I used to read large chunks of the Bible for my daily reading. Sections of Scripture that would take me 20-30 minutes to get through. I would then reach over, check off the reading for the day and carry on.
While this served fruitful in the early years of reading the Word and helped me to gain understanding of God’s redemption from Genesis to Revelation, it didn’t settle into my mind as it ought to. There was not enough meditation. I was too hurried and too intent upon checking off the reading for the day rather than lingering in the Word.
Recently, I have been trying develop a different kind of skill. Perhaps it is not a skill, but more of a reminder to keep things simple. To get curious, and to not be so worried if I miss reading a whole chapter in Scripture because my curiosity sent me on an exploration!
On Friday, I read in Luke 24 and the well-known story of Christ’s ascension. This account is not overly long. In fact, it is just a few verses.
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. –Luke 24: 50-53
I have read these words many times, but on this day, I paused over that phrase, “and were continually in the temple blessing God.” What must it be like to continually be in the temple? What must it be like to be joyful in all circumstances? What would it be like if I chose to bless God with my daily worship as I sought joy?
This story of joyfulness is not simply from worshipping God in the good times. It is all the more joyful because the followers of Christ walked through the darkest of times and then had the incredible blessing of seeing the light. Yes, they had seen Lazarus raised from the dead. But then the One who raised Lazarus was taken, sacrificed on a cross. They suffered with Him, knowing that He was gone and not wanting to lose Him. They wept, they mourned, they stood in the dark of the world and felt that all meaning for life was lost.
Think of disciples and what their lives were like before meeting Christ? Did they wonder if they would return to those lives? What of Mary Magdalene who had had demons driven out of her by Christ? I wonder if she was terrified the darkness would return. I know I would have been.
And think of Peter, having thrice denied Christ, he stood in mourning knowing what he had done while feeling the weight of the mission to carry on Christ’s calling. How was he to teach without the Lord at the helm? And wouldn’t he be a hypocrite to teach when he had denied knowing Christ? Not once, but three times?
Think of the darkness, now think of the joy when they realized Christ had overcome death! It overflows. They could not stop praising for it seemed before they couldn’t stop mourning.
I want to remember that joy! I want to never lose sight of the wonder and awe of Christ, of what He did on the cross and how I ought to be praising Him daily. Sure, some days maybe more difficult than others. In fact, some might be terribly awful, but there is still good. In that quiet resting of the heart—there is still joy. There is still the ability to say, “God is good,” even when all doesn’t seem good.
Are you in a busy season today? A hard season? Perhaps more difficult than you care to admit. I may not know what you are walking through, but I can tell you that God is your comfort the joy of the Lord is your strength.
As I lingered in the Word on Friday, I wondered how badly the disciples and followers of Christ wanted Him to stay. My guess is they cried tears of joy at the miracle of seeing Him raised from death, but also joyfully mourned His leaving. And yet, they couldn’t stop praising.
For their eyes were opened when the Holy Spirit came and they knew that home was in Heaven and that the goal was not here on earth, but eternity with the Lord!
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
May we remember today to fix our eyes on the ascended Christ, our hearts on the goal of Heaven, and our spirit in joy. Be blessed today and worship the Lord with praise!