Today is the last day of 2023. Everyone, thank you for your hard work this year. Please say hello to everyone around you. And I hope you give this encouragement.
‘I was happy because of you. I was thankful for you. Thank you for your hard work.
If your spouse is by your side, please confess, ‘I love you.’ I hope you say, ‘It was a year full of joy because of you.’
I hope you end the year well like this. Finishing is important!
There is a Bible verse that I have in mind. ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in everything. ‘For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).’
Of course, there are not only happy things in our lives. Sometimes it's sad; sometimes, it's hard and lonely. There are times when the weight of life weighs us down. Nevertheless, I wish we could live with this attitude. What kind of attitude is this? I want to live a life always rejoicing, praying without ceasing, and being thankful for everything because I realize that living this way is a happy life.
This is the secret to making our lives happy. It is also the secret to enriching our lives.
I like the phrase ‘abundant!’ I hope your relationships will also be enriched. I hope that our church will also become abundant. I hope your life is great, too. I pray that everything you do will be abundant.
I'm trying to think about it differently. Let’s turn this saying around: ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.’ This passage will be changed like this. “always complain, argue about everything’? Do you think that it is cool? Do you look happy? Do you look unhappy? Do you want to live like that? Do you want to keep living like this? Or do you want to live differently?
It's annoying to be around someone who always grumbles, fights over everything, and complains about everything. You may not know it, but the other person must look at your annoyed face. So, I want you to live according to the word of God. I wish we could live without resentment or arguments.
The secret to ending 2023 happily is gratitude. What comes to mind when I am thankful is the confession of the prophet Habakkuk.
‘The fig tree leaves are withered, and there are no grapes…’
Even if you listen to it, it can all become a source of resentment, bickering, and complaints.
To put it in modern terms, ‘No car, no job, no house, nothing to eat today..’
These are just heartbreaking words, but Habakkuk had a twist. You know what the twist is! ‘I will rejoice in the Lord. ‘I will delight in the God of my salvation.’ Isn’t it wonderful that Habakkuk confesses like this? Or is it true?
I hope the prophet Habakkuk's confession will also sound great in your ears.
If we focus on what we don't have or can't consume, there will be endless resentment and arguments in our lives. But if we focus on what we have and enjoy, we can be thankful for everything.
We are the people who have Jehovah. It is our joy, gratitude, and praise that God dwells in me, the Lord lives in me, and I dwell in the Lord.
We only have one life, and I hope we live it beautifully.
People who have Jesus Christ, who loved us until death. Those people are us. Therefore, I would like us to confess like the prophet Habakkuk. ‘Even if I don’t have a palace like a house, a shiny car, or a designer bag, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will rejoice in the Lord.’
What if we all lived like this? Only then will our lives become lives without regrets.
And, to have no regrets in our later lives, there is something we must acknowledge. That's verse 13.
‘It is God who works in you both to will and to act for his good pleasure.’
What will happen if we don't know this? Those two words appear in verse 14: “complaints and arguments.”
However, when you read verse 13 and then verse 14, don't you feel like things don't fit together? It's because I'm wondering how resentment and arguments can arise when God makes a wish. Isn’t it a joy when God gives you a wish? Wouldn’t we be excited if it were a wish given to us by God? But what about resentment and quarrels? It doesn't seem to make sense. But things that seem inexplicable happen in our lives.
In the Old Testament, there are frequent scenes of God making a wish for the Israelites and then doing it. God performs ten miracles in the Book of Exodus and brings the Israelites out of Egypt. At this time, God gave them the wish to go to God's mountain and worship. He also gave him the wish to live as an army of God and not as a slave. I have no idea how heart-pounding and exciting this moment is.
So the Israelites packed up everything they had, left Egypt, and moved toward the land God had promised because God acted with the desire in their hearts. But what happened? Not long after, the Egyptian soldiers came after them. And in front of them was the Red Sea. This was something that God had hoped for, but in the midst of it, unimaginable things were waiting. Isn't it strange? This happened because the people prayed. The Exodus is something that happened because God did it. God guided us. A pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud guided them. But now, something that could not be resolved was happening before and behind them. There are only two things the Israelites can do. Either surrender and return to Egypt or drown in the Red Sea en masse.
It was something God did and did with His will, but things happened to them for unknown reasons. This can happen to us, too. At that time, there were things we should not do. It's just resentment and quarrels.
