Tough times are difficult because it involves making choices, stabilizing feelings, and balancing emotions. When we cannot provide for ourselves and our families depression kicks in. When somebody we loved had died or divorced, and plagued with disease utter devastation within sets in place. When our sense of security slips away, pessimism overwhelms our hope. Crisis, crimes, and chaos seem to dominate our world at this time.
Simply put it, the world does not offer a better way. The Word of God does offer a better way.
The Scriptures asked us to rejoice.
Jesus is calling us to live our best life as Seventh-day Adventist Christians. Allow me to encourage you to understand the Scriptural emphasis of rejoicing as the best attitude for today. Rejoicing is not the absence of trials in our lives but the presence of Christ in our hearts. It is not about thinking of our sadness but it is about sharing our joys to others. Rejoicing is not the solution to our problems but the goal of our Christian lives. Finally, rejoicing is not seasonal but for all circumstances.
I believe we are the chosen few who will warn the world of an end to sin and at the same time to share the joy of Christ because He is coming again.
I have to admit the word rejoice can be defined but cannot be easily detected. So, let me reflect and describe to you what rejoicing in the Lord means through the epistle of Paul to the Philippians.
The year is about A.D. 61. Paul is imprisoned in Rome. The church at Philippi, an eastern ancient city of Macedonia, presently in the northern part of Greece, is eager to hear from Paul. They had sent Paul a gift by way of sending to him Epaphroditus. The Philippians (colonized by the Roman Empire) is the church that Paul, in the years A.D. 53-57, established during his third missionary journey.
It is here in Philippi when Paul and Silas released, in the name of Jesus Christ, the slave-girl’s demon possession and because of this the slave master drag them into the city streets, beat them, tear their clothes, struck them with many blows, and threw them into prison.
While on the prison their feet were fastened in the stocks. But Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God (Acts 16:22-30).
Friends’, rejoicing in tough times is best described when we are praying and singing hymns of praise when we are in the roughest of times. It is so easy to have joy when we feel joy, but what about when we feel we are in the worst of times? Rejoicing in the Lord must then be for all seasons of life.
On Paul’s final missionary journey he was imprisoned in Rome. In the confines of the Roman praetorian guards Paul received Epaphroditus from Philippi. Paul was so glad and thereby wrote the letter to the Philippians so that Epaphroditus could bring it with him.
This letter is brief and beautiful. It is sublime and filled with serenity. Paul shared his incredible joy and obvious gratitude to them. Yet this joy laden words came from an eerie, lonely, and the most unlikely place to mention the word “rejoice”-in the prison house of Rome.
Paul thanked the Lord for his trials. As we read chapters 1-4 of Philippians we can see that there are four keys to rejoicing in the Lord especially in these tough times.
The first key is found in Phil 1:21 Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Notice here that he uses the paradox of existence-living and dying. Many enjoy life and many fear death. Paul declares that his life is Christ’s and tough times in prison cannot extinguish his joy. Separation from loved ones will not steal away his bond with Christ. Even his death is boon not bane.
The core reason why he rejoiced in the confines of solitude is because Christ is close to him. In Christ he celebrated the feast of praise. In Christ he preached the gospel of resurrection. In Christ he experienced the bond of happiness. When our life is Christ’s we are secured. Rejoicing is not the absence of temptation and troubles but the presence of trust and tranquility in the Lord.
The second key is found in Phil 2:18 Paul appeals, “You, too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.” Indeed human beings are wired to share and to reciprocate. It is a universal dictum that when we give we shall receive. Paul finds joy in the company of believers. He sympathizes with God’s people. He knows their desire to see him.
There was a void of laughter and fellowship when he was imprisoned but they long that one day they will see Paul again. He shared with them the gospel and they reciprocated with their obedience to the Lord. When our fellow believers return our joy it is complete.
Rejoicing is not about thinking of your own sadness but it is about sharing your happiness in the Lord.
The third key is found in Phil 3:13 Paul asserts, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching toward what lies ahead.” In here Paul sees that it is not his duty to solve all the problems of life. Rather he enjoins us to forget all the problems of the past.
We cannot solve the maladies, miseries, and mysteries of this life. Our goal as Christians is to not allow worries to wear out our joy in the Lord. The hereafter is more important and our present attitude should be that of a joy-filled soul expecting Christ’s return. When our commitment to Christ is firm our priorities changed.
Rejoicing is not the solution to all our problems but it is our goal in the present. Our positive action speaks of our faith in His words.
Finally, the last key is found in Phil 4:12-13, Paul concludes, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is a very comforting passage of Scripture. The secret of maintaining joy is in Christ. The strength comes when we are feeling weak. Encouragement succeeds when we are discouraged. Rejoicing triumphs when trials are coming. It is extremely possible that we can rejoice even in tough times. When we are down in our luck the Lord imparts to us His favor. Rejoicing is not seasonal it is for all time.