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March 2

Philippians 4:4-9

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. 9 Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. — Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord Forever

by Carol Vicary

Paul wrote this letter to believers in Philippi, a prominent city in the region of Macedonia. Philippians was completed while Paul was imprisoned, most likely in Rome. He wrote to the church to encourage them in their hardship and to share what he had learned through suffering. It may seem ironic that this book, written by a man who is in prison to a group of Christians who are experiencing persecution, is known to be full of joy. The word "joy" or a form of this word is found 16 times in the letter to the Philippians. Following Christ means that pain can be transformed into joy.

Through Paul's conversation with the Philippians, we see how God turned his lack of physical freedom into spiritual freedom for others. His confidence in Christ impacted both believers and non-believers in Rome. Because he was aware of God's presence and work in his life, he used the word "rejoice" many times throughout this letter. He wanted the Philippians to know that joy is possible in the face of suffering. Paul could rejoice, not because of outward realities, but simply because God was present.

When we rejoice in the Lord, we are acknowledging that He is present with us and He is in control. When we are confident that the Lord is near, our worries and anxieties are calmed. We can pray with thankfulness. God's peace takes over in our hearts and minds. This peace does not makes human sense and defies all explanation. That is how we know it is from God. If we look at our outward circumstances on certain days, panic could overwhelm us. But if we make the choice to look at the One who has those circumstances under control, we can rejoice. The God of peace will be with us as we intentionally fill our thoughts with truth, purity, excellence, righteousness, etc.

Experiencing loss and pain is never easy. God created us for relationship with others, and it is difficult to see the people we love suffer. Several years ago, our family was faced with the news that my father-in-law had Lou Gehrig's disease, an illness that takes away your physical capabilities but leaves your mind intact. There is no cure or treatment. Walking through this with him was sad and scary. Each day, we lost a little more of him until he went to be with the Lord 15 months later.

The only hope we found was in Christ. My husband and I reminded each other daily to fight for joy and focus on Jesus. In a way we can't explain, He enabled us to get through every day. There were moments of laughter and deep expressions of love that are priceless to us now. We experienced an intimacy with Jesus that uniquely impacted our souls. He gave us the strength to rejoice in Him even through our tears. We knew the One who was in control. 

Praxis

  1. What circumstances in your life are overwhelming to you right now? Name three specific things you can do to keep your focus on Christ and not on what overwhelms you.
  2. How has praying about what worries you led to a sense of peace? If you didn't immediately experience peace, did you continue to pray or did you give up? In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing. How can this happen in your life?
  3. Our thoughts have a huge impact on our attitudes and actions. What we think directly impacts what we do. Are there negative, bitter or angry thoughts that replay over and over in your head? Make a deliberate choice to replace those thoughts with things like truth, purity, excellence, etc. Fill your thoughts with what God wants there.
  4. How have you seen God transform your pain into joy? Whom do you need to encourage by sharing your story with them? Find ways to rejoice in what God has done.