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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:I Will Rejoice Always!
Text:Philippians 4:4-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-05-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: James 1

Text: Philippians 4:4-7

 

I WILL REJOICE ALWAYS

  1. Because it is My Duty

  2. Because it is My Delight

 

  1. Psalm 42:1-3

  2. Psalm 103:1, 2, 6

  3. Hymn 65:1-2

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Hymn 65:3-4

 

Words to Listen For: shine, laundry, adverb, sibling, cholesterol

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Is the Apostle Paul naive to write like this?

  2. What is the double meaning of “in the Lord” ?

  3. Should we rejoice in all things?  What does Paul actually say?

  4. What are the barriers we put up?  Why do we put them up?  How can we tear them down?

  5. How do the examples of grapefruit and Vitamin C clarify this?

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


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

When is the last time you took some medicine?  Whether a painful shot, some nasty-tasting cough syrup, or a bitter pill that got lodged in your throat as you tried to swallow it down...medicine is sort of the definition of “no pain, no gain.”  In fact, there is a brand of cough syrup that has this same idea as their slogan: It tastes awful.  And it works!

This is, unfortunately, the case with so many things in this world.  Eating healthy isn’t as immediately enjoyable as eating a hamburger, but in the long run, it is better for you.  You can learn to enjoy salad.  Getting up early to go for a walk or a run isn’t nearly as appealing as sleeping for an extra hour in a warm cozy bed, but being active helps with so many things, relieving aches and pains down the road, giving you better heart health, and just generally, a better life.

And in the book of Philippians, we find a cure.  We find a cure for so many of the difficulties of life...but unlike the earthly cures in this world, this, the best of all medicines, is not bitter.  This, the best of all medicines, is not painful, but rather, sweet.  It is powerful, and it is truly comforting to the heart.

This cure...is joy.

In the midst of disunity, in the midst of suffering and imprisonment, the Apostle Paul’s cure isn’t “hang in there” or “one day things will be better” … but rather it is joy.  JOY.  Not just later, but now.  Joy, not just when all the troubles are gone, but joy WITHIN the troubles and difficulties of life.

It sounds difficult.  It sounds impossible, but, the Holy Spirit commands it through the Apostle Paul and through the Apostle James

Rejoice always!

Count it all joy!

Let’s learn how, even in trials, we can proclaim with the Christians of all times and places:

I WILL REJOICE ALWAYS

  1. Because it is My Duty

  2. Because it is My Delight

 

I will Rejoice because it is My Duty

When we think of what our duty is, we think mostly of the physical things, don’t we?

          It is my DUTY to go to work.

          It is my DUTY to go to school.

          It is my DUTY to pay my bills.

The physical aspect is the duty.  But the emotional aspect behind it?  Not so much.

Playwright Tennessee Williams famously wrote this line: I’ll rise, but I won’t shine!

There are those things that we are ordered to do, that we are commanded to do, and, because we want to be obedient, we will do them.  But inwardly, or under our breath, we grumble about it.

I’ll do it, but I won’t be happy about it!

But what then are we to make of passages like Philippians 4:4 - Rejoice always, again I will say rejoice!

Paul writes this in the imperative.  This is a COMMANDMENT to the Philippian church!  How can he command something like that?

Or what about James?

James 1:2 - Count it all joy, my brothers

Again, this is in the imperative.  This is a COMMANDMENT to the 12 tribes of the Dispersion.

Perhaps, we might think, this is an overstepping of the apostolic authority of Paul and James.  My emotions are mine!  I’ll do what you tell me to do, but THIS PART, I will keep back.

But joy is our duty.  It is our DUTY to be joyful!

How can this be the case?

At first, we might think that these are the words of a rather naive man.  Rejoice...ALWAYS?  This sounds like the advice of someone who hasn’t been through traumatic situations and scenarios.

          Rejoicing...that’s easy for you to say...but you haven’t dealt with the death of a loved one.

