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 everything, 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. (verses 4-7)
We were filming some testimonies a year or so ago for our Live Stream church service. It was inspiring to hear the different stories – such a variety of ways in which the Lord has made himself known to people, at different ages and stages. When I asked, “What’s happened in your life since?”, two of the women, both of whom came to faith in Christ as adults, spontaneously responded with the same word: “Joy!”
It’s one of the hallmarks of Christian faith. “The joy of the Lord is your strength”, say the scriptures (Nehemiah 8:10). Jesus, praying in the Garden before the cross, spoke to the Father of his yearning for his disciples: “that they may have the full measure of my joy within them”(John 17:13).
So, Paul turns it into a command. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” He’s impassioned – he repeats himself. “I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Our world is increasingly filled with stressful uncertainty. Look around – anger thrives, fear poisons hearts and minds, distrust grows, bitterness roots itself again and again. Take a look in the news and you’ll see it – or open your social media account. Tensions abound.
The antidote of Christ’s joy, sure and true, has always been needed – eternally so. But in this moment, we see it so clearly.
So, rejoice. Not flippantly, ignoring reality. No. Instead, be rooted in the reality of Jesus. It’s “in the Lord” that such joy truly takes root and flourishes.
The passage goes on to urge us to display “gentleness,” which will never happen if we’re not rooted in Christ and his joy. We’re not to be anxious, but rather prayerful, turning concerns into heartfelt petitions before the throne of heaven, requests that are rooted in thanksgiving because they spring from that same “joy of the Lord.”
Two final things. At the heart of these verses is the simple statement: “The Lord is near.” This anchors us in the present reality that Jesus is constantly with us, just as he promised (“I am with you always”). But powerfully, it also looks ahead to that future reality (nearer than we think) of Jesus’ sure second coming. Both realities feed our joy. Yes – the Lord is near.
The second thing is the promise of peace, a peace that surpasses comprehension, going straight to the core of our being, guarding heart and mind “in Christ Jesus.” If joy is the antidote to the trouble of this world, peace is its active co-labourer. “Peace I leave with you … In this world you will have trouble. But take heart – I have overcome the world.”
So, “rejoice in the Lord always!” Yes, I’ll do it. “The Lord is near.” Yes – welcome, dear Lord. “Present your requests.” Yes, Lord – here they are. “Peace will guard you.” Yes, may it be.
Dear Lord, I rejoice in you. I welcome you here. I yearn for your coming. I give you my concerns and petitions. I receive your peace. Thank you. Praise your name.
Reflect: We are called to rejoice in the Lord always. What will you do to make that part of your experience today?
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash