Sunday, May 1, 2011

Joy and Rejoicing in Philippians

by Pastor Ron Bridge of Rehoboth Baptist Church

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. -Philippians 4:4-9 nkjv

“Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). This is one of the most well known verses in Philippians, and also in the entire New Testament – and rightly so! The good news of salvation through faith in Christ is a source of great joy to all who have experienced it – a joy that enables them to be content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11). At least, that is what it is supposed to do. But does it? Does the fact of our salvation actually cause us to rejoice in all circumstances?

I have been reading through Philippians again and have been reminded that I need to ask this question of myself repeatedly. I need to because I can be easily discouraged by trivial little problems. You would think that after thirty six years as a Christian I would have learned, as Paul had, to be content in whatever state I am. But, I find that I am not, or at least not as often as I should. I could excuse myself by saying that I am not Paul – true enough, but it is a transparent excuse because I have not had the kind of problems he did. The truth is that I find myself discouraged and lacking joy because I do not think deeply enough about my salvation, and more importantly, about my Savior. I am not speaking theologically because my theology of salvation is solid. I know what a sinner I was (am), and I know what Jesus has done for me. The trouble is that there is often a disconnect between my head and my heart – and it is the heart where rejoicing occurs – where it is felt – but it starts in the mind.

Paul was always thinking about Jesus. In the four chapters of Philippians, he mentions Jesus by name ortitle forty eight times (in 104 verses). If we add references to God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, there are seventy four (and I may have missed a few) references to the Divine Being. Paul's mind was saturated with thoughts of God, not just about what God had done for him, but about God Himself, thoughts of His greatness, beauty, love, grace, and glory. Paul counted everything secondary to the excellence of the knowledge of Christ (3:8). The secret of Paul's joy in the face difficult circumstances was a mind fixed on the Lord (cf. Col. 3:1-3; Heb. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 4:16-18). Having a Christ-centered mind enabled Paul to rejoice in all things, and it will enable us, as well. May I encourage you to read Philippians again, and join with Paul and me thinking about Jesus and learning to rejoice in the Lord, always (the table below is taken from the ESV Study Bible).

Ref: Paul...
1:4 prays with joy
1:18 rejoices that Christ is proclaimed
1:25 will remain living on earth, for the Philippians' joy in the faith
2:2 asks the Philippians to complete his joy
2:17,18 is glad and rejoices with the Philippians
2:28 sends Epaphroditus, that the Philippians might rejoice
2:29 tells the Philippians to receive Epaphroditus with joy
3:1 tells the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord
4:1 tells the Philippians they are his joy
4:4 tells the Philippians twice to rejoice in the Lord
4:10 rejoiced in the Lord at the Philippians' concern for him

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