          Rejoicing...that’s easy for you to say...but you haven’t survived abuse.

          Rejoicing...that’s easy for you to say...but you haven’t been in prison.

But, beloved, based on what we know about the Apostle Paul, we know, that even though his words might sound naively optimistic, they are not.  Paul is a man with both feet firmly planted on the ground.

          He was currently IN CHAINS while writing these very words.

          He had given up his entire former life when he converted to Christianity.

          He had been beaten and shipwrecked, mistreated, and stoned.

Paul is a man who knows what he is talking about.  And yet, he still says Rejoice.  Rejoice ALWAYS!

Let’s examine a little of the context here first, before we get into our text, and the riddle of verse 4.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

This is the conclusion to chapter 3, where Paul contrasted his beloved congregation with those who actively work against the gospel of Christ.  

Those who insist on circumcision to join the people of God.  Those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ, who are devoted to themselves, who focus only on earthly things.

But for the church of Jesus Christ, we are to stand firm in the Lord.  We are to be unmovable in the face of our opponents IN THE LORD.

And this three-word phrase is very important.  We will get there in a bit.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree IN THE LORD.

And here is this phrase once again.  It is key to our understanding.

The context of Paul’s command to rejoice in all things comes in the context of a dispute between two women in the congregation.  We do not know the nature of this dispute, and we do not know much about these two women, Euodia and Syntyche, but that’s not the main point.

The purpose in Paul writing this is not to air dirty laundry, but rather, out of love for these sisters, that they be at peace with each other.  They were among those who have labored side by side with Paul in the gospel.  These were godly sisters whose disagreement had reached the ears of Paul, all the way in jail in Rome, 1000km away.

Paul does not rule on one side or the other (as is sometimes done in certain epistles), but rather, he pleads with them to agree with each other.  And though we might think that verse 4 is a change of subject for Paul, it is bound up in this context too.

How can they agree in the Lord?  It is by rejoicing in the Lord!

It is interesting to note that Paul does not command them to agree, he pleads with them, he entreats them, but he DOES command them, and the rest of the congregation, and us here today, he does command us to rejoice.  And this is because, with joy, there will be peace.

So how does this work?  How can we be commanded to have a certain state of mind?  How can we be commanded to have a certain emotion in our heart?

It is through those three key words: IN THE LORD.

9 times in this letter does the Apostle Paul use this phrase: IN THE LORD.

          Confident - in the Lord

          Hope - in the Lord

          Trust - in the Lord

          Stand firm - in the Lord

          Rejoice - in the Lord

So...what does this mean?  “In the Lord” ?

It has a double meaning, and it is truly a wonderful double meaning.

We rejoice IN the Lord, with the Lord as the object of the sentence.  Rejoice in the person of the Lord.  Rejoice because of who GOD IS.  Who the Lord Jesus Christ IS.

Rejoice because of who He is and what He has done.

The Lord is your reason to rejoice.

Rejoice because of what He has done in the past.

Rejoice because of what He has promised to do in the future.

Our joy comes from the time before the beginning.  For what happened then?

  • Ephesians 1 tells us that that we were chosen before the foundations of the world!  Before God said, Let there be light, you were in His mind.  You were in His heart.  You were chosen to be holy and blameless, a child of His, and a member of His church.

And our joy continues throughout history

  • Hand-fashioning Adam and then Eve.  Human beings were made more carefully, more intimately, than any other creation, which were simply spoken into being.

  • Choosing Noah, and then Abraham.  Choosing Isaac and then Jacob.  Choosing Moses and then David.  Working with sinful, flawed human beings to bring about our salvation.

  • Choosing the Virgin Mary to bear the Messiah in her womb.

  • And then our Lord Himself, preaching and teaching and healing all across Judea before His death started the process of healing for people of all nationalities.

  • The promised Holy Spirit, our comforter, coming at Pentecost, being poured out on all the peoples.

And now, in the present, there are so many things that we do not rejoice in.  Things that we CANNOT rejoice in.

