Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; Philippians 4:4-5 (ESV)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Philippians 4:4-5 (NLT)
After the experiences of last year, tilting one’s head at this verse in curious thought wouldn’t be unimaginable. Paul writes to the Philippians that they should practice always being full of joy and rejoicing, and Paul repeats it for added emphasis. It sounds like a phrase that would be easy to say and hard to do. What subjects this thought to further scrutiny is the fact that, while 2020 was hard, I believe most (if not all) of us haven’t experienced life with the same struggles Paul experienced. To add background to his experiences, here’s a list in his own words:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 2 Corinthians 11:24-29 (ESV)
If Paul, having experienced these things, can set an example of the fullness of joy and rejoicing for the Philippians, following Paul’s lead and letting the Lord fill us with joy and rejoicing, even in these difficult times, sounds a practice worth emulating.
As 2021 continues and difficulties arise, reflect on Philippians 4:4-5 and seek the Lord in joy and rejoicing! Will it be difficult? Of course! Our heritage of belief is full of those who have faced what we’ve just been through (and continue to experience), and much worse, and still found and expressed the joy only Jesus can bring, rejoicing along the way. As the struggles of life greet you, tap into our heritage and let the true joy of the Lord fill you and rejoice in him! Perhaps, without even knowing it, you’ll be a shining example to those around you!
By Rich Obrecht