“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Praise and gratitude lead to joy.
I originally wrote and shared this devotional/study while working at Focus on the Family (about 20 years ago now). I think it may be useful in teaching our children/grandchildren to depend fully upon Jesus in all circumstances.
For the Apostle Paul, rejoicing was not a periodic exercise but a perpetual attitude of the heart. His penned words recorded in Philippians 3:1 and 4:4 call Christians to “keep on rejoicing in the Lord.” Q. Who wants to prevent us from rejoicing in the Lord? A. Satan, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” 1 Peter 5: 8. But praise be to God, Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” John 10:10. Q. How does Satan try to accomplish his plan, to rob us from joy and abundant life? A. By creating unhappy circumstances to occur in our lives. Note: Sometimes we are responsible for our own unhappy circumstances, other times we are not. Either way, it is our choice on how we will respond to these circumstances. I love the true story of Joni Earekson Tada. Joni was paralyzed from the shoulders down at the tender age of 17, resulting from a diving accident while swimming with some friends. After a lengthy journey of rehabilitation, which included overcoming thoughts of suicide, Joni chose to trust God to fill her and use her fully for His glory, in spite of her disability. See Joni’s website: http://www.joniearecksontadastory.com/ for inspiration and help for those who suffer from paralyzation. Not just physical paralysis, but emotional and mental. For you see, Satan also attempts to paralyze people through fear. Definition: Paralyze 1. To affect with paralysis; cause to be paralytic. 2. To make unable to move or act: paralyzed by fear. 3. To impair the progress or functioning of; make inoperative or powerless: strict regulations that paralyze economic activity
Our circumstances are sometimes joyful and other times they are disappointing, discouraging, and sometimes extremely painful. If we gauge our rejoicing on the ups and downs of our circumstances, we will never fulfill Paul’s command to rejoice continually. Paul declares that in order to be joyful there is a prerequisite: being or having a thankful heart and attitude, toward God and for others. (Phil. 1:3, 4) Thankfulness produces joyfulness and joyfulness produces thankfulness. These two qualities are interdependent or interchangeable. They go hand in hand. Q. Can we be joyful when our focus is on “grumbling” about our unfortunate circumstance(s)? In the book, How to Be a Christian and Still Enjoy Life, the author, Fritz Ridenour states: “We aren’t made happy by what we have but by what we are thankful for.” Paul learned how to experience thankfulness and joy in all circumstances…and then was able to share this unexplainable joy to others. His letter to the Philippians was written while imprisoned in a Roman jail, with the threat of execution facing him. Q. How can Paul’s letter to the Philippians encourage us today? A. First and foremost, I believe: 1. We must all come to terms with the fact that we are all going to face many trials and sufferings throughout our lives. 2. If we enter the trap (of Satan or the world): that our joy is based on our circumstances, we will live sad defeated lives, with little or no hope. 3. But,…if we, like Paul, learn (through God’s Word) that our joy/thanksgiving is based on our relationship with the Lord and His purpose for our lives, and not by the ups and downs of life, then we will experience true and meaningful joy, and an everlasting hope that no one or any circumstance can rob us from.
Passing on the joy of salvation to others even in the midst of our sufferings
Paul and Silas responded to their imprisonment with praise, rejoicing, and thankfulness. Results: They drew attention from the other prisoners. A miracle took place: 1. An earthquake occurred…opening the cell door and unlocking the shackles. 2. The conversion of the jailer and his entire family. 3. Fellow prisoners became charter members of the Philippian Church. Share personal testimonies of how you have allowed God to use your sufferings for the glory of God and the witness to others. Pathway to Joy and Thankfulness Q. How can we (as Christians) develop a pattern in our lives, which emulates Paul’s positive attitude in the midst of negative circumstances? 1. Stay close to other believers. (Phil. 1:4, 5) Paul was not a spiritual lone ranger. He relied on his involvement with other believers to help maintain his joy. He was in partnership with other believers. The Greek word Koinonia – means “to have in common”). I.E.: fellowship through Bible studies, small groups, corporate worship, mentorship Joy results committing ourselves to others–even at a cost. (Outreach to others!) 2. Be confident in God’s faithfulness. (Phil. 1:6) It’s easy to have joy when things are going well, but when the bottom falls out, we (the flesh) can feel that God has deserted us, thereby shutting off our joyful praise. Paul reminds us that God always finishes what He starts. Circumstances are not a barometer to qualify our response to God. We rejoice in the Lord…because no matter what the circumstances look like, God has promised to complete a good work in and through us. (Phil. 1:3-6) 3. Practice forbearance. (Phil. 4:5) “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” “Love does not demand its own way!” Gentleness means being more content to let another win than to selfishly fight for our own rights. (See Corinthians 6:1-7) I won’t ask how many of us need growth in this area. Being first to raise my hand! Paul was so full of praise and gratitude, his life was one big experience of reaching out to others. 4. Pray instead of worrying. (Phil. 4:6-7) A life Scripture for me. When we learn to let go of our anxieties and thank God for what He will do, we reap the peace of God which transcends all understanding. Endless joy! 5. Think positively. Q. How often do we miss out on inner joy because we direct all our focus on our problems? Paul instructs believers to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. (Phil. 4:8) 6. Put your faith into practice. (Phil. 4:9) Believers marked by rejoicing and thanksgiving are busy doing God things—growing, serving, and working out their faith in everyday life or circumstances. The more involved we become with those around us and in God’s “program” (rather than our own program), the more we will enjoy life.
Conclusion: Pray for God’s help to remove any hindrances that prevent you from receiving His everlasting joy. Be mindful when praying this prayer that God may or may not choose to remove your unfortunate circumstance(s), but He will be faithful to complete your joy even in the midst of it.
Over the past several years, I've blogged about my greatest passion--intentionally passing my faith in Christ to the next generation, beginning with my family.
I've been married to Jeff forever! We love spending time with our three children, six grandchildren, two son-in-laws, and our dog, Pepper.
Jeff and I gratefully serve as Pastor and wife at St. Paul's Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, MO; where people love God and each other.
Holding His Hand, my newest blog (2016) is dedicated to my mom, Audrey Lewis, who learned to trust in Jesus during her battle with cancer.