Last week we looked at the importance of standing fast by pursuing peace in our relationships with other believers. We saw the situation between two women who were not at peace with one another and realized the importance of pursuing peace with others in order to stand fast in the Lord. This morning we’ll be looking at Philippians 4:4.
Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Last week we learned that one practical way we can stand fast in the Lord is by pursuing peace in our relationships with other believers. If we are to stand fast in the Lord we need to be in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This morning we’ll consider a second practical way of standing fast in the Lord. Another way we stand fast in the Lord is by rejoicing in the Lord always. We mentioned last week that if Euodia and Syntyche had been rejoicing in the Lord they wouldn’t have been at odds with each other.
So as we come to this short but powerful passage at Philippians 4:4 there are four questions that I’d like to answer this morning that I think will help us to better understand this short verse that is packed full of meaning for us as believers.
What Should Limit Rejoicing?
When Should We Rejoice?
Why the Repeated Command to Rejoice?
We’ve seen before in our study in the book of Philippians how the subject of joy seems to keep popping up again and again. Let me show what I mean. Listen to the mention of joy in the following verses in Philippians.
Philippians 1:4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,
Philippians 1:25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,
Philippians 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. (emphasis added)
Now we come to Philippians 4:4 where Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always and he repeats the command, rejoice!
I want to share with you some reasons why we should rejoice.
1. Why Rejoice?
Rejoicing is a privilege—think about it. God is good. He is a good and loving heavenly father and as such he gives us a command that is a joy to keep.
When I was in the military I was given many orders that I had to obey or face the consequences. Those of you who’ve been in the military know what the UCMJ is—the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The UCMJ goes into great detail about the rights of military personal and a lot more but it also goes into great detail about what happens to those who disobey orders. Some of the orders I had to follow weren’t always pleasant.
I recall one particular time while doing security duty at a high security military facility we were sent on a security patrol. This was going to be a long patrol—on foot—it was about ten miles around the perimeter of this facility. But our platoon must not have been doing too well prior to that because the powers that be decided we weren’t going to carefully and slowly patrol through the woods that surrounded the installation but we were going to run around the perimeter in the open field that separated the woods from the several layers of secure fencing that surrounded the facility. And this was to be no ordinary afternoon jog. We were to be in full battle gear, with body armor, rifles with grenade launchers, M60 machineguns, and plenty of ammo. Our commander was trying to get our attention—that we should shape up and do better. He got our attention. Not a pleasant order to obey—but obey we did and we all survived.
And like some of your experiences in life on the job, in school, at home—under the authority of your parents—not all things we’re told to do are enjoyable.
But think about the command to rejoice. What a privilege we have to rejoice! We serve a good God who has given us a command that is a joy to obey. This command to rejoice is a command to be full of joy, to be delighted, to be glad! Rejoicing is something that is pleasant for you and me. You will feel good when you rejoice. It is something you can enjoy. Rejoicing is a wonderful privilege that we have as believers.
Another reason we should rejoice is that our rejoicing points to the Joy Giver.
Our rejoicing points to the Joy Giver
True joy that comes from our relationship with the Lord is going to speak of the One who fills us with joy. The presence of joy in our lives reflects to others the presence of the Lord in our lives. It points others to God.
“There are many more flies caught with honey than with vinegar; and there are many more sinners brought to Christ by happy Christians than by doleful Christians.”(Spurgeon)
He also said…
“If you cannot speak the gospel, live the gospel by your cheerfulness; for what is the gospel? Glad tidings of great joy; and you who believe it must show by its effect upon you that it is glad tidings of great joy to you. I do believe that a man of God-under trial and difficulty and affliction, bearing up, and patiently submitting with holy acquiescence, and still rejoicing in God-is a real preacher of the gospel, preaching with an eloquence which is mightier than words can ever be, and which will find its secret and silent way into the hearts of those who might have resisted other arguments. Oh, do, then, listen to the text, for it is a command from God, "Rejoice in the Lord alway!" (Spurgeon)
Joy flowing from our lives as believers is going to be far more convincing and appealing to unbelievers than if we walk around with sour faces, grumbling and complaining. The joy that the Lord gives the Christian is joy the world doesn’t have.
If we are rejoicing in the Lord always others will notice. It will speak to them of the One who gives us such remarkable joy.
Another reason we should rejoice is because our rejoicing in the Lord will influence others to rejoice also.
Rejoicing in the Lord influences others to rejoice
Joy is contagious. We can encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ by rejoicing in the Lord always. We can set a good example for others to follow by rejoicing in the Lord always. Have you ever known someone who was so full of joy that when you were around them you just couldn’t help but be joyful yourself?
When we are rejoicing in the Lord it is going to bless and encourage others. Rejoice in the Lord always and spread joy wherever you go.
