Psalm 98, Philippians 4:4-9
How do you change how you feel? Can you change how you feel?
We are commanded by God to rejoice. Surely God would not command us to do something we could not do. If God commands us to rejoice, then surely it is possible to do so even if we do not feel joyful.
We are commanded to be thankful. How can we thankful if life is so bad we feel there is nothing to be thankful about?
We may not be able to change the way we feel by just choosing to do so. However, we can change what we think about.
If we continually think about what is wrong in life, we will feel depressed. On the other hand if we change what we think about, we can change how we feel.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. (NIV)
If we spend our time thinking about ourselves and how terrible our life is, we will not feel like singing to the Lord and praising Him. Our hearts will not rejoice in our salvation. If we think about the things God has given us, we will begin to feel better and come to the place we can rejoice. The Psalmist thought about God’s unfailing love and so his heart rejoiced in the salvation that God had given him.
He thought about how good God had been to Him and got in the mood to sing to the Lord.
What do you spend your time thinking about?
1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 2 The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. (NIV)
4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; 5 make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, 6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn — shout for joy before the Lord, the King. (NIV)
Shout for joy! Because God has offered salvation to us, we can shout for joy. When we remember His great love for us we will begin to feel like bursting into jubilant song, we will shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
When we focus on ourselves and how bad life is, we will never feel like praising God. We have a choice to make. What will we spend our time thinking about?
7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; 9 let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. (NIV)
Rejoice for the coming judgement of God. We are protected by the salvation of our God. We celebrate His coming because He brings the salvation of His people with Him.
We rejoice because of His great love for us. We rejoice because He saves us. He saves us because He loves us, but He also saves us for Himself, for His glory.
Joy and rejoicing. Shouting for joy. Can you control your feelings? Yes, we can.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (NIV)
We may not be able to change the way we feel, just by telling ourselves to feel differently, but we can change what we think about. When we think about the Lord and the good that He has done for us, our mood will improve.
What do you spend your time thinking about? Do you focus on yourself?
25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
29 "Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" (NIV)
Why did Peter doubt? He got his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus on his circumstances. He was walking on water until he began thinking about how impossible it was for him to be doing what he was doing. What he focused on had changed.
Rejoice. Joy comes from knowing Jesus. Walking with Him, wherever He leads. Even if it means getting out of the boat and going onto the water.
We fail to rejoice when we are thinking about ourselves and our circumstances instead of focusing our attention on God and His plan for us.
Where will He lead us this year? Where will we follow Him? He has a plan and to find it we must focus on Him and not ourselves.
At this time of year we focus on the birth of our Savior. We celebrate His coming as a child into our world. We focus on the gift of love and grace that He brought to us. We rejoice because we focus on Him and not on ourselves.
The Christian life is about surrendering ourselves to God. Seeking Him and His will and not our own.
When we spend our time focusing on how bad life is, we get depressed. When we spend our time focusing on how good God has been to us we begin to rejoice and praise Him. We begin offering Thanks to Him.
Where are you focusing your thoughts today?
In Advent we focus on the Good News of the coming of Jesus Christ to the world.