Pastor Herna

Is It Possible to Rejoice Always?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

If our child graduates from an educational institution, we will rejoice. On the other hand, if our child needs to undergo surgery, we will naturally not rejoice. If we have bought a new house, we will rejoice. On the other hand, if our house has been burnt to the ground, we will naturally not rejoice.

In that regard, we may begin to wonder if the Apostle Paul has made a mistake in urging us to rejoice in the Lord always, but before we dismiss his words, let us examine them in context.

The Apostle Paul and Silas were preaching the Gospel in Philippi. The Philippian church was the first church that Paul founded in Europe. The Philippians opposed Paul and Silas’ preaching. It is recorded in Acts 16:22-24:  The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Imagine the suffering of Paul and Silas. However, what did they do? They prayed and sang hymns to God (v.25). How did the other inmates react? They listened to them (v.25).  Why was that so? That was because in that prison, nobody had ever sung praises to God, and their hearts were lifted by the hymns. On the other hand, if Paul had protested in anger, they would have covered their ears, as they had enough of hearing prisoners protesting, complaining and wailing.

When the Philippian church got to know about this, they were amazed that in prison, Paul sang praises to God. They learnt from this incident that despite his suffering, Paul could rejoice because he believed that Christ was always with him.

About twenty years later, when Paul was in prison in Rome on other charges, he heard that the Philippian church was being persecuted. He wrote to them to encourage them: Rejoice in the Lord always. The key phrase is “in the Lord”. Paul sang not because he rejoiced being in prison, but because even in prison, Christ was with him.

That helps us understand in context what Paul means by “Rejoice in the Lord always!”

We rejoice not because our child needs to undergo surgery, but because Christ goes into the operating theatre with us and our child, holding our hands.

We rejoice not because our house has been burnt to the ground, but because when we weep over the loss of our house, Christ weeps with us.

We rejoice not because death is near, but because Christ is standing at the door of our heavenly home, ready to welcome and embrace us.