Three times in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he told them to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1, 4:4). This frequent repeating indicates that it is important. But what did he mean by rejoicing in the Lord? And why is this something that we should do?
The word Paul uses for rejoice is the Greek word chairō. This word means to rejoice, be glad, or be delighted. It describes our reaction to something very positive happening in our lives.
I rejoiced on my wedding day when my children and grandchildren were born and when I completed my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. These were all very significant and emotional events in my life. Days that were filled with joy.
Rejoice in the Lord
But the most significant time of rejoicing came in the summer of 1971. I had grown up in the church as a deacon’s kid.
I had been baptized when I was nine and became a member of the little Baptist church that the family attended. But it had little real impact on my life. I followed the rules but longed to break free of them.
But that summer, as I prepared to leave home and join the Navy, something happened. The Lord drew me to himself, and I surrendered my life to him. It was a transforming event. I rejoiced in it then. And I continue to rejoice now, over 50 years later.
I continue to find joy in marriage, being a parent, and now being a grandparent. And I find joy in exploring God’s creation and sharing life with a few close friends. But more than anything else, I rejoice in the Lord. In whom he is, what he has done in my life, and in the future I have with him.
Rejoice in the Lord Always
Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. When I completed hiking the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, I rejoiced. Both that it was finished and that I had successfully walked every step of the way from Mexico to Canada. It took eight years. But I had done it.
I look back on that now with good memories, grateful for the opportunity and ability to complete it. But I no longer rejoice in it. It is in my past.
But that is not true of my relationship with the Lord. I rejoice in him as much today, if not more, than I did 50-plus years ago. I continue to rejoice in him because of his greatness and what he means to me.
My joy is not just in what happened in the summer of 1971. But it is also in what happened this morning as we walked through the neighborhood together.
By telling us to always rejoice in the Lord, Paul also tells us that our joy in the Lord should be something we are constantly experiencing and expressing.
Not just occasionally when something significant happens but ongoing throughout each day, both in the good and bad that comes my way.
Why Should We Rejoice in the Lord?
But why is it that I rejoice in the Lord? What is so special about him that I should find such joy?
One reason that I have for rejoicing in the Lord is because of who he is. He is the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, transcendent creator of the whole universe.
There is no limit to his glory and greatness. If I find joy in other people, whom he created, how much more should I rejoice in God?
A second reason I rejoice in the Lord concerns what he has done for me.
I was lost, and he found me.
By his blood, I have been forgiven and redeemed.
I have been adopted into the family of God.
He is always with me wherever I go and whatever I do.
And I have an eternal future with him.
God was under no obligation to rescue me. I was the one who had turned my back on him. But, even when I was lost in my sin, God loved me and offered to rescue me from the destruction that awaited me.
And he did not just rescue me and then send me on my way. But he adopted me into his family. He has given me an inheritance as his child. Not because I deserve it. But because it pleased him to do so.
The new life he has given me will extend into eternity. A life lived in communion with my creator. The one who knows me best and who loves me beyond measure. A life both now and into the future.
I rejoice in other people who benefit me in some way. How much more should I rejoice in the one who surpasses them all?
Even When it Hurts?
When we think of rejoicing, it is tempting to think of happy times. Times when our hearts are full, and a smile is on our faces. But rejoicing should not happen just in the happy times. It should be ongoing, regardless of our circumstances and surroundings.
There were some breathtaking and memorable moments when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Some portions of the trail are magical, and rejoicing was easy. But there were many more times when the trail was hard.
Times when it would have been easy to give up and go home. Times when I was hungry, bone-weary, and everything hurt. And times when the weather became a significant challenge.
But throughout the journey, I could rejoice. I was where I wanted to be. And no matter the circumstance and how I felt, I was happy to be out on the trail and experiencing all it had to offer. I rejoiced in the journey.
And that is true of my journey with Christ. It is much longer, over 50 years now. It has had its mountain-top experiences as well as plenty of times down in the valleys. I have been hurt, tired, and lost.
But throughout it all, I have been able to rejoice in the Lord. He has always walked beside me, even in the darkest valleys. And I can take joy in his presence and all he does as we walk together.
What Do We Gain from It?
Rejoicing in the Lord is more than just something that I can or should do. There are real benefits to doing so.
Rejoicing changes my attitude. It allows me to have a positive attitude as I go through this life. Rather than being grumpy or critical, I can be thankful because I am not facing this alone.
When rejoicing in the Lord, I am more inclined to have positive relationships with others. Especially with other believers in the body of Christ. Things that might otherwise bother me become no big deal.
When I rejoice in the Lord, I am much more inclined to follow where he leads. Because when I am with him, I can experience his presence and joy, regardless of where the path leads.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/LumiNola
Ed Jarrett is a long-time follower of Jesus and a member of Sylvan Way Baptist Church. He has been a Bible teacher for over 40 years and regularly blogs at A Clay Jar. You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Ed is married, the father of two, and grandfather of three. He is retired and currently enjoys his gardens and backpacking.