Rejoice in the Lord

“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, rejoice”–
a very simple statement that the Apostle Paul makes in Philippians 4:4.

There are many people that are having a great deal of trouble rejoicing these days. Many folks are watching their retirement accounts or other investments shrink. But there is some help in Paul’s simple statement, if one will heed it.

Joy is that one thing that makes life worth living. You might suggest other things that are “that one thing.” But I submit that anything suggested will find its value in the joy it provides. Some stress duty; but we stay with our duties for the satisfaction felt once the duty is fulfilled or for the recognition received from superiors. Love… puts a joy in our hearts. Peace… is found by those who are joyous. Graciousness and kindness… come from and contribute to joyfulness. And any other thing that you might suggest as the primary force of a quality life would include or be born of or lead to joy.

Since joy is so central to a quality life, we all search for it instinctively. People rejoice in many different things. They rejoice in their families, their accomplishments, their hobbies, their toys, etc. And there is nothing wrong with an appropriately placed pride or with enjoying the company of those we love.

But when Paul says to rejoice, he includes a specific kind of joy: “Rejoice in the Lord.”

We need to be sure that our joy, that which gives buoyancy to our daily lives, is something that will be able to stay afloat no matter what comes along. When the storms of life come along, will your life-raft stay afloat?

What makes your life worth living? If it is people, you have to wonder if they will ever disappoint you. If it is accomplishment, you have to wonder what happens as you weaken with age, disease or accident. If it is some fun activity like a hobby, sport, or time spent at a movie or party, what happens when something prevents you from getting to that fun activity for a while? Where do you then find joy? How do you then find a reason for embracing life?

There is only one answer to the question, only one thing that will remain constant through all the tests life can throw at it. That is a relationship with the Lord.

In the context of Paul’s writing, “Rejoice in the Lord,” he counsels two people in Philippi that were at odds. He simply says they should agree. He doesn’t tell them which one is right and which is wrong. he simply says, “Agree in the Lord.”* If they would make their relationships in Christ the priority, other problems would be solvable.

In the next paragraph, Paul looks at his life and says, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” What is it? “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”** Because Paul’s joy is “in the Lord” he can do without what so many others depend on for joy. Elsewhere Paul points out that he has been on different occasions abandoned by friends, stabbed in the back by colleagues, traveling in dangerous countrysides, shipwrecked, physically attacked by opponents and he currently writes this letter while in prison for his faith. Yet he can rejoice, because his joy comes from the fact that he has a relationship with a Lord that will see him through every trial.

In our current economic situation, prices will go up, retirement will be put on hold, more people will have to rent than own, more people will need assistance, there will be less money to spend for the holidays, etc. But when we have a relationship with the Lord, we know that none of these things ultimately matter anyway. We know that his love enriches ours, his peace assures ours, his kindness leads ours, his grace fuels ours, and on and on. Even without all the fun things we may have desired that only give “fleeting pleasures,”*** we will still know joy, for we will know that we are truly living a quality life with the best of companions walking with us.
_______________________________
*Philippians 4:2
**Philippians 4:12-13
***Hebrews 11:24-26
All scripture quotations from the English Standard Version

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