‘It’s because of you. ‘You are wrong, and I am right.’
A situation that is easy to say unfolds like this. So what happens if you hold grudges and argue like this? It ruins it. It is something God has done, something God has hoped for, but it ends up being ruined in vain. No matter how grand and grand your beginnings may be, if you constantly complain about everything, fight, and complain, that's what will happen.
Also, what should we do when resentment and quarrels arise within us?
The purpose is to check who did the work. Was it God who started it? Is this something that God has wished for us to do? Could you check this?
This is something our community has been doing since 2015. It is now the end of 2023, so I have been doing this for eight years. This is the ‘Missionary’s Table’ ministry. This project aims to provide at least one meal a month to missionaries in Japan. I didn't know I would do it for this long when I first started. Anyway, we are still sending a certain amount of food every month. It happened this year. Among the foods sent were ‘Korean kimchi’ and ‘Samgyeolsap(삼겹살)’. However, there was someone who was moved after receiving this food. They say he came to receive missionary training. It is said that this person prayed earnestly. I guess it's been a while since you moved from Korea to Japan. I think that’s why you wanted to eat Korean food. A missionary trainee prayed like this in secret.
‘God, I want to eat Korean kimchi.’
For a missionary’s prayer, isn’t it quite simple? God answered this simple prayer. Through whom, through our community. How can I be so moved and thankful for Korean kimchi? It's really strange, but it's something I'm grateful for.
Asking someone to help you with household chores you don't have can cause resentment and quarrels. Usually, people say this. Some people tell us to do good things when the situation gets better. Some say to look at yourself first and then look at others. However, there are times when such a situation is impossible, but God gives us a wish and makes us do it. There is a record in the Bible of a widow who was poor feeding a meal to a prophet. It was the last meal, and the prophet said it was for him. It can't be anything other than resentful. But then we have to change our minds. How? It is about believing that God gave us a wish and did it.
We must remember these words when we feel resentment and arguments brewing within us. ‘It is God who works in you both to will and to act for his good pleasure.’
We are poor, but God is rich. In that sense, there is something our community has decided to do in 2024. We have agreed to sponsor one more missionary next year. So, in 2024, we will be sponsoring three missionaries. It may not be a big help, but every little bit will help. We will support you financially and through prayers. Supporting them through prayer means that we are thinking of them and remembering them. I pray that they will not tire of the fierce spiritual battle in the mission field and will win in the name of the Lord. This is because what missionaries experience is the content of today’s text. Even though we are doing what God wants us to do, we may get tired, and resentment and arguments may arise. Nevertheless, I hope they can live a life of gratitude and the Lord's comfort be upon them.
And this will be a subject of gratitude for us as well. This is because we can live through the year feeling God is doing what He wants for us.
And the ultimate reason why there should be no grumbling or arguing about anything is given in verse 15.
‘So that you may be blameless and blameless, children of God blameless amid a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.’
We have questions about how to live. This is especially true because we live as strangers in a strange land called America. However, we who live on this earth as citizens of heaven are all strangers in some way. I miss the food and the scent of my hometown. Their food doesn't suit their tastes, and their customs are entirely different.
There is a complaint that the Israelites had in the wilderness. This means that you cannot eat as much of the chives or meat that you ate in Egypt. They had an instinct to abandon the freedom God had given them and to live as slaves again. This shows that grumbling and arguing prevent us from living as light in the world as God's blameless children. What happens if a person known to have good faith only complains and argues? And after grumbling and arguing, all that remains is ‘regret and emptiness.’
Because it makes everything you've done so far in vain, this is true even though God did it even if he wished. Therefore, rather than showing our presence through complaints and arguments, let us show our presence through prayer.
Even before the Red Sea, despite the pursuit of the Egyptian army, the Israelites had to look forward to what God would do. It is the expectation that the Red Sea will part and a path no one expected would open. The sea parted, and a road opened. It is different if God does it. It is different if it is something God did with a wish. Through that work, God wanted the Israelites to appear as lights in the world as God's flawless children.
Be happy always. Pray without ceasing. Be thankful for all things. This is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.
I pray in the name of the Lord that we all believe in God, who has desired and acted upon us and live according to the path He will lead. Amen.
In 2024, the wish God has given me is ‘temperance.’ Can I control myself in front of that delicious food today? Haha, you're already curious, right? I am telling you this to ask you to pray so that I can do well. I pray that God gives you your wishes, too.