Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rejoice in the Lord Always!

If we stop and think about it, it should seem ridiculous that Phil. 4:4 is even in the Bible.  After all, he who spared not his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all thing?  Wednesday night we were listing what some of these things might be.  Besides the physically good things of life, there is the fact that we will live forever in the presence of God! 
One thing that I mentioned was that one reason we have to rejoice always is that everything in life has a higher purpose than ourselves and this life.  We have the opportunity to serve and glorify God in everything we do instead of living only for self and dying like dogs.  These certainly weren’t idle words for Paul either.  He wrote them from jail and would soon lose his head for the sake of the gospel.  But as you read through the book there is no hint of complaining or self-pity.  And it was the fact that life had such a higher purpose that transcended his “light afflictions” that led him to write in 1:18ff that he would rejoice because Christ was always honored in his body either by life or death.  And then in vs. 29 he says that it has been granted unto us (the word granted having the idea of a good and profitable gift bestowed) not only to believe on him but also to suffer for his sake. 
It is not very difficult to rejoice and be generally happy when things are going well.  And it is also amazing that under such circumstances we begin to see ourselves at the center of our life.  But it is true faith and love for God indeed when we can rejoice under the trials of life.  I recently alluded to this in a couple of sermons.  In Malachi ch. 1 Israel was questioning God’s love because they were suffering.  In this case, it was for their own sin but God reminds them that they should remember his electing love as proof that he loves them.  My comment was this:  There may be times when we start to doubt God’s love.  But we need to remember that his love isn’t seen in what he brings into our life but the effect he accomplishes through it! Let me add something I said last Sunday to finish this thought: It is our constant temptation to see good things as a sign of God’s favor and bad things as a sign of his displeasure and we immediately miss the whole point of being a Christian. He has already given us the best things in Christ, case closed. Suffering is our way of expressing how much we value God’s choice gift!  Paul could rejoice always because he had Christ always and that was all he needed for contentment.  The inability to rejoice in Christ during affliction only tells this world that Christ doesn’t quite measure up to the trial.
Do you see how understanding that everything that happens to us gives us a purpose that reaches into Heaven and into eternity can cause us to rejoice always?  Perhaps the best place this is demonstrated in Scripture is John 11.  Mary and Martha make the amazing statement that Lazarus, whom Jesus loves, is sick.  This should immediately prove the point that God sends trials on those he loves.  Then Jesus states why; it was for the glory of God that Lazarus is sick and I might add there can be no higher purpose to breathe air than that!  Then the climax comes in vs. 5 when Jesus, because of his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus, purposely waits two days so that Lazarus could die from his illness before he goes to them.  Read this verse in the KJV or the ESV to get the full sense of what is going on.  God was going to be glorified in Lazarus’ death, not his ease and this is all that matters.
Why is Phil. 4:4 in the Bible?  Because God knows that the remaining sin in us works to make us self-centered and fleshly.  So when things happen to our flesh that hurt, our first tendency is not to look for a way to please the Lord but it is to complain and feel sorry for ourselves.  But let us have the mind of Paul when later in chapter 4 he says that I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  The all things aren’t whatever agenda he has come up with.  It isn’t to find the cure for cancer, or will himself out of poverty.  It is to be content with or without and to rejoice always because if he has Christ, he has the best God can give and there is nothing more to wish for; he has all he needs and above all he could ask or think and it can never be taken away!

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