But what’s most important is that we rejoice in the Lord always because it’s a command.
For the Christian rejoicing in the Lord is not optional
You may believe that joy is just an emotion and that you can’t control your emotions. You might be thinking, “There are times I just don’t feel rejoicing.” But when Paul says, “rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice!” he isn’t just making a suggestion. It’s a command. This is a command from God’s Word that still applies to us today. If we are going to stand fast in the Lord then we need to be rejoicing in the Lord. It’s not optional. It’s not something we do if and when we feel like it. It’s something that God expects of us as His children.
Psalm 33:1 – Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 – Rejoice always,
We’ve considered the question, why rejoice? Now let’s think for a moment about what should limit rejoicing?
2. What should limit rejoicing?
Let’s understand that we are limited to rejoicing in the Lord. Christians should do nothing that can’t be done in the Lord—therefore we cannot rejoice in sinful things. The Holy Spirit teaches us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that we are to do everything to God’s glory.
So we are limited to rejoicing in the Lord. We should not rejoice in anything that is sinful or doesn’t honor the Lord. We shouldn’t find our joy in sinful activities. Our rejoicing needs to be in the Lord.
Also we shouldn’t rejoice when others suffer or sin or fail. We need to…
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)
We shouldn’t rejoice when things go badly for others. There’s a natural human tendency to be glad when someone we don’t like gets what we think they have coming to them. As believers that should never be the case. Our rejoicing is limited to rejoicing in the Lord. If our rejoicing doesn’t glorify Him then it is the wrong kind of rejoicing. Our rejoicing should focus on God.
Our rejoicing should focus on God
This is so vital. We need to rejoice in the Lord. In the Lord! He is the object of our rejoicing. The more we know the Lord, the more we understand about Him, the deeper our relationship with Him is, the better able we are to rejoice in the Lord. Sometimes we may have trouble rejoicing in the Lord because we don’t really know Him as well as we should.
It’s interesting at my house to listen to some of the conversations between my youngest children. It’s always interesting to hear the views my younger children have of God. Zachary who just turned 4 in February understands that everything belongs to God. That’s a good concept for us to grasp. Ultimately everything we have and are belongs to our Heavenly Father and we are just stewards of what He has given to us. Unfortunately, Zachary has taken this and twisted the fact that everything belongs to God and used it for selfish purposes. He has said at times to one of his brothers, “I can play with this. It isn’t yours. It’s God’s.”
Zachary needs a clearer understanding of who God is and what He expects of us. We all need a better understanding of who God is. We need to grow in our knowledge of Him. We need to deepen our relationship with Him and as we do this we will find so many wonderful reasons to rejoice in Him!
We can rejoice in His provision, in His grace, in His mercy, in His faithfulness, in His goodness, in His love. We can rejoice that He is in control. We can rejoice that He comforts us and helps us. We can rejoice in the salvation He has made available to us. We can rejoice that He never leaves us or forsakes us.
I could go on and on with the countless reasons for rejoicing in the Lord. The more you know the Lord the more you realize how amazing and awesome and wonderful He is and the more you have reason for rejoicing in Him!
The next question is when should we rejoice?
3. When should we rejoice?
Always—it seems obvious doesn’t it since that’s what Paul says here. But here’s what I want you to think about. We should rejoice in the Lord when there’s nothing to rejoice about.
We are to rejoice in the Lord always. Not once in a while. Not when we feel like it. Not when everything is going fine, but always. There may be times when we feel like we have no reason to rejoice. Our kids have the flu, the car is broken down, gas prices are too high, the boss is mean, finances are tight, the marriage is troubled, your health is poor, or we’ve lost someone we love dearly. There are many big and little reasons that may be sapping us of our joy. Yet Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. Even when it seems nothing is going your way you are to rejoice in the Lord. That is the beauty of rejoicing in the Lord. You can always find reasons to rejoice in Him. Our circumstances aren’t always worthy of rejoicing but in the Lord we can always rejoice. We can’t always rejoice in our circumstances but we can always rejoice in the Lord.
We should also rejoice in the Lord when there is something to rejoice about—being certain that we are rejoicing more in the Lord than in the blessing. When we rejoice too much in the object of blessing we run the risk of loosing our joy when that object is no more.
We need to rejoice in the Lord always even when things are good. Be careful not to rejoice only in the food on your table or the good health you enjoy or the friends that you have but rejoice in the One who provided all these good gifts to you. We may have many blessing to enjoy, let’s rejoice in the Lord in the midst of the good things He has given us to enjoy.
Have things ever been going so well for you that you know it’s just too good to last? It could be you tend to sour your rejoicing because your “cup is half empty” about the future. You might be one who says, “I know it’s good now but it’s bound to get bad soon.” And if you do that you will tend to worry and fret about the future in the midst of God’s blessings and you will be robbed of your joy.
