Lay Devotion with Kim Wu
Do you feel the nearness of Christ?
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he tells them, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
To always be rejoicing, when there is so much heartache and loss felt around us and within us, seems like such a lofty ideal. And if we interpret that as a call to always be happy, even when things are hard, then it would not only be impossible, but it would not be good for us. We need to be able to mourn and feel genuine sorrow.
But that is not what Paul is saying here. He’s not telling them to rejoice in their circumstances; he is telling them to rejoice in the Lord. And the key to how to do that is in the sentence, “The Lord is near.”
In Jen Wilkin’s study of the Sermon on the Mount, she helped me see this beautiful illustration of the nearness and accessibility of Jesus.
At the start of the sermon, we read, “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.”
The beauty of that sentence is not fully understood until you compare it to the story in Exodus of Moses traveling up on a mountain to meet with God and receive the Ten Commandments from Him. In that account, God put limits on the people, telling them through Moses they could not go up the mountain or even touch it. God descended on the mountain with “thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.” And the people “trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance.”
But in the story of Jesus on the mountain, he sits down and welcomes his followers to draw near and sit at his feet. He speaks with a gentle voice to them, and He does the same for us. He is our Emmanuel. God with us. He left the glory of heaven above and came to be with us down on this earth, knowing all He would suffer, to be near to us.
We can rejoice in His nearness. In difficult times, sometimes the only way to get through them is to rejoice in the Lord. He is the source of our strength, and He is close.
Lord, help us to remember that you are our Emmanuel. Help us make the decision each and every day to celebrate that, and to draw strength from your nearness. Amen.