The Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
“Rejoice in the Lord always;” (v.4) RSV
We have already mentioned that this letter is the most uplifting and joyful of all Paul’s output. So now we arrive at the peak of peace and praise. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice” (v.4). What could be clearer?
The word ‘rejoice’ comes all of nine times in this short letter (1:18-19, 2:17-18, 28, 3:1, 4:4, 10). And the word ‘joy’ appears five times (1:4, 25, 2:2, 29, 4:1). So Paul says things like “… and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I shall rejoice.” (1:18-19), and “I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” (2:17-18).
It seems that Paul has learned to adopt the attitude of rejoicing. Whatever his circumstances (and often they were dire), and whatever the problems of the churches (and often they were in conflict and riddled with issues) he would rejoice.
We are not simply subject to our emotions. Normally speaking we need not give way to gloom and despondency (I am not talking about clinical depression). We can, by the presence of the joyous Holy Spirit within us, cultivate a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. Our ‘old nature’ may have learned patterns of negativity and morbidity, but our ‘new nature’ is fully capable of exulting in the Spirit.
This is what Jesus did. For instance it said, “In that same hour (Jesus) rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said …” (Luke 10:21). This is what the Psalmist prayed for, “”Fill me with joy and gladness … restore to me the joy of my salvation” (Psalms 51:8, 12).
The result of rejoicing is that we trust God and we don’t have a care in the world. This is how we “cast our anxieties upon him” (1 Peter 5:7), and how we learn to experience “the peace of God, which passes all understanding” (v.7). Why not set your mind to practice this day by day?
Thank you Father for the gift of rejoicing. Forgive me when I fail to put my whole trust in you. Amen.
1 What is Jesus’ teaching about anxiety?
2 What is the focus of our rejoicing?