What It Really Means to Rejoice in the Lord

Nearly every Christian knows the verse that says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Theexhortation is to “rejoice,” the location is “in the Lord,” and the duration is “always.” Reality demonstrates that Philippians 4:4 is sometimes difficult to apply, however. How can a Christian truly, “rejoice in the Lord always?”

The phrase, “rejoice in the Lord” is found several times in the book of Philippians. Perhaps an examination of these passages will aid our understanding.

1. “Rejoicing… in Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:26) — We are to rejoice in the Lord at the thought of reunion with our brethren. This is especially true when that reunion involves deliverance, as it would in Paul’s case (he wrote the book of Philippians from prison). So, rejoicing in the Lord is a matter of fellowship. Do our lives show that we intensely desire greater fellowship with other Christians? Do we earnestly pray that our brethren will be delivered from perilous places in their lives? It’s a matter of rejoicing in the Lord!

2. “Rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1, 3) — We are to rejoice in the Lord because of the humble and self-emptying examples of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11), Paul (Phil. 2:17-18), Timothy (Phil. 2:19-24), and Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30). Further, we are to walk in their footsteps by exhibiting a mind of humility ourselves (Phil. 3:1-11). Rejoicing in the Lord is a matter of self-renunciation. Do our lives demonstrate that we truly esteem the Christ-centered life as something most precious: “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (Phil. 3:8)?

3. “Rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4) — Christians are to rejoice in the Lord always, especially when it is difficult to get along with others (cf. Phil. 4:2-3). Rejoicing in the Lord, then, is a matter of reconciliation (Phil. 4:2-5), prayer (Phil. 4:6-7),proper meditation (Phil. 4:8), and imitation of what is right (Phil. 4:9). Unnecessary conflict with brethren keeps us from true rejoicing. Lack of prayer and the wrong kind of thinking will keep us from rejoicing in the Lord as we ought. Do our thoughts, prayers, and actions demonstrate that we place our utmost confidence in God’s power and goodness?

4. “Rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:10) — We are to rejoice in the Lord because of the active, obedient faith of other Christians, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Paul could rejoice in the Lord even though he was imprisoned, partly because his circumstances gave others the opportunity to exercise their faith (Phil. 4:10-17). Thus, we might say that rejoicing in the Lord is a matter of love and contentment. Do our lives show contentment by seeking to do all things, “without complaining and grumbling” (Phil. 2:14)?

From the passages above, it seems that rejoicing in the Lord is a matter of looking for God’s influence in every situation of life and pointing out that influence to others. Rejoicing in the Lord is, quite simply, a change in perspective and outlook.

Do I really believe that God is working through me as I seek to do His will (Phil. 2:12-13)?

Do I consistently look for reasons to praise God, even when my own circumstances are difficult to endure (Phil. 1:12; 4:10-17)?

When I see God’s influence in the world, do I regularly mention it to others so that they may glorify God with me (Phil. 4:10)? —JB