“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” – Philippians 4:4-5 (NASB)
On the matter of rejoicing, Paul the Apostle was unable to say it just once – or even twice. Four times his use of ‘rejoice’ comes in imperative statements – even twice in one which is part of our verse today. Four other times in declarative clauses, Paul testifies to his own rejoicing. But in verse 4 of the 4 chapter in Philippians, Paul is driving home the importance of expressing our joy. But Paul didn’t tell his readers to be happy. He encouraged them to rejoice in the Lord. There are circumstances in which we Christians are not happy. But we can always rejoice in the Lord and delight in Him. Such action is not an emotion but more a state of mind created by our will when we choose to rejoice. Perhaps some will disagree yet it is Paul himself who exemplified inner joy when external circumstances—such as persecution, imprisonment, the threat of death—were against him. Nurturing gentleness means contentment and generosity toward others. It is having mercy or clemency toward the faults and failures of others. Being patient with someone, even submitting to injustice or mistreatment without retaliating. As always, The Lord is near – it’s a promise.
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” – Philippians 3:1 (NASB)
Sometimes, although we know we are to live with a spirit of joy and rejoice in that, we find it difficult. Circumstances hit us like a blind-side sacking of a quarterback. We feel crushed and our energy is sapped to nearly negative numbers. Paul’s familiar theme throughout the epistle has already been heard. But this time he adds “in the Lord.” This is the sphere in which a believer’s joy exists—a sphere which is unrelated to the circumstances of life, but related to an unassailable, unchanging relationship to the sovereign Lord. Some will title this letter by Paul to the Philippians as the ‘Joy Letter’ and it is not far off. The word “rejoice” is used eight times and “rejoiced” once by Paul. It seems from this repeated emphasis that the Christians in Philippi needed this word of encouragement. We too often need this as well. Most of God’s people need this challenge frequently. It’s so easy and natural for us to let circumstances discourage us. The cure for discouragement is to rivet one’s attention on the Lord and rejoice in Him. We can rejoice in the Lord even when situations make rejoicing seem impossible. It is not.
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:10-11 (ESV)
Before most of us came to believe by faith that Jesus Christ is our savior, we lived thinking that we’re pretty good people. We even believed a God exists. All we had to do was live a good life. However, we remained enemies because by not believing, we were rejecting God. We were at odds and in conflict with God. Our promise today is: God provided a way for all who would believe to be reconciled to Him while still enemies. He made a way for us to have peace. This was accomplished by the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Since reconciliation was provided by Him for all who believed, all can trust absolutely in the truth that they will be saved by Christ. The promises don’t end with that. Our reconciliation comes with our rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Imagine being in a serious conflict with someone who spent all his time doing what you need to cross over and join their side. Imagine all he does is to make a way for you to be able to be his friends and brother/sister with him. Forgive and forget – that’s His way.
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NASB)
Peter, the disciple of Jesus, became one of the foremost apostles who helped spread the news of the early Christian Church. He also was used by the Holy Spirit to write some of the books in the New Testament. Peter walked with Jesus and heard him teach and watched him do miracles and heal all who came to Him with physical or spiritual need. Many times Peter ate meals with Jesus and talked with him face to face while breaking bread together. Peter wrote these words in his first letter to believers in the new Church. In the same way we have never seen Jesus as Peter did but we love him and we believe in him. These words are also given to us and can be applied to us personally. We can experience the “inexpressible joy and be filled with glory” because we have believed in Jesus the Christ – even though we have never seen him. Our faith has opened the eyes of our hearts and minds to believe in Him as our Savior and Lord. It is hard to express sometimes but in our hearts we know He is true. It’s a joy to have that assurance.
“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, And makes me walk on my high places.” – Habakkuk 3:18-19 (NASB)
Our verse comes from the book of Habakkuk. We find promises that are apropos to our times. On today’s social media, we may encounter a good deal of complaining about how “things aren’t how they used to be or should be.” And the appeal of many is “How do we get back to the way it was?” This was the prophet Habakkuk’s complaint. Sin was abounding (just as today) and God seemed both indifferent and idle to Habakkuk. He questions if it was God who was to blame? “Why do You make me look at injustice?” (Habakkuk 1:3 NASB) He doubles down with an even greater question for God: “Why do You tolerate wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:13 NASB) Does this sound like the cry of many modern Christians?. “Why is God allowing the destruction of our Christian country?” Mostly we blame the other side of the political divide. Habakkuk describes dire circumstances (v.16-17) for himself and Israel. But he doesn’t state that he would merely endure this distress. He sets our example and said he would rejoice in the Lord and be joyful. God is the inexhaustible source and infinite supply of joy. God my Savior is literally, “the God of my salvation”.
“And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.”” 1 Samuel 2:1 (ESV )
Hannah was a godly woman and one we learn from her faith and her life story. The verse we have today is the beginning of her song and prayer of thanksgiving after she had placed Samuel with the priests in the temple. Hanna says “I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives he is lent to the Lord.” This was an offering of her son to God’s service. It was also the plan of God for Samuel. Hannah had long prayed for a son and once God answered that prayer, she wanted to give him back. This prayer is one of the earliest poems in the Old Testament. It was well known in the days of Jesus. Mary, incorporated Hanna’s prayer into her own song of triumph, the Magnificat. God indeed hears our earnest prayers and answers them according to His will. For Hannah, who pleads with God and receives her request. It was the most natural thing for her to do. She received God’s promise of a positive answer to Her prayer. She rejoiced in the salvation God provided to her and gave back her gift. Let’s rejoice in His salvation today.
“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”” Psalm 40:16 (ESV)
The psalmist in this verse was expressing his wish for all of us but what he said was in line with God’s plan for us and His will. Yes, God wants all of us who follow Him to find real joy in doing so and real joy in living for Him. He wants the Christian life to be a life of true joy. He wants us to be satisfied in Him so much that we are also satisfied in our life. This is difficult to maintain because we fight against and enemy who wishes us to be depressed and sad. God is more powerful and a higher authority. He is on our side. Our verse also reminds us what happens when we are happy in living for the Lord. It results in much praise to God. When we enjoy the Christian live we will want to exalt the Lord. We will want that His name receives much glory and praise. And, that too is pleasing to the Lord who is truly worthy of your praise. Today, let’s seek Him and rejoice and be glad in Him. Let’s also say with the Psalmist, “GREAT IS THE LORD!”
“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 (NASB)
If we include the last instruction in verse 14 of this chapter, we learn to “be patient with everyone.” And so, the next instruction teaches us that retaliation is not an option for a Christ believer. Paul the Apostle, writing this letter to the Church in Thessalonica is keenly, from personal experience, aware of the normal reaction we have when others do us wrong. It does not matter who does the wrong, believer or non-believer, we do not repay a wrong with a wrong. This is so very different than what we learn from the world. “If someone hits you, you hit back, harder.” That is the normal way most of us might have thought. But our promise today can be found in the next three instructions. Let’s look at them in the reverse order given in the verses. Give thanks for everything and in everything – God wills that to be our pattern. We give thanks for everything by praying on a regular basis. Make prayers a practice and that is where we can honestly give thanks all the time. What will be the result in our lives, in our attitude, in our perspective on life? We will rejoice always.