The period from late November to early January is a time on the Christian calendar when we are supposed to meditate and reflect on and prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ birth is meant to be “good news of great joy ... to all people.” But in our world today, a person could be forgiven for wondering what happened to the good news. Typhoons, earthquakes, famines, plagues, wars, persecutions, poverty, hunger, diseases (and the miserable list could go on and on) wreak havoc upon havoc on people all over the world.
So, what is the good news? What makes a life good for Christians? Is it being Christ-like? What is Christlikeness?
In Jesus’ infancy, He lived through the war that King Herod waged against the children of Bethlehem. In His childhood, He lived in a country that was conquered and ruled by the Romans. In His adulthood, He was betrayed by His intimate friend Judas. And at the end of His life, He was persecuted and put to death by the rulers of His society.
So if you were hoping for a life of ease, leisure, and recreation, you weren’t hoping to be Christ-like, were you?
But what is good about Christlikeness, you might think to yourself. And where has the good news gone?
Revelation 1: 5b - 6 may give us a clue: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (ESV).
Christ’s coming shows us God’s love, His substitutionary death freed us from the condemnation of sin; He made us into a kingdom fit for heaven; and, now here on earth, we can worship and praise God! Isn’t that the good news?
The goal of every believer should be the overflowing of praise, regardless of the circumstances. Knowing God in Christ is the most compelling reason to have such a life. Each day is a new opportunity for offering a praise sacrifice to God. Instead of dwelling on the negatives of our lives, we should seek fresh reasons daily for praising our Lord.
Praise is our highest spiritual exercise. There is more said in the Scriptures about our praise life than even our times of prayer. In prayer it is possible to approach God out of selfish motives; in praise, we worship Him for what He is Himself. Praise is also an encouragement to our fellowmen—“the afflicted hear and rejoice” (Psalm 34:2). Weak hearts will be strengthened and trembling saints revived when they hear our testimonies of praise.
One of the most important times to sing praise to God is when we feel imprisoned by the circumstances of life. Like the experience of Paul and Silas in the Roman prison (Acts 16:24, 25), it is often uncanny how prayer and praise open the doors of our lives to new dimensions of opportunity and spiritual power.
Pastor Robert Chew