REJIOCE IN THE LORD
Key verse 4:4
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
In Philippians chapter 4, Paul concludes his letter to the church at Philippi. In this conclusion, he is full of thanksgiving and he continues to give them words of encouragement and direction for their growing faith. As with other parts of his letter, Paul shows his own personal faith in Jesus. Even though he was chained as a prisoner in a Roman jail cell for preaching the gospel of Jesus, Paul shows no signs of despair or fatalism. There are no indications of self-pity or bitterness either in these words. Instead he encourages the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. How could Paul be so full of rejoicing in such a miserable human condition? This morning, let us learn Paul’s secret of joy so that we may have the joy of the Lord in our hearts.
Part 1. “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!” (1-9)
Look at verse 1, “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” Paul expressed his true feelings towards his fellow believers in Philippi. Though they were Gentile believers and Paul was a Jewish believer, Paul did not show any feeling of superiority or arrogant spiritual pride towards them, nor did he feel like he couldn’t express his true feelings and hearts desire to them. So, he called them, “My brothers! And dear friends!” He expressed his love for them and longed to see them because they were so precious to him. When he remembered their faith and their eagerness to learn the Bible and participate in God’s will with him, he was overflowing with joy in his heart. He also called them his “crown.”
Our Bible students are our joy and crown as well. This is because we realize that God is working his work in them no matter how slow it may be. When we see our Bible students pay attention even for a few minutes we can happy because we know God’s word is somehow penetrating their hearts. We can know like Paul, that when we faithfully and prayerfully teach the Bible that God’s word will not return to us empty but will achieve the purpose for which it was sent. In our society, especially among young people, very few show interest in spiritual things. But those who study the Bible are our joy and crown because it is clear evidence that God has not abandoned his salvation purpose but is working through us and among believers all over the world. They are our crown, because God will reward us with many eternal blessing in his kingdom.
Last week one pastor from this area welcomed 11 members of a family from Louisiana that had lost their home from Hurricane Katrina, to live with his family. This pastor had real joy because he could help 11 believers whom he didn’t know in a time of great suffering. You could just tell by the picture of him praying with the children that God had given him great joy and that these strangers were his indeed his crown.
Paul also encouraged these Philippian believers to stand firm in the Lord. He said, “…that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” The word “that” refers to Paul’s encouraging words in 3:20-21, about our citizenship in heaven and about the sure coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and about how he will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body. Our spiritual foundation as a Christian and our source of joy comes from the sure hope of Jesus’ return to create a new heaven and earth and to give us glorious resurrection bodies that will last forever. It is our hope to see Jesus and to be like him that will enable us to have real joy. Imagine, not having to do Daily Bread in the morning because you will see your daily bread Jesus right before you as you talk with him and he talks to you forever. As long as your faith is in this sure hope to see Jesus in all his glory then you will be able to stand firm and not be moved by life’s trials and problems.
Let’s read verses 2-3, “I plead with Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” There was a problem in the church between two very powerful women. These women had been faithful partners in the gospel work with Paul. When Paul heard about their arguing, and their disagreements, he was greatly troubled. They might have had disagreements about what food to cook for the believers after their worship service. They might have disagreed about what clothes were best to wear during worship. These women appeared to be leaders so they might have disagreed how to help new believers and young believers in the Lord. Why was Paul so concerned about their disagreements? It was because he loved them and cared for them and valued them in the Lord. He said in verse 3 that their names are written in the book of life. This means that no matter who we are, as we believers, we are one big family and will be with each other for ever in eternity with all of God’s people. So if we have a problem with someone, we should clear it as soon as possible. Paul knew that disagreements could cause divisions if this got out of hand. He knew that it is Satan’s work to divide believers, even over what appears to be trivial matters.
