Weekend, December 23, 2023

Unconditional Joy

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” (Luke 2:9-10 NLT)

In the pages of Scripture, it’s one of the most common opening statements for angels: “Don’t be afraid.” That’s because when people saw angels, they were terrified.

When an angel appeared to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, he said, “Don’t be afraid! . . . I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10 NLT).

In other words, “This is good news that you need to know so you can have great joy. Even if you don’t feel like it, rejoice, because your world just changed.”

Sometimes we can be filled with fear because of the world in which we’re living. There are a lot of things happening today that can strike fear in our hearts. We also have personal fears about our jobs or our finances or our health or our families. 

Are you worried right now? Are you filled with fear? The message of Christmas is don’t be afraid; instead, have great joy. Fear is what Christmas came to remove so that we can have great joy. But the condition of that joy is to let go of our fears.

Ray Stedman pointed out that the chief mark of the Christian ought to be the absence of fear and the presence of joy. In fact, it’s that absence of fear and presence of joy that marks our genuine Christianity and proves that we really are what we claim to be.

It’s a powerful testimony when Christians can rejoice, even in the midst of adversity. Can people look at us and tell that we’re true believers?

When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel, they were whipped and put into chains and stocks. There was no hope of their ever getting out. But the Bible tells us that “around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (Acts 16:25 NLT). We could also translate the word “listening” as “listening with pleasure.”

When you hear one of your favorite songs, you look forward to hearing it again. These prisoners were listening with pleasure because they’d never heard anything quite like it.

Then, when an earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and the doors opened and the chains fell off the prisoners, the jailer knew it would be death for him if the prisoners got away. He was about to commit suicide when Paul called out, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” (verse 28 NLT).

The Roman jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30 NLT). In other words, “I’ve been watching you, and I want what you have.”

Joy is a magnet that God has given to believers. Nonbelievers have nothing like it. They have their moments of happiness, but that happiness completely depends on their circumstances.

When the Bible speaks of joy, however, it refers to something far deeper than that. It’s an abiding joy that is independent of our circumstances. The joy that we experience in Christ can be ours, both in good times and in bad.

Copyright © 2023 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

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new believers growth book greg laurie devo offerIn thanks for your gift, you can receive a copy of Ben Born Again's New Believer's Growth Book by Greg Laurie

Cartoon companions Ben Born Again and YellowDog teach kids how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to know the will of God, how to resist temptation, and much more in this engaging resource written for children. A copy will be sent to you for a gift of any amount to Harvest Ministries this month.

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