Rejoicing with the Apostle Paul
by Jeff McAlvey
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice in the Lord always? Sure, Paul, that’s easy for you to say. You weren’t in the middle of a pandemic. You weren’t restricted to your home. You weren’t fearful about your future, fearful for your life. Oh, wait. Paul wrote these words from prison, not sure if he would live or die. The same Paul who in 2 Corinthians tells us that he’s been whipped, beaten, shipwrecked, and in danger constantly. As one of my friends said, “he was in the middle of a virus of hatred against Christians.” Despite all that, he doesn’t start this section with “don’t be anxious” but with “rejoice in the Lord always.” As a matter of fact, he says it twice!
I’ve spent a lot of time on these verses in my life. I’ve battled anxiety much of my life, and these verses have been a great challenge and comfort. However, as I read them yesterday in my quiet time, I realized that I almost always focus on verses 6 & 7 (do not be anxious…the peace of the Lord) and not on verse 4, rejoicing in the Lord.
I think Paul is telling us that rejoicing is the starting point of having the peace of the Lord guard our hearts and minds. It sounds strange, as we face fear and uncertainty — rejoice. But we have much to rejoice in. Just consider a few of these truths from Romans 8:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (v 1)…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons (v 15)…the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (v 18)…neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (v 39).”
These are just a few of the reasons to rejoice. There are many, many more. Brothers and sisters, let’s trust God’s word and obey what it says. Let’s make this a day of rejoicing!