The Power of Rejoicing (reflection on Phil 4:4-7)

    People often get rather anxious about life generally. Both on personal levels (will I find a good job, will I have somewhere to live, will my marriage continue, etc.) and on global levels (is global warming going to end us all, what about terrorism, etc.). Anxiousness is often thought a good and even an appropriate response to these things, and to a myriad of other problems we face in life.

But is it good and appropriate to be anxious?

Paul, in his letter to the Phillipians doesn’t seem to think so. Dealing directly with a situation of some stress, Paul tells his readers to “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice”(4:4). He’s rather emphatic on the need to rejoice, and specifically in the Lord.

There’s a very simple reason for this, as is evidenced by v.7, where it says that “the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. This is not to say that you aren’t to actually deal with problems (indeed, you are called to present them to God), but that the basis of the Christian life is a seeming exchange between us and God.

We rejoice in the Lord, God will guard our hearts and minds.

This isn’t a warm touchy feely thing, but a proper response to the lives we find ourselves in. That it works is evidenced by the many people who have gone before us in the faith, facing problems and persecutions far greater than the ones we face. It also makes sense that it would work. After all, as long as we are focussed on problems and anxieties, and specifically our relation to them, it is very difficult to keep hope, and very easy to be discouraged.

But if we focus on the Lord, who is more than capable of dealing with all our anxieties, and has promised to keep us in Him if we but rejoice in him (meaning that ultimately, regardless of what else we may lose, we will get through even this). Our ultimate hope is sure, if our joy is in the Lord.

The result is that our responses to the problems that face us are not going to simply be despair, resignation, or even grim determination, but an underlying joy as we realize that while these things that make us anxious might have been able to defeat us, they will not defeat the Lord if we would but face them rejoicing in Him.

It is the Lord that guards us in the ways that matter ultimately, what is their to fear?

Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.