Joseph frequently gets left out of the Christmas story. He doesn’t seem to be one of the main characters. Some people have even called him the forgotten man. But Joseph is talked about seven times in the Gospels as Jesus grows to be a man. Each time he is mentioned there is sorrow and difficulty. So how does Joseph find joy?
Mary came from an insignificant town named Nazareth. Most people who knew of Nazareth looked down on it. Yet God selects a girl from Nazareth to bring Jesus into the world. A young girl from a nowhere place plays a big role in the beginning of Christianity. God’s choice of Mary tells us about God’s preference to use the lowly and the least likely to do His work in the world.
The Bible is full of joy. There are more than 400 passages in the Bible about joy. But some of the passages in the Bible are about having joy in the midst of adversity. That seems to be surprising. How do we find joy if we are struggling? How do we find joy when there seems to be no hope? In this message we will take a look at finding joy in difficult places.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 we are told to give thanks in all circumstances. That is hard to stomach. It’s hard to believe we should give thanks for cancer, death of a child, war or other tragedies. Fortunately there is one word that clarifies the whole issue and makes this verse extremely helpful.
Most people know the golden rule. Did you know that Jesus stated a version of the golden rule? “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matt. 7:12) The golden rule is found in many cultures and almost all religions but the version Jesus stated is different from all the rest. There is a reason why he stated it differently.
We may fear death. We may be anxious about growing old. Someone once said, aging is not for sissies.We may worry about losing our memory when we can’t remember something that we’ve always known. So how do we deal with these fears? What will help us have peace?
Politics stir up emotions. Often we can’t talk about politics at home, at church or with friends because of the division it causes. During election cycles fear may be stirred up in us as candidates point out various things that we should be afraid of. So where do we find hope and peace?
You may think that nobody cares about you. You may feel that nobody wants to be in relationship with you. You might even feel lonely in the midst of a crowd. We need connections. We need companionship. Even God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. So what spiritual resources are available so we don’t feel alone? Where might we find community and friendship?
Sometimes we fear other people. We are worried they might harm us in some way so we are ready to take action to stay safe. Our list of people we fear might include people of different ethnicity, religion or social standing. When we act toward others out of fear our actions are rarely commendable. Horrible acts throughout history have been committed when one person fears another or a whole society fears another society. How do we move from fear to love?
We often fear failure. What happens if it doesn’t work out? What are people going to think if I fail? Fear of failure caused Moses to give a list of excuses when God asked him to do something. Moses even gave God a suggestion. “O my Lord, please send someone else.” Fortunately God didn’t let him excuse his way out of fear. How might God help us deal with our fear of failure?