FIRST-PERSON: Give thanks today. Rejoice now.

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) -- Last Sunday, we sang "When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory!" (E. E. Hewitt, 1898)

Something occurred to me. Sure, we'll "sing and shout the victory" when we see Jesus face to face. Anyone would. But He wants us to "sing and shout the victory" now, in the middle of the battle.

How do we know? Scripture is loaded with this subject:

-- "He giveth songs in the night" (Job 35:10). "In the night His song shall be with me -- a prayer to the God of my life" (Psalm 42:8).

-- "When men revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake, rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).

-- "Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines; though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls -- yet, I will exult in the Lord! I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet. He causes me to walk on my high places!" (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

-- "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

-- "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.... My cup runneth over" (Psalm 23:4-5).

-- "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4) and "rejoice evermore" (I Thessalonians 5:16).

Do that and people will call you a nut or say you're in denial. Could be. Or perhaps you know something.

-- "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12).

-- "We know that if this earthly house -- this tent -- is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:1).

-- "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren" (I John 3:14).

-- "This hope we have as an anchor for our souls" (Hebrews 6:19).

-- "It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is...." (I John 3:2).

And so we rejoice. We rejoice in the middle of our tribulations. In the middle of the battlefield. While the tempest still rages, the enemy still struts, and the warfare continues. We have the victory.

"At midnight, Paul and Silas began praying and singing hymns to God. And the prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25). These warriors for God had been unjustly arrested and beaten half to death. Then, their backs open wounds, they were locked into stocks, double-locked into the cells and left for the night. Amazingly, in the middle of their pain and anguish, they rejoiced in the Lord. That night, God sent a jail-sized earthquake, blew the doors off their hinges and broke the chains and left the jailer with a lesson he would remember to his dying day. That night, great victories were won for Christ. But it all started when two hurting warriors decided to pray and sing to God.

Can you sing in the midst of your pain? That is the song that honors Him most.

You're singing by faith and not by feeling. And nothing honors Him more than our faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6).

Can you sing in the middle of your pain? If you cannot -- if everything has to be perfect before you can give thanks -- you will never do it.

Rejoice in the Lord. Again, I say, rejoice.

Joe McKeever, online at joemckeever.com, is a speaker, author and a cartoonist whose work is featured in Baptist Press and other media. He formerly was director of missions for the New Orleans Baptist Association and pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenner, La.
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