No matter how our circumstances look like, we can always choose to rejoice in God and remember that He is the true source of joy in our lives.
A couple of days ago I returned from a trip to Washington D.C., where I was able to visit the Museum of the Bible. While I was exploring each floor, I came across an exhibit, dedicated to a Chinese man named, Watchman Nee.
As I was walking through the exhibit dedicated to his life and ministry, I noticed a section that was titled “Imprisonment and Death 1952-1972,” with a quote in large glistening white letters that read, “I maintain my joy.”
I thought to myself, these words seem contradictory, much like oil and water, they aren’t supposed to mix. How can someone maintain their joy in the midst of a prison cell and labor camp for 20 years? Completely cut off from all of his family members, and stripped of all earthly possessions.
But then I remember that Watchman Nee was not alone. It is important to note the context of the book of Philippians. The book of Philippians, a letter written by Paul to the church in Philippi, was written from a prison.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:4-5, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Here Paul is exhorting his readers. Exhorting, or exhortation, is to incite by argument or advice, to urge strongly. Essentially, Paul is stirring up his audience, encouraging them to move into action.
The word rejoice is considered a compound word, made up of the prefix “re” which means “back” or “again” and the word “joy.” It is important to note that Paul did not say to be happy. Happiness is a feeling, largely dependent upon your current circumstances.
When I think about the word rejoice in this specific context, I believe Paul is teaching us something fundamental for our walk of faith. When we come up against suffering, a situation that we didn’t ask for, a setback we didn’t see coming, I believe Paul is telling us, we need to look back again.
Rejoice in the Lord always
We need to look back at the faithfulness, lovingkindness, and mercy of God and rejoice! Paul tells his readers not only to rejoice, but to rejoice in the Lord. Where and who you place your joy matters.
You cannot rejoice in your circumstances because they will change. You cannot rejoice in your bank account because it will fluctuate. You cannot rejoice in people because they will fail you.
But you can rejoice in the Lord because he will never fail you. You can rejoice in the Lord because he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the same God. He will not change. He will not fail.
Rejoice! Look back again and remember how God has seen you through it all. How he has provided for you time and time again. How he has guided you through what seemed like an impossible situation.
Rejoice! Look back and remember how God was with you in the midst of that divorce. Look back and remember how God healed your heart after that heartbreak. Look back and remember how God has been with you through it all!
As God’s people, we rejoice in the Lord always. Because he has always been and will always be worthy. He is our never ending source of joy, a well that will never run dry.
Take a moment this week to reflect on whether you have been operating in happiness or joy. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you cultivate and maintain the joy of the Lord in every and any circumstance.
The Lord is near.