Rejoice In The Lord
As soon as you put something into print there is the danger that you have made a mistake. Carol is pretty good at getting things right in the church bulletin, but not every church secretary is as good. These are some things that have appeared in church bulletins:
1. Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Methodist. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.
2. Announcement in a church bulletin for a national PRAYER & FASTING Conference: "The cost for attending the Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
3. Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands.
5. The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict.
6. Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
7. Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
9. For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
10. Next Thursday there will be try outs for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
11. Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.
12. At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
19. Attend and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch.
20. The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
21. Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
I enjoy good humour. What about this story?
Did you hear about the Texas Teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his cowboy boots? He asked for help and she could see why.
Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn't want to go on. Finally, when the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat.
She almost cried when the little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the wrong feet."
She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on - this time on the right feet.
He then announced, "These aren't my boots."
She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, "Why didn't you say so?" like she wanted to. And, once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet. No sooner they got the boots off and he said, "They're my brother's boots. My Mom made me wear 'em."
Now she didn't know if she should laugh or cry. But, she mustered up the grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots on his feet again. Helping him into his coat, she asked, "Now, where are your mittens?" He said,
"I stuffed 'em in the toes of my boots."
Her trial starts next month.
We like to laugh. We like to be happy. My sister-in-law is famous for always asking, “Is everybody happy?” Are you happy? Do you have joy? Are these the same questions? This morning, as we continue in our series of messages on Philippians, I would like us to notice that the words joy, rejoice and glad appear 17 times in the NIV Bible. Joy/rejoice is found 14 times and glad 3 times. When we remember that this letter was written by a man who was at this time in prison, this is something we should not ignore. So what does Paul have to say about joy in Philippians?
II. Rejoice In The Lord
From Galatians 5:22 we know that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. When we become Christians, joy is something that God builds into our lives by His Spirit. In Philippians, however, we find that 3 times once in 3:1 and twice in 4:4 we are commanded to rejoice in the Lord. What does this command mean and how do we obey it?
What is joy?
Merriam-Webster defines it as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” Dictionary.com has several definitions. It says, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.” “A source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.”
By the sounds of it, joy is a good thing, a happy thing, something pleasant. Since it is commanded, it is clear that joy is to be the mark of those who belong to Jesus. Some people have noted that some Christians live their lives as if they have been baptized in vinegar. Another person commented that a horse would make a very good Christian because he has such a long face. These conceptions are antithetical to what the Bible calls us as Christians to be. Gordon Fee says, “Joy, unmitigated, untrammelled joy, is – or at least should be – the distinctive mark of the believer in Christ Jesus.”
Now we know that having a smile on our face is not always possible, so that means that we have either misunderstood what it means to rejoice always or we have misunderstood what joy is. Joy goes much deeper than simply laughing all the time. Most of the time when the word joy appears in this chapter it is based on the Greek word “chairo” which has the meaning which our word joy has. We cannot discount this meaning of joy or make it less than it is. To obey this command means that we are going to be a joyful people. When we were in Hawaii, we attended the Polynesian Cultural Center. The presentation of the Samoa culture included the phrase, “we are the happy people of Samoa.” As Christian we should be known as “the happy people of Christ.”
But there is more to joy than just this. One of the verses which has the word “joy” in it is Philippians 1:26 which says, “so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” Here the word translated as joy in NIV is not “chairo.” Probably one of the best translations of this word is that found in the RSV which says, “you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus…” The Greek word means boasting, confidence or glorying. This gives us another aspect of what it means to rejoice in the Lord and that is that we put our hope in the Lord, our confident trust in Him. It is the idea found in Jeremiah 9:23,24 which says, “This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.”
Of course if our confidence is in the Lord, we will also experience a great degree of happiness and contentment in our life.
B. In The Lord
Each time we are commanded to rejoice in 3:1 and 4:4, we notice that our rejoicing is to be “in the Lord.” In Philippians 3:1 it says, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” This is where we come to the most important thing we need to learn in this passage. If what we rejoice in is what we put our hope in, then rejoicing “in the Lord” becomes a life changing matter.
Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I had had enough canoeing for the year. My immediate and glad response was, “Of course not.” That is something I love to do and if given the opportunity to do it, I am quick to respond with a “yes.” If someone asked me to shovel out their septic tank, my response would probably not be so enthusiastic. You can tell very quickly what someone rejoices in by their willingness to participate in it. What will our lives look like if we rejoice in the Lord?
I like John Piper’s comments on Psalm 43:4. This verse says, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.” Piper writes, “The final goal of life is not forgiveness or any of God’s good gifts. The final goal of life is God himself, experienced as your exceeding joy. Or very literally from the Hebrew, “God, the gladness of my rejoicing.” That is, God, who in all my rejoicing over all the good things that he had made, is himself, in all my rejoicing, the heart of my joy, the gladness of my joy. Every joy that does not have God as the central gladness of the joy is a hollow joy and in the end will burse like a bubble.
How will we know that God is our joy? We will know when our hearts say a glad “yes” to obeying God’s Word. We will know when our hearts desire to spend time in the presence of the Lord. We will know when telling someone about Jesus is more exciting than telling someone about our latest trip.
Piper also says, “It means that I will always deal with the things of this world in ways that show that they are not my treasure, but rather show that Christ is my treasure.
It means that if I lose any or all the things this world can offer, I will not lose my joy or my treasure or my life, because Christ is all.”
If our participation ins sports is our joy, what happens in our hearts when we injure ourselves or are cut from the team? If our children are our joy, what happens when they move far away or die in an accident? If our life is our joy, what happens when we face the end of life, as all of us will? If God is our joy, what is there in heaven and earth that can take away our joy?
