Advent Devotional: To Keep Joy is to Keep Your Eyes on the Lord

Scripture: 1 Samuel 9:24

Samuel said, “Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion….” And Saul dined with Samuel that day (1 Samuel 9:24).

It sometimes is a great joy to sit, eat, and talk with somebody who is important, especially for those of us who think of ourselves as nobodies. As an international student at Asbury Seminary and a Chinese house church minister, I can imagine what great joy, excitement, as well as nervousness, Saul experienced that day when he dined with Samuel and the elders. Saul was honored by the man of God before the people of God. Finally, he became the first king of Israel (1 Samuel13:1).

However, as his fame and power grew, Saul forgot that day God exalted him in front of important people. He especially forgot the truth that it is God who raised him up from the least and the smallest (9:21). Saul chose not to fully obey God’s command, for he feared the people (15:24). Much worse, after he realized his sin, he did not choose repentance (15:30). Saul became jealous of David, later king, finally becoming a slave to his need for people’s honor. It was a dark day for Saul when he walked out of God’s presence, totally losing his joy (18:10, 12).

As we grow in our Christian faith and as our ministries grow, it is wise to remember that day when the Lord called us out of our meaninglessness. Particularly, remember that the Lord is the only one who promises us joy and power for ministry. Never fear people or seek honor from people rather than from the only God.

Zu Jian and Leah Lee Rao are from Beijing, China, where they worked and served the house church for many years till ZJ came to study at Asbury Theological Seminary. They married in 2011 and have two children, Maria and Elijah. Leah is a full-time mother and a member of the WFMC choir.