I say it again, Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again rejoice! ~Philippians 4:4

The Great Escape by: J. StarIn case you didn't notice that Paul considers this a command and not a suggestion, he says it twice just to get the point across. We, especially in our fast-paced, immediate gratification culture, often confuse the transient and emotional state of happiness with the much deeper and far more profound state of joy. It is possible to rejoice in every situation, both in the good situations and in the bad. It is this consistent state of our joy in God, in fact, regardless of the situation, that marks us out as God's people and acts as the most effective evangelistic tool that we have.

One of the most misquoted or misapplied verses of the new testament is right after this command to rejoice. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Most people who quote this verse today practically apply it as meaning that I can do all things that I want to do through Christ who strengthens me. The point of the verse is not that I can be a rich and successful businessman, or a championship athlete, or a even a good preacher through Christ who strengthens me.

The context here is key. In between the command to rejoice and this last verse, Paul is saying that he has learned to show moderation during times of plenty and endurance through times of need. He has learned to be content with what he has in both fullness and in poverty; in freedom and in chains. The message is that through whatever circumstances we find ourselves, whether we are in a period of blessing or a period of testing; in a period of richness or a period of poverty; in a emotional state of happiness or one of sadness, through all things we rejoice and are content because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

One of the driving themes of the book of Philippians, written by Paul while imprisoned in Rome for the capital offense of the testimony of his faith, is one of joy and unity through all circumstances. In this world it is easy for us to become distracted and to take our eyes off the goal of the prize of heaven and focus instead on what scripture calls “our temporary light afflictions”. We must remind ourselves to reset our focus and our path on God and to trust and rejoice in the journey, even when the path seems to us to be impossible. It is during these times of difficulty that we must encourage and help one another and press on toward the prize.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. ~Psalm 28:7

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