Three times Paul encourages us to “rejoice in the Lord.” Do you rejoice in the Lord?
This call to rejoice in the Lord is, according to Philippians 4:4, to be done always. How can we rejoice in the Lord always?
We can rejoice in the Lord always because we know what the Lord has done for us. It is always worth reflecting on the goodness of the Lord. When we remember that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. When we remember that Christ sacrificed Himself for us. When we remember that He rose and is in the presence of the Father in heaven interceding for us, we can rejoice. All of God’s past acts of mercy towards us are cause for rejoicing in the Lord.
We can rejoice in the Lord even in times of suffering. Paul knew what he was talking about. He speaks about the fact that at this time he was in prison in Philippians 1:7:13,14, 17. He specifically addresses his joy in suffering in 2:17,18 when he says, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Why did Paul have this willing joy even in the face of possible martyrdom and in the face of difficult service for the Lord? In 1:21 he had already commented on the values of life which allowed him to rejoice even in suffering. Ralph Martin explains, “With Paul his joy is based on a confidence that death is gain because by it Christ is magnified and the gospel proclaimed.”
The Bible has much to say about joy in suffering, but one of my favourite verses is Habakkuk 3:17-19 which says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
John Piper says, “The power to rejoice and exult in tribulation comes from omnipotent grace that we receive by trusting in God's promises.” “How are we doing today when things go bad for us? Do we rest in the grace of God and experience joy in God and keep on loving people? Or do we forget the grace of God, overflow with complaining and become self-absorbed and critical instead of loving? So omnipotent power of grace is the key.”
The other reason for joy “always” is because of the promise of eternal life and hope which is ours in Christ. One of my favourite verses on this theme is that given by Paul Romans 8:18, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." When we think of that glory, we certainly can be filled with joy always.
What a tremendous, life-changing concept. I invite you to rejoice in the Lord always!
III. Joy in the Christian Life
As we examine joy and recognize the foundation that it has in the Lord we can begin to understand how it pervades all of life. In Philippians we have already noted the three commands to rejoice in the Lord, but there are 14 other mentions of joy in the passage which arise out of joy in the Lord. The other verses about joy in Philippians help us understand how they permeate all of our life as believers. One of the most significant observations about joy in the Christian life is that it exists in a three way relationship. There is joy in the Lord, the joy Paul has for the Philippians and the joy the Philippians have for Paul and for each other. Please take note of how joy functions in the Christian life.
A. Joy In Gospel Proclamation
In Philippians 1:18, we already noticed that Paul had great joy when the gospel was being proclaimed. That kind of joy has certainly been my experience in the last few months as we have prepared for the Franklin Graham Festival. Now that we have participated in it, we have had great joy to see all the people who are coming forward to receive Christ. What a joy to be available to council them, to sing in the choir to usher, to do whatever we can to make the name of Jesus known. Our lives are filled with many things, but surely there is nothing as thrilling as being a part of a venture that is making the invitation to dead people to become alive. If our joy is in the Lord, then we can participate in this joy often as we live and speak our faith in the world.
B. Joy In The Faith
In Philippians 1:25,26, Paul speaks of his desire to return to them “for your progress and joy in the faith.” Paul is very glad for the Philippian brothers and sisters. He is glad when they make progress and when joy and faith combine to increase and the believers are growing. As much as I have rejoiced about the people coming forward to receive Christ, I have to admit that the greater joy for me is when I see believers mature in their faith. I get quite excited when I see young people give their lives to serve the Lord in ministry. It is a joy when I see people change and come to love God and desire to know Him and His word.
C. Joy In Unity
In 2:2, Paul indicates that he rejoices when there is unity in the body of Christ. Someone mentioned recently that Mennonites are a peace church. Yes, it says that in our constitution and we value it, but do we live it in our relationships with each other? I am thinking about a conflict I had with someone some years ago. There is joy in my heart when I think about the good relationship we have now. Will we seek peace and experience the joy of having one heart and one purpose?
D. Joy In Community
There is another joy we see demonstrated throughout this passage and that is the joy which exists between people in the community of faith. In Philippians 2:28,29, Paul is talking about the relationship of the Philippians to Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus had been sick but had been restored to health. Paul was hoping to send him to the Philippians and in these verses expresses the joy that will happen when he returns – they will be glad, Paul will rejoice and they will receive him with joy.
In Philippians 4:1, Paul expresses his feelings about the Philippians. He indicates that they are his “joy and crown.” Once again we see some of the joy that exists between believers.
Then in 4:10, he once again expresses the joy he has because they have helped him.
What a blessing to be a part of a faith community. The joy we all have in the Lord is a joy that is then shared by all of us as brothers and sisters. Now I know that it isn’t always like that. Why not? We all rejoice in the same Lord. We love the Lord and we can therefore have the same love for each other. In part, this is an encouragement to live in that joy rather than in the sourness of conflict. Yet, there are so many ways in which we do have joy. When someone is sick and experiences support, when someone needs prayer and a whole bunch of people pray, when a relative becomes a believer and we all rejoice together, when we go on a retreat and begin a game of Settlers at 2:30 in the morning or just sit around a fire and share or when simply enjoy each others company because we all share the same values, then we experience the wonder of the joy that is ours in community because we rejoice in the Lord.
So what have we learned? First of all, we have a command. We are to rejoice in the Lord. Furthermore, when we rejoice in the Lord, we also experience joy in many ways and in many places in our Christian walk.
Do we rejoice in the relationship we have with each other? Does our joy in each other come from our relationship with each other? How is it related to our joy in the Lord?
Joy is a good thing. We can live in this good thing! Let’s do it!