“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4, ESV)
It’s so easy to be full of joy when things are going right, but what about when the situations that we are facing are not exactly pleasing to us? Before we can examine this question, we need to understand just what it means to rejoice.
To rejoice is to to be glad; or to take delight in something. Let’s take a look at the definition of the root word of rejoice – joy: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying. So then what does it mean to rejoice in the Lord?
When Paul wrote those words in Philippians, he was in prison, and had been for two years. He was chained between two guards. He was awaiting his fate, undetermined at the time, he didn’t know if he would ever be a free person again, he didn’t know if he would be put to death. Paul was dependent upon other Christians to send him support, and his teachings were being ignored by others who claimed to be Pastors of the church. There’s not much going on in Paul’s life that could be determined as being joyful, yet, he chooses to rejoice. Who was this guy? Was he superhuman? After all, I don’t think that I would be joyful if I was the person who was chained between two guards.
Paul was a disciple, who was handpicked by Jesus to carry the message about God’s love and God’s grace to the Gentiles. Paul, formerly Saul, was a Pharisee, a Jew’s Jew, who in his zeal was the one who persecuted the Christians in the early days of the church. And as a Jew, Saul would have despised Gentiles, if not even hated them. Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus in a rather dramatic fashion, and became the disciple whose writings live on to this day. Paul’s instructions to the churches that he discipled offer us words to live by, words that help us to see how us Christians should strive to live our lives. Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked (twice), imprisoned, and executed all in the name of Christ. And through it all, he is joyful. Nothing that was ever done to Paul could stop him from preaching the Good News about Jesus. And, as a result, the new church blossomed and became strong.
Everything that Paul did, he counted for the cause of Christ. He faced trials and he had triumphs. He remained humble and joyful (a far cry from the Saul that he was before). Paul was no extraordinary man, he was a tent maker. He became extraordinary through his faith. He found all of his strength in Christ, and he was content wherever God placed him. Paul is a role model for each of us.
And, our role model commands us that we too need to be joyful in our circumstances. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be sad, upset, or angry when faced with difficult circumstances. It just means that within any of those times we face trials, we deliberately choose to place our faith that God is in control, and that God will work all things out for His Glory. That confidence that we have in God, should enable us to be joyful in each and every circumstance that we face, no matter what those circumstances are. Remember our definition of joy? Great delight caused by something exceptionally good. Well, what’s the best, most delight, exceptionally good thing that has ever happened to us Christians? To have Jesus as our Savior, the one who brings us into a right relationship with God. So that each of us will spend eternity with our Savior in Heaven. There’s absolutely nothing that can ever rival that realization!
So how do you accomplish achieving joy during your trials? Use Paul’s writing as your guide. Read David’s Psalms, notice how even in upsetting circumstances, at the end of the Psalm, David chooses to place his trust and joy in God. Pray to God, talk to Him, dump your concerns at His feet. Tell Him that you know that He will not abandon you. Tell Him that even though it’s hard, you are going to choose to be joyful while you wait on Him. If you journal, look back in your journal at the times that God delivered you from your trials. If you don’t journal, maybe you might want to start one – or at least keep a written record of your prayer requests and then how God answers those prayers. Review each and every time that God has answered your prayers and rescued you. Talk with other Christian friends and godly mentors. And, when God delivers you from your trial, be sure to share the story and give God the glory!
Rejoice beloved. God’s got you each and every moment.