His Joy Is My Strength

January 12, 2009
by Gary Chiang

Nehemiah 8:10 – Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (NIV)

Many of us Christians, at one time or another, have resorted to Bible roulette. We have flipped through the pages of the Bible, stopped randomly on a page, let our finger fall on a passage, and have read what God has to say to us. Like most seemingly harmless activities, it has its bad points and its good points. On the negative side, it gives the impression that we are using Scripture to make decisions in the same way the spiritualist or fortune teller uses the magic eight ball, or the Ouija board, or tarot cards. On the positive side, the Bible is filled with truth, based on real-life experiences, so the chance of picking a passage that will be meaningful is actually quite good. In fact, some Christians claim that Bible roulette has led them into the ministry, or to new jobs, or into rewarding relationships.

I certainly am not a fan of Bible roulette. Any good that is seen of it could easily be explained by coincidence, or the fact that our minds and hearts are already leaning towards one path or another. We end up reading a passage in a way we feel is most appropriate. Having said this, allow me to describe a curious thing that happened to me with Bible roulette.

I was recently asked by our Session [the church elders] to consider becoming an elder. I do enjoy working in the church and with the people, and have been involved in church school, worship, and a little bit of preaching. However, after years of complaining about Session, I am apprehensive about becoming an elder. I am leaning towards it and away from it, almost within the same breath — teetering on the brink, but not quite ready to fall. So on a whim, I tried Bible roulette. I flipped through the Bible, let it fall open to a page, and inserted my finger. Bingo! Almost directly under my finger was the word "elders". I had to laugh. What a coincidence. Then, I read the verse: "And as soon as it was morning the chief priests, with the elders … held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate." (Mark 15:1, RSV) So, what was that supposed to mean?

I mentioned this story to my son, Mark, a minister of The Presbyterian Church in Canada near Edmonton, Alberta, who, like other ministers, must deal with his Session. His response was insightful. He wrote: "It means don't play Bible roulette — you're going to get shot! It also sounds like a warning: elders are prone to making bad decisions. Actually, I quite like that; perhaps I'll use it in our Session meeting!"

Whether I become an elder or not will not depend on this little episode. But it had to make me laugh, and it did remind me that we take ourselves far too seriously. God has a sense of humour, and being asked to be an elder should bring a sense of joyful anticipation, rather than a fearful foreboding. Wherever the Lord may lead, His joy does give us strength.

Prayer: Our Lord and Saviour, thank You for being our redeemer, our guide, and our friend. Give us the hearts to be drawn closer to You in prayer and in action. Remind us that You will never give us more than You have prepared us for, and that Your joy is a source of everlasting strength. In Your name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Gary Chiang <ralemgarychiang@gmail.com>
Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

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