How are you feeling about the atmosphere that permeates the United States right now? Are you disturbed at the injustice, violence, destruction, and conflict? Two of the Old Testament prophets, Habakkuk and Jeremiah freely shared their complaints with the Lord. Habakkuk told the Lord, "The wicked hem in the righteous so that justice is perverted."(Habakkuk 1:4) Jeremiah felt persecuted as he carried the word of the Lord. He complained: "So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long." (Jeremiah 20:8)
We feel for these frustrated prophets who brought the word of the Lord and experienced persecution and frustration because they had not yet seen the changes they were hoping for. However, these men left clues for us on how to overcome calamities and shift the atmosphere. God has a blessing for us when we keep our focus on Him instead of on the turmoil. He is drawn to us when we choose to rejoice instead of complaining. Here is how Habakkuk ends his writings: "Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Jeremiah shares the word of the Lord to his people: "Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, 'Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.'" (Jeremiah 31:7)
Many years ago, our pastor, Scott McDermott, shared some pearls of wisdom that I still carry. "Whatever consumes us is what will come out. I am responsible for my reactions and what I carry. The posture of my heart determines the atmosphere in which I live." The bottom line is that our focus needs to be on the Lord and Him alone. We can transform our atmosphere as we look to the Lord and rejoice in who He is for us.
What happened to Paul and Silas as written about in Acts 16 shows us the power of rejoicing and keeping our focus on the Lord. While in Philippi, Paul and Silas were being harassed by a young slave girl who had an evil spirit of divination in her. One day, Paul was so greatly annoyed at her harassment that he commanded the spirit within her to come out. Her owners were furious with Paul and Silas because they lost their capability to make a profit from her. Many in the city came against them so that the Roman officials stripped them of their clothes, beat them, and took them to prison. The jailer placed them in the innermost cell of the prison and chained their feet.
Imagine the agony they felt and the dark atmosphere of the prison! Here is how they responded: "Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship." (Acts 16:25 - TPT) Here is the power of rejoicing and worshiping: "Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. All at once every prison door flung open and the chains of all the prisoners came loose." (Acts 16:26 - TPT) The jailer and all his family were saved and baptized and "filled with joy in their newfound faith in God." Truly Paul and Silas were atmosphere changers!
"It takes a radical focus (on God) to change the atmosphere." (Another pearl from Scott McDermott) Here are some Scriptures to encourage us and remind us to keep our eyes on the Lord and rejoice in who He is: "I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:7-8) "Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous and praise His holy name." (Psalm 97:11-12) The atmosphere of heaven comes to earth as we focus on the Lord and rejoice in who He is. If we all partnered in this endeavor, we could change our corner of the world.
Joan E. Mathias