It’s the last week before Christmas and yet again our community has received news to rock the foundations; lockdown looms again and with it a Christmas period without the routines to which we’re all accustomed. It’s been a trying year and one that’s tested our resolve, but Stonehaven’s succeeded in stoically uniting against a pandemic which could easily have overwhelmed our spirit otherwise.
At Stonehaven Baptist Church this week we learned about this concept of being united, being of one mind and one accord, and we learned too of the importance of putting others before ourselves. This was the plea from Paul in his letter to the church of Philippi and he put forward no greater example of such selflessness as Jesus Christ, a man who lived a sinless life yet sacrificed himself so we could be welcomed into God’s kingdom. Now that’s what you call true love. Christ’s perfection isn’t expected of us, it’d be an impossibility, but we’re to strive to keep in step with God’s will by obeying his promptings and following his lead, something we can do if we open our hearts to him, allowing him to work in us and through us.
Paul’s letter went on to urge believers to work out their salvation and to live it out by striving for holiness, making every effort to deepen their faith. A walk with God is a pursuit, not an idle receipt of him with our arms folded and eyes closed, we’re to commit our energy to this relationship rather than waiting for God’s spirit to wash over us and have us live happily ever after. There’s work to be done from our side. We’re to strive consistently towards God and not be moulded by modern day fads and shallow pursuits that last for a season but offer no lasting joy. Only a relationship with God can give us the eternal peace that we ultimately want.
We face trials in life, no question. Some things hit us between the eyes, we struggle to cope and find ourselves reaching out, desperately, to grab onto something, anything, that might save us from drowning. And it’s here that God reveals his power. When we reach out to him, with earnest and loving hearts, he becalms us, comforts and guides us, leading us to those calm pastures we learn of in Psalm 23. When you have God in your life you find contentment with your lot, despite circumstances which rankle. If we acknowledge the ultimate sovereignty of God and accept his will for our lives we can face all things steadfastly and in strength. Believing in God is not an insurance policy to protect us from strife and torment, but it is a guarantee that we won’t face struggles alone and, instead, have a loving God to sustain and strengthen us.
This Christmas might be an opportunity for you to turn and face God for the first time, asking him to come into your heart. If you do, he will, and a life of peace that is beyond your understanding is promised, regardless of the circumstances you face. God did not sacrifice his son for nothing, he did it so that those who believe in the Jesus that was born at Christmas time, can enjoy everlasting and fulfilling life.