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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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 Free Reformed Churches of Australia - FRCA
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
Title:Rejoice in the Lord always
Text:Philippians 4:4-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps. 33: 1, 6

Ps. 1: 1 – 3

Ps. 118: 1, 2, 4

Ps. 94: 8, 9, 11

Ps. 55: 12, 13


Scripture reading:       Phil. 3: 12 – 4: 23

Text:                              Phil. 4: 4 – 7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Always rejoice in the Lord                       

Ps. 33: 1, 6

Ps. 1: 1 – 3

Ps. 118: 1, 2, 4

Ps. 94: 8, 9, 11

Ps. 55: 12, 13


Scripture reading:       Phil. 3: 12 – 4: 23

Text:                              Phil. 4: 4 – 7


Beloved congregation, saints in Christ Jesus,


The apostle Paul is being persecuted.   Since he was captured in Jerusalem he has now been a prisoner for about five years!   His personal circumstances are extremely trying.   He is being hated and oppressed from every side.   While he is writing this epistle he also faces a trial that may lead to a martyr’s death.  

Yet, he cannot stop rejoicing!


In each chapter we read that he rejoices.  

He also encourages the saints in Philippi to rejoice with him.   These saints are also suffering under persecution, but he wants them to rejoice!

Yes, in this letter he speaks so much about joy and rejoicing that it is known as “the epistle of joy” – an epistle of joy from the hand of a man that is suffering so much!


If you were not familiar with his circumstances you might have thought: the apostle must have been in a good mood, or that he is enjoying a wonderful and prosperous time.  

But we know better!  

This joy is something supernatural.   It is something totally unnatural to rejoice in such circumstances.


It is a joy in the Lord; a joy that flows forth from believing the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.   It flows forth from a heart that confesses:


            “…to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (1: 21)


This joy is not just a feeling or a mood or a passing uplifting experience; it is a permanent fruit of the Spirit that characterises God’s children, even in the face of much affliction.


This rejoicing in the Lord is not simply an experience, but an act of faith.  

It is a joy that comes by believing in the Lord and trusting His promises.  


Dear congregation, when we are tested and tried by various trials and afflictions we called and exhorted to turn our eyes to the Lord, and when our eyes are fixed on Him and the riches of His mercy towards us, we rejoice.


I proclaim God’s Word to you with this theme:

Rejoice in the Lord always

We will note…

1.      That we may rejoice in the midst of much affliction and oppression

2.      That our consideration of the Lord’s nearness makes us gentle and patient

3.      That we are not to be anxious, but to seek God’s face in prayer

In the first place we note that…

We may rejoice in the midst of much affliction and oppression


This chapter begins with the exhortation:


            “…so stand fast in the Lord, beloved!”


He already spelled out how the saints are to stand firm.

He spelled out to them how they have to run the race with perseverance, with their eyes fixed on the coming of Christ.

And now he repeats this exhortation:


            “…so stand fast in the Lord, beloved!”


This is the way in which you have to stand fast.

Already in chapter 1 he exhorted them to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” and that they must not be terrified by their adversaries (1: 27, 28).

They have to stand fast in the face of persecution and affliction.

In chapter 1 he also mentioned that the saints in Philippi were experiencing the same conflict which he was enduring (1: 30).  


It is now in these circumstances that he exhorts them to stand fast.   And it is in this context of suffering and persecution that he exhorts them to rejoice in the Lord!


When he exhorts them to rejoice “always”, he means: at all times and in every circumstance.   Yes, even in the great affliction which you are now experiencing – rejoice!


Also in this regard the apostle has set the example.

He has done so from the very first day. 

You will remember what happened when the apostle Paul preached the gospel for the first time in Philippi.   A woman with the name Lydia heard the gospel and believed, and she with her household were baptised.   Then Paul continued to preach the gospel for many days until a crowed was stirred up against him and Silas.   They were dragged to the authorities in Philippi, and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded that they be beaten with rods.  

Paul and Silas were beaten with many stripes and then thrown into prison.  

And then, what happened?


In the middle of the night, sitting in the inner jail with their feet fastened in blocks, with bleeding backs and open wounds, Paul and Silas were praying and singing songs of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  

That night the prison keeper received the gospel and believed (Acts 16) and he became one of the saints in Philippi.