We need to be certain that we are rejoicing more in the Lord and than in the object with which He’s blessed us.
We should also rejoice in the Lord in the presence of others—but continue to rejoice even if no one joins you.
Rejoicing in the Lord always means we should rejoice around others and when we’re alone. You may work with the kind of people who gripe and complain about the boss or their wife or their husband or their kids. You need to rejoice in the Lord always, even around others who aren’t rejoicing. You need to rejoice in the Lord always even at home around your family. Sometimes it’s easier to be negative around those who know us best. And maybe you’re married to someone who is negative and critical and never has anything nice to say. Maybe you have parents who complain a lot. Maybe it’s your children.
It doesn’t matter whether others around you are rejoicing or not, you should to rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice in the Lord always even if those around you aren’t.
The fourth question I’d like to consider this morning is why the repeated command to rejoice?
4. Why the repeated command to rejoice?
Why does Paul say rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Why does he clearly emphasize rejoicing in the Lord by repeating himself?
I think it’s pretty obvious that Paul loved the Philippian believers so much he wanted them to rejoice in the Lord—to experience true joy.
But I believe that Paul loved the Philippian believers so much that he wanted them to rejoice in the Lord like he did. He wanted them to experience the same true joy that he had experienced. He’s made it clear, throughout his letter to the Philippians, his love for them. And isn’t it natural for us to want those we love to experience the same joy we do.
He also may have repeated himself to emphasize the possibility of rejoicing in the Lord.
By repeating the command to rejoice, Paul is saying it’s possible! This is something everyone who knows the Lord can do. It may be more difficult for some to rejoice but you too can rejoice! Rejoicing in the Lord is for all believers! Rejoicing in the Lord is for all of us as believers today and I believe that Paul’s repetition here drives that home for us. Life may be more difficult for you than for the one sitting next to you today but it’s still possible for you to rejoice in the Lord.
He also may have repeated himself to affirm that it’s not always easy to rejoice in the Lord.
We have our ups and downs, don’t we? We have good days and bad days. It’s not always easy to rejoice in the Lord. Yet it is important that we do so.
He also probably wanted them to understand the importance of rejoicing in the Lord.
Our circumstances change. We have highs and lows, but one constant remains and that is the Lord. In the great old hymn, “Be Still My Soul” there is a great line that goes like this…
In every change, He faithful will remain
Regardless of the twists and turns our life takes and the unexpected things that come our way, we can still rejoice in the Lord who never changes.
Note too that Paul was probably also testifying of the rejoicing he was doing in the Lord—even in the midst of great difficulty.
Paul is a great one to call others to rejoice and to emphasize the importance of rejoicing in the Lord. He was one who practiced what he preached. He was in prison when he wrote, “rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice.” He suffered through beatings and shipwrecks and all kinds of hardship yet remained joyful. He’s not one we can say, “well that’s easy for you to say, you don’t know how hard my life is.” Paul knew plenty of difficulty and yet his strength was in the joy of the Lord.
How are you doing today? Are you standing fast in the Lord by rejoicing in the Lord always? Life is difficult. You may face enormous challenges. Your circumstances may not give you very much reason to rejoice but if you know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, no matter how bad your situation is you can still rejoice in the Lord. You can rejoice in the Lord always.
Is 1 Peter 1:8 true in your life?
and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (1 Peter 1:8 NASB)
Perhaps you can’t rejoice in the Lord this morning because you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. I’m here to share with you how you can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ today so that you can begin living the life that rejoices in the Lord always.
Maybe you are a believer but you haven’t been rejoicing in the Lord. You may need to pray as I pray this morning that you’ll begin rejoicing in the Lord always.
As I studied this week I was moved by this illustration of one woman’s ability to rejoice in the Lord always no matter what the circumstances are.
The story is told of a pastor on a short-term missions trip who was leading worship at a leper colony on the island of Tobago. A woman who had been facing away from the pulpit turned around.
"It was the most hideous face I had ever seen," he said. "The woman's nose and ears were entirely gone. She lifted a fingerless hand in the air and asked, 'Can we sing Count Your Many Blessings?' "
Overcome with emotion, the pastor left the service. He was followed by a team member who said, "I guess you'll never be able to sing that song again."
"Yes I will," he replied, "but I'll never sing it the same way." (The Pastor's Update – 5/96)
I believe once you begin to rejoice in the Lord you’ll never rejoice the same way again. Let’s grow closer to the Lord and know Him better and discover the many reasons we have to rejoice in the Lord. Let’s make sure we are standing fast in the Lord by rejoicing in Him always.
Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church