“Whatever happens … rejoice in the Lord.” Philippians 3:1a (NLT)
Is it just me or have you noticed how much more intentional you must be to rejoice the longer this pandemic lasts? Our social interactions are limited, and we remain isolated in our own little cocoons meeting at best by zoom or social media. It’s definitely a choice to rejoice. When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he was speaking from personal experience. He told them, “Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.” Philippians 3:1 (NLT) Did you get that phrase, “Whatever happens …” Pandemics not excluded. Whether in good times or bad, make the choice to rejoice! Easier said than done. How do you choose to rejoice when you’re not feeling it?
No one was more qualified to say this than Paul. Philippi was the city where he was wrongly accused, severely beaten, and falsely imprisoned. Following that experience, Paul would later endure two years of imprisonment in Caesarea and two more years of imprisonment in Rome, not to mention that he was stoned and left for dead in Lystra. He was even awaiting his sentence while imprisoned in Rome when he wrote Philippians, unsure if he would be released or sentenced to death. Despite such suffering, he writes this letter full of joy! In fact, the concepts of rejoicing and joy appear sixteen times in four brief chapters, culminating with a challenge to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
It makes you wonder if Paul was nuts. How is it possible to rejoice no matter what happens? Paul was living proof that, when your aim is knowing Christ, your heart could be filled with inexpressible joy even in the worst of circumstances. Happiness depends on what happens. It’s short-lived and hollow. We’ve all experienced the shallowness of laughter. It can often mask hidden hurts and deep pain. When you experience sorrow and suffering, you need more than laughter to lift your spirit. You need joy! The Bible says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)
It’s the joy of knowing Jesus and His presence empowering you. Knowing Christ is the one thing that changes everything! It may not change the circumstance, but it changes you in the midst of the circumstance. You’re no longer living for this world or whatever it may offer. Your focus is on knowing Him and experiencing His life indwelling you. Your faith is in God. He is still on the throne and will never abandon you. You choose to rejoice, not for what is happening but in the God who loves you and gave His Son for you, knowing that He alone writes the final chapter.
What are you going through right now that threatens your joy? Let faith arise and make the choice to rejoice. Your feelings will eventually catch up to your choice to rejoice!