Welcome to the STC Sheffield podcast. It’s Thursday 30th January, and our Bible reading is Philippians Chapter 4 vs2-9. Today we are going to focus on verse 4:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!”
Depending on your age, the type of English language lessons that you had in school will vary greatly. Some of you will remember lesson after lesson of English grammar, and know exactly what coordinating conjunctions, modal verbs and subordinate clauses are. Others of you will not have a clue.
I mainly fall into the latter category, but I was forced by my mother to take Latin for GCSE, and one of the things that I do remember from those lessons is the imperative clause.
Imperative clauses are used to tell people to do – or not to do – something. Thinking back to your school days again, when your teacher told you to “Sit down!” or “Be quiet!” they were using the imperative. In the written word, it is normally indicated by an exclamation mark.
And so, in vs4, when Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” this is a command or instruction; it is not a polite and gentle request.
Interestingly, this is exactly the same instruction that Paul gave in verse 1 of Chapter 3. Plus in the book of Philippians as a whole, the need to rejoice is mentioned 16 times. So we get the picture that Paul considers rejoicing to be a particularly important imperative to follow.
So, what does it mean to rejoice?
The Oxford Dictionary says that rejoice means ‘to be glad’ or ‘to take delight in.’
However, a key thing to remember about rejoicing is that it is something that you do, not something that you feel.
We might feel angry, happy, sad or frustrated. We might feel hungry, tired or lonely.
But we don’t feel rejoicing.
We have to choose to rejoice.
And our feelings should not impact upon or alter our response to this command.
For a whole variety of reasons – illness, pressure at work, tensions in relationships – we may not feel like rejoicing. But in these situations, it is even more important that we choose to rejoice.
Because the decision to rejoice is not about us; it is about God.
We take delight in who God is and we are glad because of what he has done for us, and this is why we can rejoice always. Rejoicing is not about our feelings; it is about God’s glory and his sacrifice.
Secondly, because rejoicing is something that we do, it means that it has an outward focus. Other people can notice it, see it and respond to it.
This, again, is in contrast to a feeling that can just be internalised and not shared with anyone.
We find great examples of this in the parables of Jesus.
– the shepherd calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
– the woman who has 10 silver coins does the exact same thing, and her words are also the same – “Rejoice with me!”
– and then there is the story of the prodigal son. The father rejoices as his son returns home, and his rejoicing has an impact on others, as he invites everyone to join a huge feast with singing and dancing. The elder son is not happy, as we know, but the father’s words to him are “we had to celebrate.” Rejoicing in this situation was imperative.
The conscious decision to rejoice being linked to or having an impact on others is seen as Paul moves from verse 4 to verse 5. After he has given the instruction to rejoice, he goes on to say that our gentleness should be evident to all.
I like how the Message translation expresses these two verses:
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!”
Our celebration of God, or revelling in who he is and what he has done, should be clear for others to see, and help them to understand that Jesus is going to return to earth one day.
Is this the type of celebration life that we live? Rejoicing always so that others may be impacted by Jesus?
And then the final thing to remember is that rejoicing comes with a promise.
The promise of peace.
In verse 7, Paul says the peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds, and in verse 9 he writes that when we follow these imperatives, when we put them into practice, the God of peace will be with us.
The important word here being ‘will.’
Peace will come to our hearts and minds, not might come to them; the God of peace will come to us, not might possibly come to us.
We know that many people in society today struggle with their mental health; but anxiety is not a new, modern day issue. Paul tells the Christians in Philippi not to be anxious about anything.
His encouragement for them, and us, to be a people who rejoice always, is because Paul knew that by choosing to constantly delight in who God is, celebrate all that he has done for us, and look outwardly to share this joy, we will be filled with a peace that passes our earthly understanding and stops our hearts and minds from being consumed by anxious thoughts and fears. And in this area, like all others, God will never break his promises to us.
So, rejoicing is something that you do, not something that you feel, rejoicing is something that has an outward focus and an impact on others, and rejoicing comes with the promise of peace.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!”
Heavenly Father, help us to rejoice in you today, and to invite others to join us in this celebration. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Philippians 4:2-9
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.