Why Are We to Rejoice
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Why is it we think we know all there is to know about joy? Why is it we still lack joy? And I’m saying that to people who call themselves Christians. Maybe there is a reason the scriptures – both Old and New Testaments - keep speaking of joy.
Welcome to HT, I’m CM sharing the GS that’s all about Jesus and the second of three days talking about joy. This program is called, “Why Are We to Rejoice”.
The first two days of this week we had on the program a pastor’s wife, Kay Warren, talking about how to choose joy. She spoke from first hand experience – having undergone cancer. And through that, the Lord drew near and Kay found joy. Wouldn’t you like to find this joy? After the program, why don’t you call us for a copy of Kay’s book Choose Joy. Call 1-800-654-2836. That’s 1-800-65-HAVEN. Or visit our website and read a sample chapter of the book, make your gift to the ministry and ask for a copy of Choose Joy. Go to haventoday.org. That’s haventoday.org. That seems to have rung true for many of our listeners. A woman in Kingsville, Maryland, wrote in yesterday to say, “I too am a Pastor's wife of 27 years and I am in treatment for breast cancer. Thank you for the book.” Choose Joy. HT opens with Chris Tomlin.
SONG – HOW Can I Keep Singing – Chris Tomlin
The word joy or rejoice just keeps showing up – many times in relation to singing. We just heard about that with Chris Tomlin and his song ‘How Can I Keep Singing”. Joy or rejoicing is especially prominent in the psalms. (Ps 32:11) Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Ps 47:1) Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. (Ps 95:1,2) Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. (Ps 98:4) Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music... (Ps 118:24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
In the New Testament, 16 times the word joy or rejoice is found in Paul's short letter to the Philippian church.
"Rejoice!" It’s a command of the Lord to all believers. It isn't only Christians at Philippi who are to rejoice. The Spirit-inspired apostle commands all of us Christ followers to rejoice.
What does the apostle mean by "rejoice"? Joy or rejoicing is a Christian concept with Old Testament roots. In the Old Testament it refers to an inward religious emotion which absolutely has to come to outward expression. Generally, joy expresses itself in singing, shouting, clapping, hand-raising, and dancing. It is the natural consequence of fellowship with God and can have only one result: praise to and for God. Joy leads to praise. And praise means we are fulfilling God's purpose for placing us on earth. The command to "rejoice" is given to all of God's people. In fact, joy is one of the characteristics of the true believer's life. According to Galatians 5, joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life. Galatians 5:22, “….the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” In other words, those who belong to Jesus are marked with joy; it is one way to distinguish us from unbelievers; it’s one of our trademarks. Galatians 5 says we, who "live by the Spirit" and who are to "keep in step with the Spirit", rather than "gratify the desires of the sinful nature" are to be filled with a deep and abiding joy.
The Lord desires that His people take Him seriously but that they not take themselves too seriously. He wants them to wipe off their grim looks, put smiles on their faces, and let laughter flow from their lips.
So now to what we are calling this program. Why are we to rejoice? Or, what are we to rejoice about? "Rejoice in the Lord," says the Spirit-inspired apostle. Our joy, our rejoicing, is to be "in the Lord."
What does this mean? First, it means We rejoice because we are redeemed. A quick glance through Paul's letter to the believers at Philippi tells us what he has in mind.
"To rejoice in the Lord" is to rejoice in His work of redemption done on our behalf. For the sake of our body and soul Christ assumed the "very nature of a servant." He "humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!" But He also arose from the grave. "God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name" (Phil 2:6-11). This humiliation and exaltation of Christ is reason for much rejoicing. For His humiliation is payment for our sins and His exaltation allows us to share in His righteousness so that we are acceptable in God's sight. As believers we rejoice in the sovereign good pleasure of God in the area of salvation. Thank God it is up to Him to do the saving and not to us to be saved, redeemed, and reconciled. Without the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, calling us to Christ, we would never be saved. We rejoice that it is God Who works in us both to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil 2:13). We further rejoice that He Who began a good work within us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).
Second, We rejoice because we are partners with each other. The apostle is filled with joy because of the Philippian Christians' partnership in the gospel of the Lord (Phil 1:4). They supported Paul with prayers (Phil 1:19). They sent Epaphroditus to minister to Paul as a servant (Phil 2:25). Again and again they financially supported Paul's ministry. All this is much cause for rejoicing on the part of Paul. "The important thing," says Paul, "is that ... Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice" (Phil 1:18). Like the Philippian Christians we too are partners in bringing the Gospel. Each of us have endless opportunities every day to witness to Christ. In all of this we can rejoice in the Lord because the important thing is that Christ crucified and resurrected is being preached both here and abroad.
