Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
You will remember some days back we addressed Paul’s extraordinary emphasis on joy. He uses the term some sixteen times in this letter from a Roman prison cell. Let me cite a piece of what I wrote prior:
Joy is not happiness. It’s not a feeling or an emotion. Joy is not positive thinking. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). Joy is supernatural. It is a wellness that transcends health, a state of being that eclipses emotion, and an inner realism that overwhelms apparent reality. Though it transcends the ephemeral notion of earthly emotion, we might think of joy as the primary emotion of the realm of eternal reality. Joy is that deep inner conviction that though things are not right everything is going to be alright. Joy is experienced by those who exercise their faith through rejoicing.
Paul brings tremendous emphasis to this point: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” When we explore the Greek text, we find the meaning of this term, always, means always! There is no circumstance in life that can elude joy. While joy comes from the Holy Spirit, it comes to those who will choose, by faith, to rejoice. In case he was not clear, he repeats it: “I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Tomorrow we will deal with Paul’s admonition to “not be anxious about anything” (v. 6). In between these two words of instruction comes a third: “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (v. 5a). When hard situations and difficult circumstances come our way, anxiety is the natural human reaction. Fear so easily takes root in the frail and broken human spirit. In fact, the only thing stronger than fear is the love of God. Always remember, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18 ESV). Fear produces anxiety. So what is the antidote to anxiety? Peace? Well, yes, but what is the pathway to peace? The answer may surprise you. It’s gentleness.
So what does joy have to do with gentleness? Joy is the surprising manifestation of the presence of God in the midst of difficult circumstances. To rejoice means to declare the confounding presence of God to your circumstances. There is truth in the cliché “Don’t tell your God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is.”
Let’s listen to the way James speaks of rejoicing. He no sooner says hello in his message than he says this, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2–4).
There are two kinds of people in the world: those facing hard circumstances and those who will soon be facing hard circumstances. Jesus made it clear when he stated the obvious, “In this world you will have trouble,” but then he gave us cause for rejoicing when he added, “but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).
In the face of trouble we have two basic choices: anxiety or rejoicing. If we do not choose to rejoice, we effectively choose anxiety. It’s why Paul is so emphatic. Like James, he is not giving us a suggestion but a command:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. We confess so often in the face of hardships and trials we do not rejoice. We retreat into self-pity and even despair. Come, Holy Spirit, and teach us to rejoice instead. This way is foreign to us. We need your help. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
- Why is it hard for you to rejoice in the face of trials and difficulties?
- What does it look like to rejoice? Practically speaking, how might you do it?
- What do you make of these connections between joy and anxiety, and gentleness and peace?
For the Awakening,