St Barbara’s 8am Communion
If you are anything like me, life can tend to pull us down.
We can become worried, anxious.
We can feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, and how little time there is to do it.
We may wonder how we will pay the next bill; or how we will cope if our health begins to fail.
There are times when living joyful, positive lives can be a challenge.
So, this passage that Paul writes, can act as the perfect tonic for such times.
It is one of the most extraordinary and uplifting passages that I can find in Scripture.
Paul is just bubbling over with delight and joy, and none of the things he is so delighted in are connected to his context. We have no idea whether the sun was shining, or whether he had just had a great meal, or whether his local football team had just won the Asia Minor Cup.
The things he gives thanks for are on an all together different scale, and ones that we too can share in.
His language just overflows with thanks and praise:
“Praise be to the God and father of our lord Jesus Christ…
… in accordance with God’s pleasure and will
… to the praise of his glorious grace
… according to his good pleasure
… that we might be for the praise of his glory
… (and again, at the end) to the praise of his glory”
Paul is full of praise and delight, joy and wonder.
And he sees God as being the same. This is not some picture of a God who is austere and removed, a rather stern and scary head-teacher. This is a God who delights in our praise, a God who takes pleasure in the lives we offer him. There is joy here.
And yet, sometimes, our faith may feel fragile, our hope wobbly, our love insufficient. We know in our heads we should be joyful, but its not easy. We may feel insecure. Are we sure God really has called us? Hasn’t he made some mistake?
When I was a child and we were playing football in the playground, at the beginning of a match we would line up and wait to be picked by one of the captains on either side. It was always a horrible wait. How long would it take to be chosen? Would I be the last? Indeed, would either side want me?
To be told – “I was always going to pick you. You are my star player. Before I even got out to break I had already pencilled you in my team” – were just words of such confidence and delight.
It is true for us too with God. We are not an afterthought in the mind of God. “Oh… I guess you will have to do. You’re not my first choice, but there you go…” Indeed, we are the exact opposite.
God has chosen us before the creation of the world itself to live for him, to love him, to praise him.
Before we had done anything to show that we deserved his love; before we were even born; before indeed anyone or anything had come into being, God had chosen us!
Before the beginning of the world he had chosen us to be in relationship with him, to know him and to love him. And every act of his since then has been with that in mind. He has “predestined us” to be adopted as his children, to be welcomed into his family.
We are part of the purposes, the plans of God. It is not down to chance that we know God, that we experience his love.
We can be joyful. We can be confident. And we can be blessed.
As the old Sunday School song goes: “Count your blessings one by one and you will be amazed at what the Lord has done.”
Paul begins to count his blessings here:
- we have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing
- we have been chosen by God
- we have been adopted into his family
- we have received his glorious grace
- we have freedom, life, because of his sacrifice for us
- we have the forgiveness of sins – no longer do we need to carry the burden of guilt and regret around with us
- we know what the purpose of life is (that great question that has eluded philosophers of all ages) – to bring all things together to worship Christ
- we have received the gift of his holy spirit.
Whatever our circumstances. Whatever our mood. Read these words of Paul again and you’ll be amazed at what the Lord has done.