So he urged them and pleaded with them to agree with each other in the Lord. He mentions “in the Lord.” This means it is only possible in Jesus that we of different backgrounds, cultures, languages and personalities can agree on anything. In the church there will always be problems. There is no perfect church, except the one that will be in heaven. So then, how practically can we agree with each other in the Lord? First, we need to make others problems our own. In verse 3, Paul asked help from others to help these women. Secondly, we need to consider others better than ourselves. Remember what Paul wrote about this in chapter 2:3-4? He said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Paul also points that we should have the attitude of Christ (2:5).WWJD! What would Jesus do? We should do what is best in love to build up each other because Jesus loved us when we were still in our sins and when we enemies of God because of our evil behavior. In GMU we are all coworking well together despite our differences. This is because we respect each other in the Lord and value each others opinions. We are learning to help each other instead of serving our own interests.
Let’s read verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!” Here is the main theme of this letter. The word “rejoice” or “joy” is repeated fourteen times in this letter by Paul. Paul exhorts the believers in Philippi to rejoice in the Lord always. He does not feel silly that he needs to repeat it again and again. He says to rejoice in the Lord. He does not say rejoice in yourself or rejoice in your accomplishments. He says “Rejoice in the Lord!” Why? Because the Lord is God. He is the source of all our blessings. He is the one who loves us so much that we spend a lifetime coming to know that love. He is the source of our lives, our salvation and the source of eternal life. We can try to rejoice in what we have or what we have done, such as getting an “A”, or from eating a delicious meal. But these are short lived. But the Lord is the source of joy because he alone gives us that eternal and everlasting joy through his Holy Spirit. He quenches our thirsts. Joy is actually a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Paul says to rejoice in the Lord always! This looks impossible. How can we rejoice always when the world looks so troubled? Hurricanes, gas prices, unrest in many countries, our favorite teams keep losing every year. We can not make ourselves to be joyful. Even a fake smile only lasts a short time, as well as a laugh. How can we rejoice in the Lord always?
Let’s read verses 5-6 to find out, “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.” Verse 5 tells us that the Lord is near. This means the Lord is close by to us, especially when we go through life’s troubles. When the apostles were persecuted for preaching in the name of Jesus, when they were flogged and ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus by the Sanhedrin, they rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41-42). They knew that the Lord was near them. Verse 6 also tells us one important way to have joy. At this time the Philippians had to be anxious about Paul and his condition. They were also about the fact that they might not see him again. We have many causes for us to be anxious. We can be anxious about our graduation, our exams, our families and jobs. The list goes on. Anxiety steals our joy when we try to have joy from the world. But Paul offers us a solution here.
What is that solution? He says to pray. He goes on by being more specific. He says to offer petition. This is making an earnest request. This is asking God. Jesus said, “Ask, seek and knock.” This is petition. If we do not have anything, we should ask. He also says with thanksgiving. This means to make thanks to God because of all the great things he has done. Offering thanks to God begins when we remember what God has done. It is remembering his grace to us. When we petition to God, when we thank God then we begin to have the joy from God. This is because prayer reconnects us back to God the source of our joy and life. It reunites our hearts and minds with God. We are blessed because we can pray to God and cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us. We can lay all our burdens on him and he will never grow tired and weary of hearing us talk to him.
Look at verse 7 to see the greater result of when we pray. The peace of God is given to us. This is peace coming from God. This peace guards our hearts and minds. It acts as a shield against anxiety. This is the peace that anxiety has no room to fill. This is the peace that which we can not understand, yet God gives it to us. This peace really is Jesus ruling our hearts and minds. When Jesus is ruling our hearts and minds, anxiety has no chance to overcome and over take us.
Jesus is the giver of this peace. This is one reason why Jesus came, to give us peace. He came to give us peace with God. So he is the Prince of peace. He is the one who said to his disciples, “Peace be with you.” It is the peace that we long for, but cannot achieve from anything in the world.
