"Rejoice in the Lord always and, again, I say: Rejoice." (Philippians 4:4)
By BISHOP ROBERT HAYES JR.
How inspiring to see a devoted follower of Christ meet life’s challenges with a cheerful outlook and determination to overcome any circumstance! When you encounter people like that, your own burdens seem lighter and you gain incentive to go another round.
But how discouraging to see an equally dedicated disciple engulfed in hopelessness! I have seen both during my ministry.
The difference between them is the possession of a radiant faith.
Radiant faith results when you discover the meaning of the word "rejoice." This word was not coined by followers of the risen Savior, but it seems distinctly Christian. It sums up the spirit of the New Testament writings, particularly those by the Apostle Paul.
Certainly Paul knew the triumph of hope in Christ over staggering difficulties in his life. He endured stoning, shipwreck, imprisonment, and outright rejection. Yet his letter to the church at Philippi reminds the people to express joy in all situations.
If you look deeper into Paul’s ability to rejoice in all things, you will discover profound meaning for today.
Rejoicing in prison
First of all, Paul knew he was asking those early believers to offer up their lives in service as they surrendered themselves to Christ. His radiant faith became a powerful witness to people. His spirit and zeal enabled Paul to persuade many to follow Christ.
When Paul was in prison at Philippi (Acts 16), he sang praises to God so the other prisoners would hear. When an earthquake caused the prison doors to open, even Paul’s jailer asked, "What must I do to be saved?"
While imprisoned in Rome, scholars tell us, Paul wrote the encouraging books of Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians as well as Philippians. Everyone who came in contact with him witnessed his unconquerable disposition.
A glad faith is contagious. Seeing the Christ-like joy in Paul stirred an irresistible urge to join him.
James Gregory is the name of a jailer in our era. He was the prison guard assigned to Nelson Mandela during his long captivity. Mandela’s personality and essence were so tremendous that guard and prisoner became friends. When Mandela was sworn in as president of South Africa, James Gregory was there.
Also giving Paul a radiant faith was his unshakable relationship with the risen Savior who met him on the road to Damascus and changed his life. His jubilation was the result of a new vision of God and his newfound relationship with Jesus, who sought him out and used him in spite of Paul’s contentious past.
In the Scripture for my article today, please note that Paul didn’t say, "Be happy."
No. He said, "Be glad in the Lord always. Rejoice."
The one way you will find the radiant faith that Paul experienced is when you truly surrender yourself to follow Jesus Christ. Your relationship with him will keep your heart cheerful and your soul at peace. If your loyalty is divided, as it is for many people, your life and disposition will reflect that.
Judson W. Van DeVenter was raised in a Christian home; he was the son of Methodist parents. At age 17 he accepted Jesus as his Savior. After college, he traveled extensively in Europe, teaching music. He mastered 13 instruments, sang and composed hymns for the Church, and was very successful.
But deep within, Van DeVenter knew his life was incomplete. He struggled many years to fill the void inside his soul.
He was conducting music for a church event in 1896 when he yielded his desires completely to God and wrote the words that became the timeless hymn "I Surrender All."
Rejoicing every day
When your life belongs entirely to Christ, you embrace the powerful urge to use your life in service to God and others. Christian joy is maintained by Christian service. A radiant faith emerges as you give yourself to those whose only response can be to give their lives to Christ, just as people did when they saw Paul.
Eugene Peterson’s Message translation of Philippians 4 uses this wording: "Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in Him. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!"
I will rejoice until that day comes. Again, I say: I will rejoice!
Return to contact digest