Let’s look briefly at our reading together, James chapter 1.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 

And if we would stop there, we might be a little confused as to what exactly James is trying to say.  Should be rejoice over the trials that we experience?  You’re going to suffer...and you should be happy about it?  Is this what James means?

No.  Look at verse 3 - for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

We can have joy at the RESULTS of the suffering.  We can have joy at what suffering PRODUCES in us.

And Paul is saying the same thing here - Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice!

It is not that Christians must rejoice about all things.

We should never rejoice about sin.  We should never celebrate sin or be thankful for it.  Paul was not thankful FOR his chains, but he was thankful IN his chains.  He was thankful for the opportunity that they gave him to spread the gospel.

There are so many things in this world that we should not rejoice over or be thankful for.

But we do rejoice, looking forward to what the Lord promises to happen in the future.

Because what will happen?  What is promised to us?

Jesus Christ, our Lord and King is leading us into a world where all the sin and evil and pain that we do not rejoice in here...He is leading us into a world where all of that will be destroyed forever!

We do not rejoice because of death.

    But death itself shall die.

We do not rejoice because of hurt.  Hurt that we feel, hurt that we cause.

    But one day, there will be no more mourning or crying or pain.

We do not rejoice in sin

    But one day, sin will be punished, and we will be completely set free!

Rejoice - in the Lord.

We rejoice with “the Lord” as the OBJECT of our rejoicing.  This is the first way to understand this.  But there is also a second way.

Rejoice - in the Lord.

Here, we rejoice with “the Lord” as the ADVERB.  Rejoice IN THE LORD, rejoice in the manner of the Lord.  Rejoice THROUGH the Lord.

And this is where the present comes in again.  The present time with all the difficulties.  Because we should not view the past and the future as reasons for joy, as we are left alone here in the present time with only the difficulty.  But joy and rejoicing can and MUST happen.  It is our duty.

And this happens because the Lord is at hand.  The Lord is near to us, even in our difficulties.  It is at those times, in our distress, when we need the Lord the most, that we do not feel His presence.  And it is because of this void in ourselves, that the Apostle Paul includes this commandment.

Rejoice IN THE LORD.

          In the times when you don’t feel like it

          In the times when you aren’t sure you CAN rejoice in the Lord…

These are the times when you need to do this most.  THIS is why Paul makes this a commandment.

We can rejoice THROUGH the power of the Lord, and through His active working in our lives.  Because our joy does not ONLY come from the past and the future, but indeed from the present as well, as the Lord works in us through His Spirit.  It is ultimately God who produces joy in us, and not we ourselves.

When He works in the world, and, when we do not have eyes to see it, when our pain gets in the way, the Holy Spirit helps us to see through the tears.  The Holy Spirit lets us see clearly, giving us glimpses into what God is doing in this world.  And this may not remove all difficulty.  He will not give us a carefree, life-of-the-party existence, but it will be enough.  It will be enough.  Enough to let us continue walking in the valley until we reach that next mountaintop.

This is the medicine.  Joy is the treatment for our worry.  Joy is the treatment for our difficulty.  And it is a duty.  It is our duty as Christians, but it is not a burden.  It is not an oppressive duty, it is not demanding and crushing.  But rather, it is a delight.  Our final point.

It is truly wonderful when the medicine is something sweet.  When the cure is a delight.

And this is truly what is happening here in this case.

Rejoice in the Lord always!

Paul is preaching, not only the Philippians, but also to his own soul.  Just as we sung to our own soul in Psalm 42, and again in Psalm 103, this is what the Apostle is doing here.

It is possible that as he wrote these words, he felt a pang of anxiety, a pang of worry, an instant of doubt as he considered his circumstances.  But then he repeats. To them and to himself

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice!

          Remember Philippi

          Remember Paul

          Remember congregation...rejoice!

If there is one thing that we truly desire in our lives, it is joy.

We WANT joy, we were MADE for joy.

Think of that for a moment.