Third and finally, we rejoice because of our hope in Christ Jesus. How blessed is our future because of the Lord: a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth. "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev 21:4). We will live in the glorious and wondrous presence of the Lord.
"Rejoice," says Paul. He tells us why to do it: "in the Lord." And he tells us when to do it: "always." Never forget the historical setting behind this letter to the Church at Philippi. The Apostle is imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel. He is under guard in the Imperial capital of Rome. His case has already been heard and at any moment he expects a negative judgment to be rendered and his life to be forfeited. Yet he can say, "Rejoice in the Lord always."
Throughout his ministry the apostle suffered imprisonment, flogging, ship wreck, exposure to death, danger, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and cold. Yet he can say, "Rejoice in the Lord always." The Apostle, of course, sets the believers a personal example here. When Paul, with Silas, first preached the Gospel in Philippi, he was stripped, beaten, flogged, and thrown into prison with his feet fastened in stocks. "About midnight," Acts 16 tells us, "Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them". It’s an impressive victory of faith and joy over despair. The Apostle Paul rejoiced in the Lord at all times and under all circumstances. The Philippian Church was a Church filled with doubt and fear set in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation. Yet Paul says to them, "Rejoice in the Lord always." No matter the time or the circumstances, God's people are to rejoice in the Lord.
Perhaps your life is filled with tragedy and hardship – and there is a lot of that, isn't there? I think of widows and parents mourning the loss of loved ones, parents agonizing over wayward children, believers struggling to live out Christianly without any encouragement or assistance from an unbelieving spouse. I think of those who have gone or are going through the heart-ache of divorce either in their own lives or in the lives of loved ones. I think of those families with children disabled with physical, emotional, or mental disorders. I think of those who find themselves struck with a debilitating illness. It is tough in such situations to feel any joy. In fact, joy is the last thing you feel.
In such circumstances does the Lord really expect you to "rejoice in the Lord"? Paul rejoiced in such circumstances and so should we.
The secret to joy is not to look at the circumstances of your own life. Rather, look to Christ and what He has done for you and in you and to you. "Rejoice in the Lord always."
Let me hasten to add that even Paul did not rejoice in the Lord for all circumstances. He did not rejoice for or because of or on account of the pain and suffering he received in prison.
Too many sincere but misguided believers get all mixed up and distort the intent of God's Word through Paul here. Never once does Scripture tell us to rejoice or to give thanks for all circumstances. Rather, we are to rejoice or give thanks in all circumstances. For instance, we don't rejoice for death or for pain or for divorce or for cancer. But, by the grace of God, it is given us to rejoice in or during or after these difficult and painful happenings.
The conclusion the Apostle wants us to draw from Philippians is that the circumstances of our lives do not determine joy.
All too often even Christians think joy is dependent upon the circumstances of one's life. Joy, for adults who make this mistake, can't exist unless they and their children experience success, prosperity, good health, a happy marriage relationship, status and standing in the community; joy becomes dependent upon the presence of certain things or upon the absence of pain and hurt. Students and young people who make this mistake make joy contingent upon good grades, good looks, a friend of the opposite sex, a great car, or no longer being teased and picked upon by classmates. Christian joy can never be dependent upon the circumstances of life. In fact, as a child of God you should be joyful whatever may be the circumstances. You should be joyful in prosperity or poverty, health or sickness, life or death, rain or drought, sunshine or cloud.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Christians are to rejoice in the Lord always – at all times and in all circumstances. At all times and in all circumstances we are to have a wholehearted joy in God through Christ.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"
SONG – The Valley Song – Jars of Clay
A friend of mine, a nurse whose married to a physician wrote after yesterday’s program on joy. She thanked us for the program and said,
“Isn't it amazing, but true, that in our weakness, God's power (grace) is displayed. What a journey to Israel and back, with so many of you experiencing sickness. We pray that you will have time to rest and that you will recover quickly.
Joy is a small word with great value. I can't say I always am aware of the joy that Jesus provides. But as the program ended, you played "Turn your eyes upon Jesus" and the tears of joy poured forth freely.
A verse that has meant a lot to me is 2 Corinthians 6:10 in the Living Bible. "Our hearts ache, but at the same time, we have the joy of the Lord". This is exactly what I experienced at the time of my Father's death and 5 years later in Bangladesh, when I heard of my Mother 's.
I began to wonder how you could have two seemingly opposite "emotions" inside at one time. This may only be my thoughts on it, but I think of grief being in our souls, but joy resides in our spirit. May God richly bless you for your faithful obedience to your calling. May God richly bless all of us in faithful obedience to our calling. With joy always in Jesus.
SONG – What a Friend We Have in Jesus – Alvin Slaughter – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
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