Thursday, December 17, 2015

Refined Joy

Advent is a time when God meets us where we are and in our need. 

This was a thought I had while walking home from the train this evening. A great way to start tonight's blog... As we identify with the different characters of the Christmas story we experience humility, anticipation, grace, love, joy, and awe, in the midst our fear, anxiety, sadness, and distractedness. It’s a beautiful picture, but I hadn't figured out what more I could say. . .

Then I listened to an Advent sermon by Matt Chandler (of the Village Church). He preached on Malachi 3, where the prophet announces the coming of a “messenger” that would prepare the way. He then goes on to describe the refining fire of God’s covenant, and the assurance of the Lord’s unchangeable nature.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:1-6)

“Advent,” Chandler reminds us, “is about God initiating not only your ransom and rescue but purifying our lives and making us more like Christ for our joy and for His glory.”

Our lives are full of trials, sufferings, and things we must endure. But God is at work in the mess.” That’s why in James 1, Jesus’ little brother can say, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3) and Paul can say to the Romans in chapter 5, “but we rejoice in our sufferings…knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5)

Chandler digs into these verses: Why can we rejoice in the midst of trials? Because God is at work in our mess. He has not abandoned us or pushed us aside, He loves us. Why should we rejoice in our sufferings? Because God is at work in our mess. He is developing our endurance, growing hope and faith.

We are all being refined on some level. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it feels like it is taking a million years. But it’s in our waiting that God does His work—immeasurably more than we could ever hope to do on our own. And as we wait for the Lord, He will always meet us.

Sometimes it takes the message of Advent to remind us how to wait.

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