walk in the word
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4, ESV).
In Philippians 4:4, Paul made his point quickly and clearly. “Rejoice . . . Rejoice!” Preachers can relate to using repetition. Sometimes while preaching we survey the congregation and wonder, Are they getting it? So we repeat ourselves to make sure they’re tracking. Paul clearly instructed the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Then he said it again, “Rejoice!” The power of repetition.
And what power is contained in this single word, rejoice. It’s the verb form of joy. While joy is a feeling, an experience, an emotion, rejoice is the action form of joy. Definition time: Joy is supernatural delight in the person of God, the purposes of God, and the people of God. Let’s unpack that.
Because joy is supernatural, you can’t generate it yourself. You can’t resolve, I’m going down in the basement, and I’m not coming up until I have some joy. You’ll be down in that basement for a long time. You can’t make joy; it’s from the Lord.
The supernatural part of joy is God’s part; your part is to delight. Delight is an action word and a choice you make. A person who delights looks for the good in everything.
Our delight isn’t some vague, misplaced, subjective feeling. It’s a fixed choice to rejoice in Someone. We rejoice first in who God is—His nature, His attributes, His character, His perfection. We rejoice in Him because He is wholly good, faithful, loving, gracious, constant, and strong. He is our Refuge, our Savior, our Father, our Teacher. And that’s just a sampling of why we rejoice in Him.
We also rejoice in what God does—not because He gives us everything we want, like a slavish genie, but because He is at work all around us for our good and His glory. And we delight in His purposes.
In His infinite creativity, God uses even the brokenness in our lives and world and weaves it into His genius master plan. Sometimes we need help seeing His purposes. Perhaps we’re blinded by our circumstances and need a gentle reminder to lift our eyes. We can help each other see what God is doing and encourage each other to rejoice.
When we discern God at work and point to His higher purposes, this is the best kind of encouragement. “God is in this. God is at work. Awesome things are coming. I can see His fingerprints all over this. Stand firm. Trials are followed by fruitfulness. Greater joy is coming. God has a reason, and by faith, together we will see it.”
This resolved joy is contagious among believers. We delight in people like this—the people of God. Yes, sometimes Christians can be [fill in the blank based on your experience], and it can be difficult to have joy in other believers.
But consider the progression. You can’t have joy in the people of God until you first have joy in the person and purposes of God. When you’re fired up about the Lord and what He’s doing, then what flows from that joy is the capacity to be thankful you’re part of it. “As for the saints in the land,” David wrote, “they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3).
Once you tap into that joy, don’t just harbor it in your heart; express it! Choose joy, verbalize and live it—that supernatural delight in the person of God, the purposes of God, and the people of God.
Father God, You give me a clear command: Rejoice. Please give me this supernatural gift. I resolve to delight in You. Teach me to be a joyful person, a true child of my Father. I choose joy because of who You are and how You’re at work in my life and the world. I choose joy because of Your purposes—Your genius, overarching master plan that encompasses every detail of my life and moves me toward eternity. I choose joy because of Your people, though they’re imperfect (like me). And I choose joy as an act of obedience to You, my Master. You make my joy full (John 15:11). I boldly ask You to multiply my joy, in the name of Jesus, amen.
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