Paul says ‘’Finally’’ then continues for a further two chapters – rather like some preachers! But he is beginning to pull things together. He’s coming in for a landing.
This is a command, so it can’t be primarily about feelings. The rejoicing is ‘’in the Lord’’. In Him we will always find reasons for rejoicing, and we need to ensure that our focus is continually on Him. An Argentinian pastor, Juan Carlos Ortiz, wrote a book entitled ‘Disciple’. It came out in the 1970’s and created quite a stir. He filled it with some outstanding and thought-provoking lines. I seem to remember him saying that if he preached a sermon, and it clearly wasn’t obeyed in the congregation, he would preach it over and over until he did see it being lived out. It is a fact that preachers will need to repeat familiar truths (even if not always in consecutive sermons! But I could understand why he did that.) It seems obvious that Paul had said this before, and he would say it again (Philippians 4:4). Here is a message we believers need to hear, i.e. that we can choose a stance of joy before God. ‘’I don’t mind repeating what I have written in earlier letters, and I hope you don’t mind hearing it again. Better safe than sorry…’’ The Message.
Rejoicing in the Lord is a ‘’safeguard’’ against many things – like, for example, pessimism, low spirits, bitterness and ‘poor me’ ism! But in the context it is specifically presented as protection from false teaching. It seems to me that the more our vision is taken up with who God is, the more we will be guarded against error. How could you be seduced into some pitifully small erroneous view of God while the truth of who He is shines so brightly in your heart?
So how might you ‘’rejoice in the Lord’’ today? Well, there’s nothing exhaustive about what I’m writing, but here are a few suggestions:
- Think about Him: meditate on the Person of God. Reflect on His nature and attributes. Read Scripture and good quality Christian materials;
- Thank Him: count your blessings (How about taking a day, or part of a day to simply thank the Lord?);
- Sing to Him: you may or may not have a good singing voice, but God delights in love songs that come from sincere hearts. What’s more, it will do you good;
- Play Christian music; listen to Christian music; watch (some!) Christian T.V. (Be selective!!) But have a God-filled atmosphere around you;
- Do every needful thing you can do to absorb yourself in God.
The challenge, of course, is to do this in bad times and on difficult days. But it may help to remember that ‘the epistle of joy’, as Philippians has been described, was written from prison by a man who did not deserve to be there. He spoke from experience, and maybe he was even reminding himself. (The first person to preach to is yourself!)
Again, this not principally about your emotions. Make a decision today to ‘’Rejoice in the Lord always.’’ (4:4). Probably your feelings will eventually catch up with your commitment. But even if not, it’s the right thing to do.
Prayer: Lord I choose to thank you and count my blessings.