Read: Philippians 4:2-7
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” I LOVE this passage! I chose this passage as the text for one of my first Bible teaching experiences. When I was in high school, I was asked to lead an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meeting at a neighboring school. It was a small gathering of about 15 students, and I remember sitting in that circle and exploding in what was probably unintelligible chaos. I wanted to communicate the wonder and glory that had overwhelmed my soul just a year or two prior in hopes that they might experience it themselves and have the same response I had…joy!
As the years go by, life has a way of dulling that wonder and distracting us from that glory. When evil seems to triumph and the innocent are persecuted, it is difficult to know how someone could “rejoice in the Lord always.” Is it possible to have joy and hope when people you love betray you? When provision you need to survive is nowhere to be found? When death steals someone you expected to love for years to come?
Paul does not leave this command unhinged from reality. In fact, he clarifies exactly how a person can live with joy in all circumstances in the lines that follow.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice, but make sure everyone knows the reasonableness of your joy. It is anchored in something more than fleeting feelings or hits of dopamine. Our joy finds its roots in this singular hope: The Lord is at hand! When YAHWEH enters any picture, He changes everything. The recognition of His power, authority, and glory cannot be outdone by any tragedy or circumstance.
How does Elizabeth Elliot return to the Auca Indians of Ecuador, the savage tribal people who killed her husband as he attempted to share the love of Christ with them? How? She knows the Lord is at hand. How does singer and songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman continue to write songs of devotion and love for Christ that have ministered to and encouraged millions of Christians when his 5 year old daughter was killed in a freak accident? How? He knows the Lord is at hand. The Lord is near; He is good; and He is in control. Though the sorrow is real, it is momentary in comparison to an eternity where every wrong is made right and every tear is wiped away. The One who made a way for that future hope is here now; even though we don’t perceive Him as we will one day, He is here.
Over the next few weeks our texts will be reemphasizing this point over and over again. The secret of contentment and of continual rejoicing is not a method or practice to be learned. It is a Person to lean into, to trust, and to adore. Spend some time between now and the start of the service on Sunday pouring out your requests to God and leaning into Him. See if gazing at His goodness and power doesn’t give your heart hope, and let’s rejoice together as his people.