Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice"
Our first principle was Resolve to Stand (Philippians 4:1): You cannot have the peace of God until you resolve to stand for what is right. The second principle, Remain in Unity (Philippians 4:2-3), taught us that if our relationships with others are not peaceable, we ourselves cannot experience peace. Today we will see what God says about the third principle, Rejoice in the Lord.
Peace and joy share many similarities: Neither of them are feelings, though they are very involved with our emotions. Both are actionable. While peace is my decision to be right with God, right with others, and right with my circumstances, joy goes deeper. It's praising God in the midst of my situation.
Notice that our text doesn't make joy an option: it's a command. "Rejoice in the Lord alway." According to God, there is never a valley so dark that I cannot shed the light of His praises. A diagnosis may threaten to destroy my body, but it is my choice whether or not it destroys my joy. I can still praise God that He is able to heal if He wills. If He chooses to take me home, then everything I have been waiting for as a Christian will become a reality.
How do you handle your problems? Is your first response to praise God for His goodness and acknowledge that, no matter how disappointed you may feel, you can still look to Him? If you're anything like me, that's not your first response. I tend to throw myself a pity-party. I vent. I complain. I disobey this clear command. As a result, I lose my peace of mind.
Notice I'm not saying to thank God for the bad. Many people misunderstand the wording of 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Notice it doesn't say, "For everything give thanks“; it says, "In everything give thanks". God doesn't expect us to rejoice in the evil that others may do unto us, but He does expect us to be thankful in the situation.
If someone has hurt you, you can thank God that He never leaves you nor forsakes you. If your body is in continual discomfort, you can thank God for the perfect body you will one day own. If your finances are tight and you don't know where the next meal is going to come from, you can thank God that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
To rejoice in the Lord is to test your faith. Is God really who you say He is? This is why James 1:2-4 commands us to "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
No matter the season, God commands us to have joy. Having joy strengthens our faith. Rejoicing in the Lord establishes our peace of mind. It's the Christian's war cry: "This trial will not defeat me! My God is greater than my pain."
Are you finding yourself in a difficult season and joy seems so far away? Here's a practical exercise Pastor Marc Monte of Faith Baptist Church of Avon, IN suggests: get a journal and every day, thank God for four things:
1. Thank God for what you have had - past blessings
2. Thank God for what you have now - present blessings
3. Thank God for what you will have - future blessings
4. Thank God for what you don't have - God's mercy
You ultimately choose whether or not your situations rob you of peace and joy. You cannot have God's peace without giving God praise. This is the third principle in our series, Rejoice in the Lord.