What It Really Means to Rejoice in the Lord – Always
I meet with a group of men every Tuesday morning for friendship, accountability, prayer and Bible study. These are “seasoned saints” who have walked with Jesus for decades, which made our discussion this past Tuesday all the more interesting. We’ve been studying through the book of Philippians, and we came to the familiar passage, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
One of the men, who is not only a seasoned saint but also a seasoned, high-level leader, asked the question, “What does that really mean? How is it possible to rejoice in the Lord always?” With two preachers and four respected leaders from various churches in our small band of brothers, one would think the answers should roll right off our tongues. But they didn’t.
So we started to explore, which is what you do when you study the Bible. You explore the context, background, words, and meaning. We talked about what it means to rejoice. Is rejoicing just having an attitude of joy? If so, how can you have an attitude of joy at all times, at all places, and on all occasions? Doesn’t that sound a bit unrealistic?
We studied the word “rejoice” and discovered that it means something far deeper. In the Greek text, the word is chairete which comes from the word chairo which comes from the root char meaning “favorably disposed, leaning toward.” But what are we favorably disposed or leaning toward? Our problems? Our pain? Our circumstances? No. If we do that, we will never rejoice. The word translated “rejoice” is also a cognate of charis which means “grace.” Thus, we are not favorably disposed and leaning toward our circumstances; we are favorably disposed and leaning toward God’s grace. Literally, to rejoice is to experience God's grace (favor) and be conscious (glad) for His grace.
As our men’s group explored the richness of this biblical truth, we had a collective “aha moment.” The reason Christians can have an attitude and expression of joy is because of God’s grace. We can, and should, rejoice, because we are not rejoicing in our circumstances; we are rejoicing in the Lord. And we can, and should, do so always. Even in the bad times. Even in the hard times. Even in the dark times. We don’t rejoice because of what we’re enduring; we rejoice in spite of what we’re enduring.
What are you leaning toward in your life? When you lean toward something, you begin to move in that direction. Are you moving toward your problem or toward God’s grace? Is your inclination to focus on the negative or the positive of who God is and what He has done for you? The Christian faith does not deny the reality of pain and struggle, but it doesn’t wallow in it either. We do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We lean toward the Lord who gives us strength. God “gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29). When you lean into the Lord, you can rejoice in Him always in spite of circumstances.
God knows what you are facing right now. Lean into Him, and He will renew your strength. You will mount up with wings like eagles. You will run and not be weary. You will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).