“So, my dear friends, rejoice in your relationship to the Lord” (Philippians 3:1)
The first word of 3:1 is usually translated “finally,” but since the letter is only half finished it is better to understand it as a transition to a new thought rather than a concluding statement. The important thing is that it calls for a joyful heart. It is interesting that of the 14 times the word “rejoice” is used in Paul’s writings, 7 of them are found in Philippians. It is truly the Epistle of Joy. Since by profession I was a New Testament exegete I find it hard to resist the temptation to head down into grammatical details, but since Christmas is now approaching I want to discuss the role of rejoicing in the Christian’s life.
Someone mentioned that Christianity is the only religion that sings. There is something distinctly different about our faith in that it turns people from the darker side of life toward the joy of living. As you well know, the gospel account is called the Good News. It is a wonderful story of the coming of God’s son, Jesus, to live among us, die on a cross as a ransom for our sin, and rise from the dead as a victor over death to take those who believe in him to heaven forever. Now that kind of news is good news. It provides forgiveness, companionship and bright hope for the future. When Paul writes to his friends back in Philippi he tells them to rejoice, and how could any forgiven sinner fail to praise God for all he has done and will do?
Why then is it that joy is not the predominate note in most churches around the world? Doesn’t rejoicing make sense in view of the renewed relationship made possible by his great sacrifice? Granted, life has its difficulties but that can’t stifle the joy that God implants in the heart. Even in deep sorrow there can be joy as in times of joy there can be tears (i.e., the wedding). When we come to realize more completely our riches in Christ joy will become such a powerful force that it simply cannot be restrained.
When it comes to joyful living there is nothing that we have to do to make it happen. Our responsibility is to let it happen. Joy is an energizing force within that floods our entire life as we allow it. The key to a life of joy is an ever-growing awareness of exactly who we are in Him, of our privilege of proclaiming the best news ever, and of the hope of an eternity of joy with Him. Experience proves that it’s a lot more fun to rejoice in Christ than to claim you know him but never tell your face about it.