This prison keeper could testify how the apostle was rejoicing in the Lord, even when wounded and imprisoned.  


From the very start the church in Philippi experienced the hatred and persecution of many adversaries, but they also had the example of the apostle singing songs of praise with a bleeding back.  


“Rejoice in the Lord, always.”


In the meantime the situation has not really changed.   The apostle is again in chains, facing a trial that may lead to a martyr’s death.   And he still rejoices.   And he writes this letter to encourage the saints in Philippi to stand fast in the midst of their affliction and to rejoice with him.


How then is it possible that the saints in Philippi can rejoice in these circumstances?


Brothers and sisters, it is a joy “in the Lord”.   It is by turning to the Lord and fixing our eyes on Him, and all that He has done for us, and by believing His promises, that we are able to rejoice in Him always and in every circumstance.  

It is the joy that flows from believing the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.


It is so different from what the world calls joy.  

That which the world calls “joy” is not only filthy and depraved; it is deceptive and quickly disappears.   The joy of this world never lasts.   What the ungodly calls “joy” quickly turns into bitterness and despair that ends in death.  

But the joy which we have in the Lord is lasting.   It continues always and in all circumstances.


Does it mean that the true believer is always walking with a smile on his face?

No, that is not what Scripture teaches.   The citizens of the heavenly kingdom are now often weeping.

The believer knows many sorrows in this life.  

But we have true joy and peace in the Lord even while we weep, and in the midst of our sorrows.


The joy of this world is accursed, as our Lord Jesus said:


            “…Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Luke 6: 25)




            “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Mt. 5: 4)


The world is now laughing, and the church weeping; but on Judgement Day it will be turned around.


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Mt. 5: 10 – 12


Here in our text the apostle is saying the same.  

Even while you are being afflicted and oppressed, persecuted and despised, you are blessed with all the blessing of heaven.  

We rejoice because “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ”.


Congregation, you understand then that the apostle is speaking of the joy of faith.


Now, this faith in the Lord, and the expectation of His coming, does not only cause us to rejoice; it also causes us to endure the persecutions and afflictions with patience.  

We note this in the second place, that…

Our consideration of the Lord’s nearness makes us kind and patient


            “Let your gentleness be known to all men.   The Lord is at hand.” – verse 5


The Greek word which is here translated, “gentleness”, may also be translated as kindness or friendliness.   Depending on the context it may also be translated with: forbearance, patience or graciousness.   This word is used for example to describe the attitude of someone who is not revengeful, but who graciously forgives and patiently bears the evil done to him.   


Here in our text the translator has chosen the word gentleness; and grammatically that is a lawful translation.   However, the whole context favours that we rather translate it with “patience”.  

Or if you want to stick to the word gentleness, you have to understand that the apostle is speaking of patient gentleness, forbearing kindness.       


“Let your patient-gentleness be known to all men.”  


“Let your forbearing-kindness be known to all men.”


The apostle is exhorting the saints to endure the persecutions patiently.  

Do not try to revenge yourselves on those who persecute you, but show patience and forbearance.


And then he adds: “The Lord is at hand”.

It is by considering the nearness of the Lord that they will be able to endure the persecution patiently.


That the Lord is “at hand” means: He is near.  

His nearness refers in the first place to the fact that He is present and ready to help.  

In this regard we may think of passages such as:


“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him…” – Ps. 145: 18.


In such passages His nearness means: He is present and ready to help those who cry to Him for help.   He is near us to help us.

But the expression, “the Lord is at hand” is also a typical expression to refer to the Lord’s coming.   His coming is at hand.   He will soon appear.


So then, the Lord is near to help the saints in Philippi.   His nearness comforts them and removes their anxiety, and thus, by considering the nearness of the Lord, they will be able to bear the persecution patiently.  


They also endure everything patiently with forbearance because they expect the coming of the Lord.   They do not have to take revenge on their adversaries; they may leave it all in the hands of the Lord who will soon appear as their Judge and Redeemer.


