‘‘Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.’’ Phil. 4:4
Additional Reading: Matt.5:12; Rom. 12:12; 15:13; 1Thess. 5:16
One of the most difficult things to do is to encourage someone who is going through a terrible situation to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of all the obvious. I say this because I am a witness. Not too long ago I experienced such a hard situation that I almost wished I was never created. And in fact, I almost prayed my life to end.
Interestingly, being cast down because of life challenges, depressed or having the feeling of rejection or failure never moves God to act on our behalf. What moves God is when even in the midst of grief, depression, rejection, failure, hunger, taste, lack, persecutions, tribulations and trials; we rejoice. For this is pleasing and acceptable to God.
Apostle Paul could not have admonished us to rejoice always in the Lord even in bad situations if he as a person never experienced this. Thus, we must do a background check to know what propelled him to encourage us to rejoice at all times.
The Book of Philippians, which of course is Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi, which he established in AD 51 during his second missionary journey, is considered the most beautiful of all his letters. According to theologians, this letter is one full of warmth, compassion, love, tenderness, etc. But interestingly, it is believed that Paul wrote this letter during his first imprisonment in Rome in AD 61. I do not know how many prisoners today will encourage their friends and loved ones to rejoice in every circumstance of life because they are also rejoicing in their situation as prisoners. I once visited the maximum prison in Kirikiri, Nigeria. This gave me a firsthand encounter with what prisoners go through. At the end of my visit, practically every prisoner asked for help in one form or the other. And, of course, I felt great compassion for them but I knew that it was practically impossible to meet all their needs. I would have been too shocked if any of those prisoners had encouraged me to be strong because he too was strong.
First of all, having established that he was held up in prison and that in fact his imprisonment in Rome had only helped in advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the extent that even the guards had come to the knowledge of the LORD, he then went on to say…’’and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.’’ (Philippians 1:18). I have never in my life seen or heard anyone say such a thing as this, though under lock and key. It is, therefore, not surprising that he in the midst of all could also tell others to rejoice. Why? You may ask. He could be bold about it because he also rejoiced in his bad situation.
But what did he really mean when he asked the Church in Philippi to rejoice always? ‘‘Rejoice [chairo … a primary verb; to be cheerful, i.e. calmly happy or well off; impersonally especially as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well:— farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy, joyfully, rejoice] in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.’’
Although this is also a form of greeting or salutation, he simply charged the Church to be cheerful, happy or glad. Read these: ‘‘Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice.’’ (NLT). ‘‘Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad.’’ (CEV). ‘‘Be glad in the Lord at all times: again I say, Be glad.’’ (BBE). ‘‘May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord, I say it again: rejoice!’’ (GNB).
Having established what it means to rejoice, the next question is: how can a born again child of God who is faced with tough challenges of life be cheerful, happy or glad in that very situation? If we are to be happy always as charged by Apostle Paul, we must of necessity be in continuous fellowship or relationship with God—at all times. If you are in constant fellowship with God you will be happy always. The Good News Bible version of this very verse gives a clearer understanding into this: ‘‘May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord, I say it again: rejoice!’’ Union as used here denotes a relationship. And any relationship with God can only be achieved through the Holy Spirit who is our Comforter, Helper and Guide.
Therefore, if I am in constant relationship with God with the Holy Spirit as my Helper and Comforter, I will no doubt have the assurances of peace and see every reason to rejoice even in the darkest situation as the Holy Spirit Himself will fill our hearts with gladness and joy overflowing.
So, is your heart weary? Rejoice—be cheerful in the Lord. Are you downcast? Sing a song and be filled with gladness that comes through the Holy Spirit. Are you being persecuted in the office, by your friends and loved ones because of your testimony for Jesus Christ? You need to read this: ‘‘Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.’’ (Matt.5:12 GNB). Or are you about giving up because of life difficulties? Hear this: ‘‘Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.’’ (Rom. 12:12 GNB).
Meditation: How is my fellowship with God?
Prayer: Even as I desire to be in constant fellowship with You, I pray for strength through the Holy Spirit.
Question: Is it possible for a Christian to rejoice in all situations? Have you had reason to rejoice in times of pain, sorrow and need? Do explain.