Yesterday we talked about trusting God’s word by taking Jesus at His word. This simply means we believe what God says. Today we are talking about rejoicing always. You cannot manufacture this joy as it only comes from following God wholeheartedly. Paul said Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul also said 1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Most people fear death, but Paul took that out of the equation when he said, 1 Corinthians 15:54 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” When we fear God, we fear nothing else. Matthew 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Psalm 56:10 “In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise—11 in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” Tomorrow we will be talking about rejoicing when it seems everyone is against you. We trust God and fear Him, stand on His word and then we can rejoice always just as Paul said.
Here is what Paul went through. Acts 9:15 “The Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 21:10 “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”
Here is some of the situations that Paul faced. 2 Corinthians 11:21 “Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Acts 14:19 “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.”
Paul said to Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:11 “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” Paul followed the pattern of Jesus. Jesus said Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” To rejoice always, we must put Jesus first above everything in this life. Jesus showed us what that looked like, as did Paul. Paul had a willingness to serve, no matter what the cost would be and God used Him mightily. Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”
Rejoicing always is not putting on a front of happiness. It is not manufactured. Manufactured joy does not come with power. A well-oiled church service can produce strong emotions, but it is short-lived as soon as something goes wrong. Matthew 15:7 “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Amos 5:21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” Paul and Silas ended up in jail after casting a demon out of a slave-girl. Acts 16:25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.” Now that’s a church service.
Much of what we read in the bible is not happening, so it appears as if the bible is a fable, just a fairy tale read to children about an amazing person named Jesus who did wonderful things. These old, old stories are told over and over again but that’s just what they are to many, just stories. These true accounts are so much more than stories, Deuteronomy 32:47 “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” Since the church has rebelled just as we were warned it would, these words of life are not in effect as they should be. Notice that Paul said “the Lord is near” The church is in captivity and desolation is all around us. There is death and destruction, not life and prosperity. Nehemiah 9:37 “Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.” Daniel said Daniel 9:11 “All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster.” You many have read what Paul said before about rejoicing always but that rejoicing never seems to happen without great effort. There is an awful lot of manmade effort in the church and very little power. The Lord was near Paul and he was filled with the Holy Spirit and power,; the church today is not.
To be able to rejoice as Paul said, we desperately need God to turn His face back to shine on us once again. This happens when we turn from our wicked ways. The good news is that once again we will rejoice always. The truth is, if you believe what you read in God’s word, you can start rejoicing now because you know that when you seek God, you will find Him and when you call, He will answer if you follow wholeheartedly and are willing to give everything up for Him. If you are willing to wait for God’s plan to unfold, you can begin to rejoice because God will keep His promise to David and to you. I saw a beautiful sunset this evening on my way home which gives us hope of God’s promises to the remnant. Jeremiah 33:7 “I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. 8 I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. 9 Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’ 10 “This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more 11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, “Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord. 19 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 20 “This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, 21 then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.” Zephaniah 3:14 “Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. 16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” 20 At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the Lord.” Acts 15:16 “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it.”
So yes, we can and will rejoice always but we must faithfully serve Jesus our King. Jesus has risen and is alive. It’s not just a story to tell and sing about. The good news is still the good news and the kingdom of God can still come near. Jesus is our life, our hope and future. Jeremiah 29:10 “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”