Look at verse 8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praiseworthy---think about such things.” Controlling our thought world might just be our biggest struggle. Because of our sinful nature we cannot control it. Even King David could not control his at times, and he committed adultery. King Solomon, his son wrote in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.” When we don’t guard our hearts all types of bad thoughts come in. It is true that what we think we say and do. Look at these things mentioned by Paul here. These seem opposite from what the general population thinks about. We don’t hear much about the noble man or woman. We only see young men and women boasting about their sins. We don’t see any mention about people trying to live pure lives, instead impure and violent lives seem to be the attraction. Even children and teenagers want to play video games that contain violence and killing.
There can be no joy in our hearts when we don’t guard our hearts and when we don’t have Jesus in our hearts. But when we try to think about these things we are at the beginning point of being blessed. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (Mt.5:8) Let’s think about these things mentioned by Paul in verse 8 so that the joy of the Lord may fill our hearts. Here we see that Paul also talks about the thought life. Finally, look at verse 9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me----put into practice. And he God of peace will be with you.” Paul wanted them to follow his example. In essence, Paul followed Jesus as his example. He was living proof.
Part 2. The Secret of Contentment (10-23)
Paul’s hardships and prison life would cause anyone to complain and grumble. Yet when we read his letters we find none of these. In this letter, he explains to us the secret of his contentment. Let’s look at verses 10-11. “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Here we see that Paul learned the secret of contentment. That is, he did not have any special spiritual gift that made him content, nor was it that he had any more of the Holy Spirit than anyone else. He learned to be content. Learned here means to trust in the Lord. This means that he learned to trust in the Lord no matter what was his circumstances. When he went through difficulties he learned that the Lord would deliver him and provide for him. He learned that God would help him to proclaim the gospel even when it looked like violent men wanted to get rid of him.
But most especially, he learned that the secret of contentment was the person Jesus himself. Look at verses 12-13. Paul’s strength to do all things came from Jesus. When he sought to know Jesus in his difficulties, the peace and contentment of God came over him. He never complained about his human misery nor about those who rejected him and persecuted him. He only rejoiced in the Lord that God chose him to do such a great work to save lives and make many people able to hear the gospel message of the Lord.
Our secret of contentment can only be Jesus. In this world we want contentment, but we find that we often complain, especially at physical inconveniences such as when we are tired or when the gas prices rise or when our favorite dessert is gone at home. We complain about having to be stuck in traffic so much. The list is endless. But we should know that there is no perfect human condition for us. The only perfect one is Jesus and he alone can only be the source of our contentment. So the secret is out. It is no longer a secret. It is Jesus, the source of our joy and our contentment. When we know this Jesus then we have strength. Verse 13. The KJV says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Paul could actually be the biggest loser because he gave up so much and sacrificed so much in getting the gospel out. He gave his time, materials and his whole self. He gave up his position as a Pharisee and his human honor to suffer for Christ. He became like a dirt bag for Christ. But he never felt like he lost anything. Instead he knew he gained more. He gained the joy of the Lord which also came from his life of giving. This is why when we give to the Lord and when we give to others, like Jesus did, we experience the joy of the Lord. Paul was joyful that the Philippian church could share in giving and receiving (14-16). He was glad that they could share in helping him. He knew that they would experience the joy of the Lord. Paul learned the secret of this contentment and joy so he encouraged the Philippian believers in verse 19. Look at verse 19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Paul trusted that God would meet all their needs when they so freely gave. This also is the cause of us to rejoice. He believed that God would meet all their needs because God is a rich God. He gave his One and Only Son. He will surely provide everything that we need and give us strength and joy to press forward in our race of faith towards our goal, the kingdom of heaven.
Today we learned real joy comes from the Lord. It is in the Lord Jesus that we can find real joy that the world does not give us or can give us. We would be crazy to say that we don’t want this joy. We all want this joy of course. We all want peace and contentment. But it will not come from anything but the Lord Jesus. Let us then learn from Paul and pray and set our minds on Jesus.