Sunday 15th November 2020
Rejoice in the Lord
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Church at Philippi, reminds us: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’
Two ladies were chatting over a cup of coffee, and they were chatting about this very text. “I can’t do it’, said one lady to the other, ‘I simply can’t rejoice always. For me, that’s not possible; I can’t rejoice when something bad happens to me or to my family, when I’m hurting, when I’m anxious, lonely. I’m sorry, I can’t do it.”
“But you don’t have to”, her wise friend replied, “That’s not what this text says. Paul doesn’t say ‘Rejoice in your circumstances’, he does say, ‘Rejoice in the Lord’, and that, no matter what, you can do.”
Paul, as we know, was writing from a prison cell and was facing a very uncertain future – but what did he write?
- Not words of complaint – but words of joy,
- Not words that spoke of worry about the future – but words of hope.
- “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
Paul tells us to rejoice. Just so we get the point, he tells us twice: “I will say it again, Rejoice!” Carry with you, Paul teaches, a spirit of praise to the Lord in your heart everywhere you go. No matter what, praise God and thank him for His love, His mercy and His promises.
Just think for a moment of God’s wonderful promises to us. He promises:
- We are in His hands – Psalm 31,
- Nothing can separate us from His love – Romans 8,
- In difficult times He walks with us, and at times even carries us – Isaiah 43,
- He is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Shepherd, Saviour, Friend, the One who loves us with an everlasting love, Jeremiah 31,
- We are promised life to the full, Jesus himself said no-one can snatch us from God’s hand – John 10,
- And Jesus prayed that the Father would keep us and bring us to where He is, that we may share His glory – John 17.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!” Paul then adds: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Paul is encouraging us, rejoice in the Lord and His promises, and don’t fret or worry, but exchange your worries for prayers, talk to God, tell Him everything. “Do not be anxious about anything…”, Now, that’s a tough one. Many of us are anxious by nature. Sometimes we feel so burdened and overwhelmed we don’t know who to talk to – but we can always talk to God. God Himself encourages each one of us – to talk to Him – not just in church – important as that is – but anytime, anyplace, anyhow. Prayer should be our first port of call in any and all circumstances…Why? Because God’s Word promises: prayer and inner peace go together hand in hand. So, pray, pray, and keep on praying. Maybe the Church in Philippi had forgotten how important prayer is, a mistake more than one church has made, so Paul gives this reminder – we give God our honest prayers and He promises to give us peace in exchange – what an exchange! What a promise! One of most-loved hymns reminds us:
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
What keeps us from prayer?
- Some people think they are not good enough to pray.
- Don’t let that stop you from praying – God loves you, you are precious to him, and He wants to hear from you.
- Some people think it takes fancy words to pray.
- No – God just asks for words that are open and honest.
- Some people are just not interested in prayer.
- They’re missing out on one of the greatest gifts that God has given them.
- Anyone can pray – don’t let anything keep you from praying…
And when any of us faces a difficult time, we can also ask others to pray with us and for us. What an encouragement, how important it is, to know others are praying for us!
- When we are waiting for an appointment in the doctor’s surgery,
- Or waiting for those scan results at the hospital,
- Or worried about our children or our parents,
- Or facing a difficult decision,
- Pray for yourself – and ask others to pray for you.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul goes on to throw in even more encouragement – like adding a few more vital ingredients to the pot.
- He tells us to be gentle with each other – to lose those abrasive edges to our character that can hurt others,
- And he promises that Jesus is near – nearer than we could ever imagine.
Paul concludes this section of teaching with his ‘whatever’ section. Did you ever speak to someone, perhaps offering some advice and at the end of it they simply reply, “Whatever!” And you get the impression they haven’t thought your words very helpful!
Well, this is Paul’s ‘whatever’ section, but we can guess from what he says, he is speaking kindly and helpfully (v 8):
- Whatever is pure,
- Whatever is lovely,
- Whatever is admirable,
- Whatever is excellent and praiseworthy…
- Those are the things to think about, says Paul, the things to fill our minds with…
What great advice for today or any day…
If you are someone who is prone to worry, or you know someone who is, why not guide them or yourself to these wonderful verses that remind us of the promises of God. Paul encourages us:
- Thank God every day for the good things in your life and for His promises to you,
- Rejoice knowing God holds you in the palm of His hand,
- Keep praying, don’t let anything keep you from prayer…pray for yourself, pray for others,
- Make a conscious effort to be gentle and to fill your mind with good thoughts,
- Keep your eyes on Jesus, He is nearer than you could ever imagine,
- And as you do these things, God’s peace will surround you and guard you, like a hedge of protection around you, no matter what…
Paul doesn’t say “rejoice in your circumstances”. He does say, “Rejoice in the Lord”, and that, no matter what, we can all do.
Take a moment now to pause and pray. You might find it helpful to begin with a time of quiet. In your prayer, take the time to, ‘Rejoice in the Lord’. Thank God for His work in your life, for all His blessings and for sending Jesus to die for you. And then bring before God your hopes, your anxieties, your concerns. God your Heavenly Father is just waiting to hear from you.