“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” – 1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)
Suffering is no fun. But there is a suffering that comes to every faith believer. It’s an unjust kind of suffering. All who truly follow Christ, are recipients of accusations, slander, maligning, and unwarranted actions by others who do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord. As we factually consider the causes and actions and lay them out, our reaction typically is; “They have no right to think or say that. We’ve done nothing to deserve this treatment. Yet it happens. It’s just not fair!” Why do we react that way and cry out for fair dealing? We do so because it’s easy to expect that our life of following Christ to be free of such treatment – it should be easy. For a while in our western world we have happily gone along with that assumption. However, our promise in 1 Peter 4:12 is that fiery trials will come and we shouldn’t be surprised when they do. As the Apostle Peter wrote, we should not think “something strange” was happening to us. Instead, if our suffering is a response from the world to our boldly professing the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior, our reaction should be rejoicing.
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” – Romans 5:11 (NASB)
Promises of peace, grace, hope, love, and deliverance from wrath are ours forever because Jesus, the Son of God condescended and stepped into this world and became for us the bearer of our sin. So, what then is to be our reaction? Are we to continue in doubt? Hold misgivings that God has us secure as his forever adopted children? Are we to question if we’ve done enough, been good enough to earn these gifts because of our good works? Just as the Apostle Paul declares seven times in his letter to the Romans “may it never be!”* Our God is a faithful God. If our salvation depended for one second on our personal righteousness, we’d be lost forever. But it doesn’t. It depends on God’s love anchoring us in a permanent relationship of peace, grace and hope. And the God who loved us enough to save us when we were enemies, loves us enough to keep us now that we are friends, and has proven it by depositing his Holy Spirit in us, (Ephesians 1:13). This fills our heart with joy⸺for “exult” means to rejoice jubilantly. The end of the whole discussion is this produces joy, right?
* (Romans 3:4; 3:6; 3:11; 6:2; 6:15; 7:7; 7:13: 9:14)
“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” – 2 Corinthians 13:11 (ESV)
We are living in a contentious world and it is no surprise or anything new. Yes, we like to think there have been time that the people of this world were more at peace but not truly. An honest realistic look at history from the time of Genesis 3 our world has been a place with more danger and more conflict than peace. The peace we experience worldwide is temporary, existing in small parts of the world. We may have peace between ourselves for a season but sin destroys that too. As believers in our Lord Jesus Christ we can have peace with God and can have sustainable peace and harmony between each other. It is our calling and it honors God bringing Glory to Him. The apostle Paul in this verse exhorts faith believers in Corinth to aim for restoration of peace. We start by having an attitude of thankfulness and rejoicing. We will accomplish our aim as we comfort one another and agree with one another, we will live in peace – that means giving up the selfishness and striving for our own way within Christ’s fellowship of believers. This promise is for such harmony with God’s love.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11-12 (NASB)
Do you have a heavenly perspective regarding your future beyond this world? Jesus in our verses actually is promising those listening the consequences of being a follower of Him. We’re promised insults, mocking, being reviled and ostracized. The promise is still working out today. Today, many are secret about their faith in Jesus. Secret and silent because who likes to be insulted and we are enamored by what we have here. However there is a wonder ahead for all who believe in the Son of God as Savior. The old spiritual that sang: “everybody talking about heaven ain’t goin’ there.” Today it’s more like, “everybody goin’ there ain’t talking much about heaven anymore.” Heaven is real, it is a wonderful reward from God and it is beyond description. When asked how he was, the sixth president once replied, “John Quincy Adams is well, sir, very well. The house in which he has been living is dilapidated and old. He has received word from its maker that he must vacate soon. But, John Quincy Adams is well sir, very well.” So, we look to heaven where we will have that eternal weight of glory, and that new house from God.
“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” – Psalm 13:5-6 (NASB)
This psalm, written by King David is a prayer for help in time of trouble. Before he became King he frequently faced such troubles which threatened his life. “How long?” he asks will the Lord seem to forget him and turn away from him. But David shifts radically from turmoil to tranquility in the space of this short Psalm (6 verses). One commentary describes David’s attitude being in three levels. The first two verses he was expressing Despair for he was below “sea level.” Verses 3 and 4 he is at “sea level” expressions of Desires. In the last verses, which are our selection today, David’s expressions are of Delight and rejoicing in a “mountaintop level.” Why can he move so quickly from “How long?” to “I will sing?” The answer for him is the same for us – Trust. David trusted God’s steadfast love. He believed God’s promise of forever love. Another way to say this would be that David understood and believed in God’s mercy, His lovingkindness. It is the also a promise we can trust in. God does and will deal abundantly with us His children because of His lovingkindness, His mercy, His steadfast love.
“This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24 (NASB)
Everyday without fail, this promise is fulfilled. Everyday without fail, we have reason to rejoice in the day the Lord God has given to us. But the day spoken of in this verse was perhaps intended for one specific day. To understand this we need the context and look back to verse 22. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.” Peter identified the chief cornerstone as Christ* And in the parable Jesus told of the vineyard**, the rejected son of the vineyard owner is likened to the rejected stone which became the chief cornerstone. Christ was that rejected stone. The rejection of Jesus by the Jewish leaders – who were pictured as builders of the nation – led, by God’s plan, to make Christ the capstone of the Kingdom which included the whole world in God’s promise of redemption. At the memorial service for a recently departed friend, today’s verse was shared as his life verse. It is this promise which Van Craddock would quote each time he spoke to a group of people. A promise for us as well each day as we praise God for His gift of salvation.
“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 Greatest of All Time” or “The Great _______,” fill the blank. Being great at anything seems to be a driving passion of many people. Not all who are declared to be Great or the Greatest actually are. But there is one who is truly Great and is worthy of calling him Magnificent. So we are called, if we seek God and love the salvation God has provided for us we should shout, “The LORD be magnified!” 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 full of true joy. He wants us to be satisfied in Him so much that we are also satisfied in our life. Our verse also reminds us when we are happy in living for the Lord, it results in much praise to God. When we enjoy the Christian life we will want to exalt the Lord. We will want that His name receives much glory and praise. Today, let’s seek Him and rejoice and be glad in Him. Let’s also say with the Psalmist, “GREAT IS THE LORD!”
“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.