I’m convinced that God speaks to us more than we realize, so I always try to stay open to His voice. I recently felt God speaking to me through some experiences that coincided with my birthday. I’ve been reading lately from a daily devotional book, and as I opened it on the morning of my birthday, I took even greater interest than usual in what the message for the day would be. The entry started with a familiar verse: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV). I thought about the scripture and the personal importance of its message.
Later, when I received a birthday card in the mail, I was both surprised and encouraged to find the same scripture from Philippians 4:4 printed on the inside. I started to think that maybe God was trying to tell me something! So, I’ve decided to claim this verse as “my” scripture for the start of 2017. And what a great scripture it is with a powerful and timely message!
Consider those words: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” The importance and benefit of continually rejoicing in the Lord cannot be overstated. The message is particularly meaningful when you consider the context in which it was first shared. The statement is found in what we know today as the Biblical book of Philippians; it was initially a letter the apostle Paul wrote to church members in the city of Philippi. What’s interesting is that when Paul penned these words, he was in prison for preaching the Gospel! Paul was trying to teach the Philippians to base their joy on their relationship with the Lord, not on their circumstances. And who better to preach such a message than a prisoner who still found reasons to rejoice in the Lord?
If you read the entirety of Paul’s letter, you’ll find no hint of discouragement or negativity about his condition. In fact, Paul elaborated that “the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12, NKJV). He was able to see the good even in what seemed like a dire situation. He exemplified the message he preached, and it is a message that is still true today.
However, it’s important to realize that what made Paul’s positive attitude possible was not a naïve, nonchalant look on life, but a maturity rooted in his deep conviction for Jesus and his understanding that God was in control. Paul followed his message about rejoicing with these words: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).
I also think it’s interesting that Paul added the phrase, “I will say it again: Rejoice!” Why did he find it necessary to say it again? It was probably because he knew the message was important enough to bear repeating. In fact, through the entirety of the book of Philippians, Paul makes at least a dozen references to joy or rejoicing. He knew he couldn’t over-communicate this message!
Without a doubt, 2017 will have its highs and lows. Regardless, we can carry a joy in our hearts that is rooted in something deeper than our daily experiences. Let’s rejoice in the Lord, and let’s do it “always.” I’ll say it again … rejoice!