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Dear bros and sis,
I am grateful for this opportunity to share something for 2020, a year that has been troubling and chaotic, due to events that we are all only too familiar.
Nonetheless, I give thanks to our Lord for His grace and care, and I wish to relate various aspects of these things here, regarding what our Lord does for us.
I do not propose to discuss troubling events or how to address these matters, as these are more than adequately dealt in the news, and by experts. Rather, what I wish to share has to do with what God does for me continually, in the Christian’s walk with God.
God Pours His Blessings on Us Out of His Boundless Love
There is, firstly, the blessings God pours into my life out of His boundless love and grace.
In a turbulent and distressing world, God gives peace. This comes despite the despair and helplessness we are witnessing today, especially with a virus pandemic that is running wild. It’s a peace that is not as the peace this world knows as Jesus declared to the disciples, “Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives.”
This peace is present because God is with you and me when we walk with God.
God’s Presence is there. What more can a person ask then? It is far stronger than a tai ko (a Cantonese slang meaning “big brother”), government, or security organization.
Paul declares this as a peace that surpasses understanding, and so it is, for it is also promised in Isaiah, “Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.”
It is true that there is an ever-present danger. I do not pretend it is not there, just because God is with me. No! I have to face these dangers, whether it is a virus, riot, or the threat of unemployment.
Faith does not make me blind to these dangers. Rather, I place my life in God’s hands.
For God’s name, Emmanuel, means God is with us. It means He is there, and so I understand what the Psalmist says, “Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
To this end, God gives peace for my mind and soul.
The Grace of the Lord is Vital
God gives these blessings in His love and grace for me. The grace of our Lord is vital, for we are helpless and unable to stand up to these worldly assaults. As we can see, many events are outside our control and we do not have the requisite strength to prevail.
But Jesus said, “MY grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
So then, God’s grace is given to us to endure these distresses. Yet if someone were to ask, “how does this grace work”?
I would like to tell you that it comes from the joy of the Lord. For it is written: “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” This joy of the Lord is present when we walk with God, for His Presence gives us joy every day. For where God is, there is the Kingdom of God. And we know God’s kingdom is called Heaven.
The Difference Between Joy and Happiness
I would like to add also that there is a vast difference between joy and happiness.
Everybody wants to be happy. It is only a natural, for happiness is a blessing, a virtue in which we have bliss amidst pleasant circumstances. Yet, it is precisely that the circumstances must be pleasant, which makes it impossible for us to be happy when things go wrong. Happiness cannot be found when we are suffering.
But in this world, suffering is only too common. Therefore, it is not possible to be happy all the time in this world, except when there are peace and pleasant circumstances. We need something that extends beyond happiness if we are to find blessings that surpasses unhappy circumstances.
Some may seek to be stoic, as the Greeks and Romans did in days gone by. But today, no Western mind is willing to be stoic. But God provides this to those who are in His care. It comes in the joy of the Lord. And the strength from the joy of the Lord takes us through life’s worries and cares.
I will explain also that both joy and happiness come from God’s grace. It is in God’s love and His Providence for a suffering world that happiness comes as a blessing to all, whether sinner or righteous. Happiness is given to all, just as God makes the rain fall on both sinners and righteous people.
However, the way happiness comes to a person is different from the way God gives joy. In good circumstances, any person can happy. He is satisfied things are well, and gratefully accepts these things. It may be from striking a lottery, or having an ice cream, or food when we are hungry.
Yet, having these do not necessarily make a person happy, as we know many are not satisfied with the good things they have. There is greed for more, and in this condition, that person is dissatisfied and becomes unhappy.
Hence, we see that happiness comes from a grateful heart that is contented, that is satisfied with what a person has. This contentment is in the heart, and where there is contentedness, the heart is filled and full. Anything that adds or comes, is surplus, and when there is surplus, the heart overflows from abundance.
The Psalmist calls this, “My cup is filled and running over.” So then when your cup overflows, due to being contented, you are happy.
And the best way to have this contentment is to be grateful, and we do this when we give thanks to God. For we are saying to God, we have plenty and are filled, and there is happiness. In this way, happiness comes to anyone, whether sinner or righteous, when he is grateful and contented.
So, Scripture tells us to be thankful, for God sees to this action by blessing us with happiness. Happiness, hence, comes in a different way from joy.
Happiness is a similar blessing to joy and is bounded up inside joy as our blessing. Joy is the greater blessing though, for we are able to endure and have strength when we are joyful. So, it is seen when Habakkuk sang in his song:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
We Can Always Trust the Lord to Keep Us
I would like to sum up by speaking of the goodness of God to us through His boundless blessings. These are not necessarily material, though many are. God provides for our needs. He is our Bread of Heaven, and He gives us each day our daily bread.
More than this, we have God’s Spirit in us to bring forth fruits of patience, kindness, and temperance. Against such, there is no law. I do not have to endure loneliness, anxiety, or fear, even as I face the dangers and cares of this worldly life. God provides for all these needs.
There is an inner completeness in walking with God.
This is why we have the Aaronic blessing:
“The LORD bless you and keep you,
The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The LORD lift up His face upon you and give you peace.”
and the parallel benediction,
“The grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.”
Addendum: What About Our Loved Ones Who Have Yet to Know Jesus?
I would like to complete one other important aspect that all of us encounter. It is that we also cannot control what happens to others in this world, and in this aspect, concerning especially our friends and loved ones.
Our walk with God ensures God’s fulfillment of His promises to us. But these blessings and promises are not a given for our friends and loved ones unless they abide with God themselves.
We are often distressed when sufferings and troubles come to them, and we are powerless to act. What can we do then, seeing them suffer this sorrow?
For the Christian, God provides us with answers through prayers. We pray for our people and leave it to God to provide, just as we trust God to provide for us individually. God will hear, for the fervent and effective prayers of the righteous avail much, as Scripture promises.
We see this with Job, as he made prayers for his children, lest they be trapped by evil. It is also Satan’s complaint to God, that God protected Job by having God’s hedge around Job.
To this end, in our Lord’s Prayer, we find the petition, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom and the power, forever and ever. Amen.”
Pray always then, and place in God’s hands also, all our needs.
About the Writer
Yeo Teck Thiam studied and specialized in perfumery & olfactory senses. Now retired, he keeps up his unusual life-long interest, studying the stars and physical universe as God’s creation.
We went on a mission trip to Cambodia in 2018 with Malaccan friends Michelle and her daughter Annabelle and got to know their unusual family. They home-school all their children and besides academic subjects, they also teach them skills to earn money for their wants and needs such as going for holidays. Annabelle shares her views on how these skills are imparted…
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