“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” – Philippians 4:4
If anyone had reason not to rejoice, it was the Apostle Paul. During the Apostle Paul’s ministry he was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, bitten by snakes, pursued by enemies, and eventually martyred for his faith. If anyone had reason to complain, be disgruntled, or be downright depressed, it was the Apostle Paul. Yet, time and again, we find him, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, commanding Christians to rejoice. How is it possible that someone enduring the things they were enduring could live such a radically joy-filled life?
Our joy is not circumstantial: Rejoice, Always, Again, Rejoice.
Paul is very intentional about calling the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always. If you belong to Jesus, the one constant is going to be Him. He says ‘always’ because he knows the Christian life involves many sufferings. The loss of loved ones, sickness, financial ruin, and persecution. All of these things the Apostle Paul was faced with, and yet because of his hope in the Lord, his disposition of joy never wavered.
Rejoice in who? The Lord.
Rejoice in what? His perfect work on our behalf, and His providential hand in our life.
Why? Because these things are immutable, and unshakeable.
When? Always. Good, bad, or ugly.
When your joy is earthly, or worldly, it’s temporal and fleeting. We may have brief moments of rejoicing, but these moments always seem to spread wings, and fly away. The ground for our circumstantial joy always seems to shake, and leave us off balanced, unsatisfied, wanting more. When we drink deeply from the fountain of Christ, we are stable in all circumstances, and completely satisfied. When we live this way, we show the unbelieving world how glorious Jesus really is. We show His worth, His value, and His supremacy. That’s why I love the quote by John Piper, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”
There will be tears in the Christian life, that’s a guarantee. Yet, only Christians get to experience tears and joy simultaneously. This is why our joy is so radical, and so confusing to an unbelieving world. When you lose a loved one, and can smile through the tears and say, “God is so good.” When you come into terminal illness and you can say, “Jesus is my treasure, not my health.” When these things are displayed in a believer, that is what brings God great glory.
If you think you are having a bad day, or have much reason to complain and not be joyful, I want you to consider this passage of Scripture. This is the Apostle Paul talking of the difficulties he endured in ministry:
“With far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” – 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
This does not sound like your best life now. Yet, in all of this he remained filled with hope, filled with joy, and filled with perseverance. How? Because he understood his joy was not circumstantial, but in the Lord. He saw God’s hand in His life, even in the hard things. And he knew that God’s grace is sufficient. May we have this mind, and be willing to live lives of radical joy in a fallen world.
Our joy is radical, our joy is unshakeable, because our joy is in Jesus.