We live in a violent and uncertain world. It’s virtually impossible to pick up the paper or turn on the radio without being confronted with some fresh atrocity or outbreak of unrest. War and terrorism are no longer things which just happen in distant places, but have the ability to touch us and our loved ones, personally. There are times when we feel like crying out like the prophet Jeremiah, “We looked for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold, terror.” (Jeremiah 8:15, NIV)
In addition to the issues which affect our world and our society, many of us face more personal troubles. Some of us, or our loved ones, have serious health problems. Sometimes we wonder where the money is going to come from to pay the bills. Even more distressing are the problems we have getting along with other people, especially people we deeply care about.
We also face temptations which assault us daily. Some of these are caused by our own desires. Or, temptation might take the form of peer-pressure to do what we know is wrong.
The pressure from the burdens, anxieties and trials of life can be overwhelming. It is easy to get discouraged and cry out, “Why?!”
One of the reasons we assemble together each week is to remember that what we see around us and the trials we experience are not the whole story. We gather to remember what Jesus has done. Whenever we get discouraged or start to lose hope, we can put things into their proper perspective by looking at Jesus. Hebrews 12, verses 2 through 4 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you do not grow weary and lose heart.” (NIV)
Jesus went through more trouble, rejection and pain than any of us will ever have to encounter. Why did He endure it? What enabled Him to endure it? What enabled Him to scorn the shame? It was because He was looking beyond the temptation, beyond the betrayal, beyond the suffering, beyond the shame, beyond the cross to the joy that was waiting for Him. Jesus died a terrible death, in terrible circumstances, but that was not the end of the story. On the third day He rose from the dead and entered into joy.
The remarkable thing is that Jesus offers His followers the opportunity to share in His joy. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can look beyond our anxieties, our fears, our trials and our suffering to see what is really important. In Him we find the strength to not only endure but to triumph over our circumstances. But this is not all. In Christ, we can not only look forward to sharing in His joy, He has given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment on what is to come. Isn’t it interesting that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy? We can have joy in the midst of whatever troubles or problems we are experiencing, and this joy is only a small foretaste of the joy that shall be ours, with Christ, in eternity.
Each week we come together to eat a small piece of bread which reminds us Christ’s broken body. We drink a cup of juice to remind us of His blood which was shed for us. These are reminders, not only of His suffering, but also of the joy which lies beyond the suffering. He has given these reminders to us so that we will not grow weary or lose heart. They help us to take our eyes off our troubles and to fix our gaze on Him. There is a hymn which reminds us to, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.” (The Heavenly Vision, Helen H. Lemmel, 1922.)
But this assumes that we are in Christ. We cannot experience the joy of Christ until we, first, submit our lives to Him. If you are not in Christ; if you do not know him, then these emblems are not for you. If you would like to make them yours; if you would like to become a Christian; if you would like to know how you can experience the joy which is found in Christ, then please talk to one of us later and we will be glad to explain the process to you.
As we partake of the emblems this morning, let us fix our eyes on Jesus once again. Let us remember that He endured and overcame. Let us remember that in Him we also can endure, and let us rejoice in the hope that Christ gives us.