Can you imagine what it would be like to experience joy at all times? Does that seem too good to be true? What if it is possible?
Paul, a key influencer in the New Testament, writes to the church in Philippi about not being anxious and always rejoicing, and he is doing so from a prison cell.
Under a 24-hour watch by Roman guards, locked in a dungeon, Paul writes;
“4Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, rejoice.”
If there were circumstances that contradict joy, it is being locked up.
Learning how to rejoice, always, even when life gives us little to be happy about, is uncovered in a few keywords in this verse.
The word rejoice comes from the Greek word “chario,” and derives from the word charis, which means grace. Chario translates literally as to experience God’s grace. To be conscious of His grace.
Speaking from first-hand experience, Paul is not suggesting you ignore reality but that you build your joy upon His grace, not your circumstances.
#2 In the LORD
Just like our thanksgiving, joy must be anchored upon the giver, not the gifts. If our joy is established on temporary things, joy will be erratic.
God never changes, fades, and will never fail us, but people, places, and things will. When our joy is in the LORD, we can rejoice no matter our circumstances.
You may find yourself in a difficult time, and find joy is hard to come by. I understand how you feel. By calibrating our joy “in the LORD” and not on our circumstances, we place our focus on Jesus.
- Dwell on His goodness and faithfulness in your life.
- Turn on some worship music and begin to sing.
- Take out a journal and write out how much God has done for you.
The journey back to rejoicing always begins with a single action!
Next, Paul says,
“5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.”
That word reasonableness is sometimes translated as gentleness because the application is on how we treat others. Reasonableness is synonymous with meekness.
This was an essential attribute of Jesus’ life. Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth. Meekness is not weakness but power under control.
Reasonableness means that you exercise grace instead of the full limits of your power when dealing with another. Our reasonableness is to be evident to all, not just to friends and family.
If there has ever been a time when a gentle response is needed, it’s now. And that means the best thing you can do is walk away or bite your tongue.
The phrase “the LORD is at hand” is unique. Paul is speaking about the closeness of Jesus both in eschatological terms (His second-coming) and proximity.
The phrase “at hand” was a Hebrew idiom illustrating a unit of measure. It’s the act of taking a rough measurement by using the four fingers on your hand. Paul says this to express how close the LORD is to you!
God’s grace becomes even more significant in verses 6-7.
“6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Globally, anxiety is at an all-time high. Anxiety can be trigger by an emotional or physiological reaction to our environment and our circumstances.
Feeling anxiety does not make you a weak person or a weak-Christian. And anxiety is not something that can be turned off or on. God has given us a way of dealing with it, so we aren’t bound by it.
Anxiousness is concern turned into distress. It’s an obsession with worry.
When we allow anxiousness to overtake us, we worry about things that might happen before we give any effort to avoid the perceived outcome or give God time to respond.
Therefore, Paul says not to be anxious about anything but PRAY!
Prayer places your worry and concerns in God’s hands, who is immensely qualified to handle it.
This is why 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
So before you surrender to your circumstances or worry, turn to God in prayer, and repeat as necessary, and let Him carry your burdens and concerns.
Prayer orients us toward God. It’s the act of taking a step towards God and away from our worries and concerns.
And take note of our disposition upon entering prayer; thanksgiving. Being thankful keeps prayer from becoming a complaint-session.
- Doubt is the substance of complaining.
- Faith is the substance of praying.
- Faith moves mountains.
- Doubt sees an unmovable object.
Paul’s final statement is contingent on us doing all the things previously mentioned.
”7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The peace of God, or “peace from God” is flanked by two key phrases that put an exclamation on peace.
#1 Surpasses all understanding.
This means that human reasoning cannot comprehend God’s peace. It cannot grasp how peace can be delivered at such a time, in such a place, and even to such a person.
#2 God’s peace will guard your heart.
The word guard in Greek is a military term and means “to protect by a garrison.” It’s a fortification of something with a battalion of troops.
Being flanked by Roman soldiers, as Paul is, might cause some to forfeit their peace, but God’s peace guarded Paul’s heart and mind.
Yet when it comes to God’s peace, don’t place roadblocks in the way of it.
There is no argument worth winning, no point worth proving, no purpose in picking up our worry after praying about it, that is worth losing the all-surpassing, heart and mind guarding, peace of God!
Being thankful in prayer is the difference between maintaining joy and peace or being gripped by anxiety.
(If you’d like to see this message from a recent sermon preached, you can click this YouTube link.)