Rejoice always

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippines 4:4-7

This is often called an epistle of joy, it mentions joy over and over again and this is how he starts this section that I want to focus on.

If we are making good use of our Bibles, I'm sure you have noticed that there is a repetition in our Bibles. So when we teach our children, when pastors teach from the pulpit, we will repeat ourselves. The father of Proverbs warns his son several times about the harlot and then Peter tells pastors, “Put them in mind of these things.” I believe that's why God instituted those two ordinances; baptism and the Lord's Supper to keep us focused upon Jesus Christ, and to remind us again what he has accomplished for us. You have that clear injunction in Hebrews 12:2, “Looking to the author and finisher of our faith,” which is Jesus. One of the reasons why we have to keep our eyes upon Jesus is because he is the key to everything, he really is the master key. He is the key to wisdom, peace, joy, all grace comes through him. If we lose sight of Christ, we begin to flounder spiritually, emotionally and often times relationally. Think of Martha and Mary. Both of them loved Jesus, there's no question there, but at one point Martha goes into a dizzy of emotion and anxiety. What's the difference? Mary was focused upon Jesus, Martha wasn't. When the disciples are in the upper room Jesus knows their hearts are troubled. What does he tell them? “Believe in God, believe also in me.” When you visit the apostle Paul in that jail cell, he wrote several epistles from prison. They're called prison epistles and that was certainly true of this epistle to the Philippian church, and he says some mind boggling things when you think about where he is when he writes the letter. First, you see in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content in whatever state that I am in,” and then he begins this chapter again in that section, “Rejoice always, again I say rejoice.” Notice he repeats himself, “Again, I say rejoice.”

Now that might sound strange and even impossible. I think someone has actually called this the impossible command. It is a command. Rejoice! Always. But notice the focus. He doesn't say rejoice in your circumstances, because that is never going to be true. Rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord. In the Bible study this past Saturday, Pastor Mark brought several reasons and I think it's very helpful to keep these in mind. They go to the past and they take us to the present but also the future when we think of Christ. Why can we always rejoice in Christ? The greatness of his person, that never changes; his sovereignty, his control of all things, his love, his faithfulness, he always keeps his promises, he's unchangeable, he's the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So in terms of the greatness of his person, we can always rejoice in Christ, always be rejoicing in who he is.

Second, his obedience and his death. That takes us to the past, he saved us from judgment in God's wrath, he saved to the uttermost. We go to the past also in terms of his resurrection from the dead. We have that hope of resurrection that one day we will be raised from the dead. We don't have to be afraid of death like the world is afraid of death. We will have a sinless glorified body and soul. It was J.I. Packer who said, “A sinless soul joined to a perfect glorified body.” So we have that wonderful hope. We also have his exaltation. That's a present reality, he makes intercession for us right now. We can experience his care, his sympathy, his forgiveness, his strength and power past, present and future. He's coming back again. We will see him and when we see him we will be like him. That's what you call eschatology. That's what we're going to hear about this coming week from Pastor Dunn, we will see him. That's the great hope that we have as Christians, when we see him we will become just like him for all eternity. If we are rejoicing in Christ, why can we rejoice? Always think, brethren, of what he has done for you in the past, what he does for you right now in the present and what he will do for us in the future.

Pastor Gordon Cook