Dear congregation, in this text the Lord exhorts us to show patience and kindness to all men; also to those who hate and persecute us.   And in order that you may bear it all: consider that the Lord is at hand.   He is near to help, and He will soon appear as our Redeemer.


We find the same instruction in the epistle of James.   The apostle James speaks in a context where most of the believers were very poor and many of them being oppressed by the rich, and he tells them:


“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.   See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and the latter rain.   You also be patient.   Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.   Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.   Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” – James 5: 7 - 9


There are more such passages where Scripture enjoins patience and endurance with the expectation of Christ’s coming.   Wait patiently on Him; He will come and deliver you.


Moreover, the saints in Philippi is not only to show kindness and forbearance to all around them, entrusting themselves to the Lord who is at hand; they also have to seek actively the face of the Lord and lay their burdens before Him.

Don’t be terrified by your adversaries.   Don’t be anxious about anything.   Bring all your anxieties to the Lord in prayer.

We note that in the last place, that…

We are not to be anxious, but to seek God’s face in prayer


“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…”


The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything.


It reminds us of Psalm 55: 22:


“Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you…”


Also 1 Peter 5: 7:


            “…cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”


It also reminds us of the Lord’s teaching on the mount:


“…do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’   For after all these things the Gentiles seek.   For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” – Mt. 6: 31, 32


Our heavenly Father knows, and He cares, therefore we must not worry, but trust Him and rely on Him.  

Yes, He knows, but at the same time He wants us to seek His face and ask Him.  He wants us to confess our need before Him and to ask for His help.


And He wants us to do this “with thanksgiving”.  

If you want to know what this means, just think of the Psalms.

We see how David time and again turned to the Lord with all his anxieties and fears and asked the Lord for help and protection, and then, in the same psalms, he also thanked the Lord for His help and deliverance.  

Sometimes David thanked the Lord even before he received deliverance.   Sometimes he bursts forth in thanksgiving, not because his troubles are all over and gone, but because he is so assured that the Lord heard him that he counts the deliverance as an accomplished fact!


Yes, the psalms teach us how to pray, how we, in every circumstance, are to seek God’s face in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.


Is a believer then never anxious?   Well, brothers and sisters, sometimes we are anxious, but we should not be.

See how many times David expresses his fears and anxieties before the Lord, and then closes the psalm with thanksgiving, trusting in the Lord.


Dear congregation, it also happens that we sometimes become anxious.   We also know the testing of our faith by many trials and afflictions.   What should we do then?

By the mouth of the apostle the Holy Spirit exhorts us to bring your anxieties to the Lord.   Tell Him about your fears and ask Him for His help and protection.

He will hear and still your fears.

If we lay our fears before Him and ask Him for His help and protection, then “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus – verse 7.


The peace of God will guard your heart and mind.   His peace will stand watch over your heart and mind to protect your heart and mind from the attacks of Satan, that you may not become disheartened or bitter or revengeful, but may endure the afflictions with patient kindness, waiting on the Lord.


Dear congregation, this is a vivid description of the life of a Christian.  It gives us a realistic picture of the struggles of faith which each of us are facing in our daily life.   None of us are without anxieties.   Each believer knows how severely our faith is tested.   And thus the instruction in this passage is so essential.  The apostle is dealing with the basics of a life lived by faith.


We need to stand fast in the faith, but how are we to do so?

First the apostle mentioned the need to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.   Therefore he also exhorted Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.   And throughout the letter he emphasised how important it is that we stand fast together with one mind and one spirit.  

And then he combines the exhortation to stand firm with the exhortation to rejoice in the Lord.   Stand firm by rejoicing in the Lord and in His promises.


Dear congregation, the Lord is also speaking to us in our circumstances: “Rejoice in the Lord always…”


Don’t be revengeful, but let your patient-kindness be known to all men. 

The Lord is at hand.  

Be anxious for nothing.   Bring your anxieties to the Lord.   Ask Him, trust Him and thank Him, then His peace, which comes to us through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, will guard our heart and mind.


It is the peace of reconciliation through the blood of Christ.  

It is the peace and the joy to know that the Lord is with us, and that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, our tears make place for rejoicing, and our cries are accompanied by thanksgiving.   For: our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose coming is at hand.   


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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