Recently, a friend of mine inquired on my behalf on one thing I learned after what was a tumultuous several months. I’ll share with you what I shared with him.
Paul writes to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
Curiously, when I first read Philippians, I wondered how Paul could possibly write this in light of what he endured– single and lonely, broke, in prison, being persecuted, no family and friends to support him, etc. Yet Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. If Paul told the Philippians to do this, then it is clear that he was doing it, too. But how could Paul rejoice in anything in light of what he faced? The answer is this: his rejoicing was not in his changing circumstances, but his changeless Lord.
Paradoxically, if we don’t learn to rejoice in the Lord when suffering, we won’t rejoice in the Lord when things are well. And if we only rejoice in him when things are well, it isn’t the Lord we are rejoicing in, but our circumstances.
Joy is rooted with rejoicing. But what is joy and how do we rejoice? After all, Paul did not merely say, “rejoice!” but specifically commanded to “rejoice in the Lord.”
Phil Ryken says: “Joy. . . is not so much happiness as contentment. Joy is the ability to take good cheer from the gospel. . . It is not, therefore, a spontaneous response to some temporary pleasure. It does not depend on circumstance at all. It is based rather on rejoicing in one’s eternal identity in Jesus Christ.”
The psalmist writes: “. . . forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). We would do well, brothers and sisters, if, amidst our sufferings, we dwell more on God’s mercies than our miseries. Remembering God’s benefits –election, adoption, justification, heaven, his attributes, etc. — and what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf will lead to rejoicing.
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