Rejoice in the Lord Always
July 2, 2017
The Lord Jesus Christ, through these words in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, commands us to rejoice in him always. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
This is a simple but absolutely necessary command. The reason why is because life is not always good. Bad things happen. There is sin in our hearts and misery all around us. We endure persecution. We cry at funerals.
And yet, we are commanded to rejoice… always. Why? Why should we be happy when we want to be sad? How can we have joy in the midst of sorrow? Who in their right mind would rejoice in the Lord… always?
Allow me answer this question with an illustration. Imagine that it’s your wedding day. It’s the biggest day of your life, everyone’s there, and you’re so excited. And imagine that everything goes well on your wedding day - everything except one tiny little thing. On the wedding program, there is an extra space in between a particular person’s first and last name. And that one tiny little thing just causes you great sadness. In fact, when you tear up during the ceremony, you don’t cry out of joy. You cry because of that typo on the program. And when it’s time to say “I do,” you shake your head and walk away. That typo on the program just breaks you. You cannot go on in life because of it.
What a ridiculous story. It is ridiculous to allow a small thing overshadow the main thing. But I want to lovingly challenge you all this morning. When Christ commands us to rejoice in him always, it means that we must not allow the small things in our lives overshadow the main thing of Christ’s person and work. We must not let ourselves lose sight of the big picture of God’s redemptive history. This is so important. God’s salvation is happening, and yet for some reason it’s just not the story of our lives. This cannot be.
Brothers and sisters, The Lord is at hand. Again I will say, the Lord is at hand. Jesus will come back. Jesus will usher in a kingdom in the new heavens and new earth. Jesus will wipe away sin and death. Jesus will give us new resurrection bodies of eternal life. Brothers and sisters, this is the big picture. This is the ultimate story of your life. The Lord is at hand.
Because of this, you can rejoice always. You can have joy when times are good and when times are bad. Paul’s request to rejoice always is not out of touch with reality. His words are not crazy talk. He was not being naive or idealistic. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Paul was absolutely in touch with reality. His request to rejoice in the Lord always was most definitely… reasonable. When Paul was glad, even though he was bound in chains and thrown into prison to face imminent death, his gladness was not based on a mere silver living or a positive thinking mind trick. Paul simply knew the bigger picture story of God’s salvation and glory. And for that, he was able to rejoice in the Lord always.
This past week, a friend of mine had a funeral for his father. When he came up to speak to the crowd, he said that he was both sad and happy. He was sad because his father is now gone. But he was happy because his father is now with the Lord. My friend did a profound thing that day. He was assured of things hoped for. He was convicted of things not seen. He acknowledged the bigger picture and the greater story of God’s salvation. He set his mind on things above. He knew with all of his heart that the Lord was at hand. And because of that, he could rejoice in the Lord always - even at a funeral for his father.
Brothers and sisters, do this. Imitate Paul and follow in the footsteps of all the saints of old who rejoiced in the Lord always. Don’t let the little things in life hijack the big thing of God’s redemptive history. As no player is bigger than the game, no human being is bigger than the return of the Lord. No plan, no family, no accomplishment, no hobby, no preference, no marriage, no person, place or thing… is greater than our reason to rejoice in the Lord always.