joyful through the change.