Put aside all the barriers you have set up in your life, barriers and walls to protect yourself against unfulfilled expectations, and think about joy.

Adam and Eve, created sinless, created VERY GOOD… they were created to live in joy, in a sinless creation, in perfect unity with their God.

We all know what happened when sin entered the world - all of this fell apart.  Joy was made so much harder.

And then look to the end, when our lives are restored to what they were originally created to be.  An everlasting life in heaven where we rejoice with the great multitude.  When death is no more, where there is no more mourning or crying or pain, where we will see the face of our God and bask in His light forever and ever.

THIS is what we were created for.  We were created for joy.

But what have we done?

And I say WE, because I am guilty of doing it too.

What have we done?  We have built walls around ourselves.  We have built walls of protection.  We don’t want to have to deal with the pain of unfulfilled expectations.  We don’t want to open ourselves up to joy, because we worry that we will just be disappointed.

And so we content ourselves with happiness.  Happiness...what we could consider the less useful sibling of joy.

          Happiness lasts for a moment and is gone.

          Happiness can’t truly hold a candle to joy in terms of quality or duration.

And honestly, we are SCARED by joy.  We are scared that we won’t get it, and we are scared that we will.  Because we have conditioned ourselves to keep our emotions in a little box, within a short range.

We can handle the small emotions.  We can handle a little sadness, we can handle a little happiness.

But we have trained ourselves not to hope for greater things.  The further you expand that little box, the more joy you can fit, but also the more sorrow.

When we do this, we miss out on the joy that is there around us.  We miss out on the joy that is always there because the LORD is always there.

So many times, we are disappointed because we look for joy in all the wrong places.  We look for joy in things that only give us happiness, and then we are disappointed.

But look at Paul’s instructions here.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand;

Reasonableness or gentleness as the NIV has it.

We can be reasonable, we can be gentle, even in difficult times.  When the world is running around terrified, when the world is panicking, when the world has no idea where to turn, we, as believers, know EXACTLY where to turn.

We may not know exactly what to do long-term...but we know where to go and what to do immediately

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

THIS is how we can have that joy.  How we can live in that joy.  How we can have that joy working with us.

To return to the metaphor of medicine for a moment, there are certain things that you can do or eat with your medicine that make it more or less effective.

For example, with some heart medications that treat high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you are told that you cannot eat grapefruit.  That will counteract the effect of the medicine.

And if you are taking iron supplements, you are told that you should have them WITH vitamin C because it helps your body absorb the iron.

And THIS is what prayer does for us.  We heard in the first point that joy is given to us by the Holy Spirit.  Joy is one of the fruits that He works in our hearts.

Joy is not something that comes to us as a direct result of our prayers, as though we are inserting prayer as currency in the great vending machine in the sky.  We pay our 1 minute prayer, and receive in return, a certain amount of joy.  That’s just not how it works.

But think of prayer as the vitamin C you take along with your iron.  If worry is your grapefruit juice that HINDERS joy, then prayer is your vitamin C that HELPS it.

It is useless just to tell someone not to worry.  This is just the nature of worry.  

But to replace something destructive with someone constructive...to replace worry with prayer...this is a surefire way to get your joy back on track!

And just briefly as we close this afternoon, verse 7.  Philippians 4:7 might be a favorite text for some of you.  I know it ranks pretty high up there for me.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Even with the joy planted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit

Even with our vitamin C of prayer…

We are still weak.  We are still needy.  Joy is our delight, but it isn’t easy in a world like ours.

And so we are promised protection.  We are promised the best protection to have ever been offered.

The peace of God will protect us.

This is a peace that passes all understanding.  This is the peace that Jesus Christ felt EVEN IN HIS SUFFERINGS in the garden.  EVEN IN HIS SUFFERINGS on the cross.

This is how He could say to His disciples in John 14 on the night of the Last Supper - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

And then in John 15 -  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

On one of the most difficult nights of His life, when He was in agony, He still had joy and He still had peace.

This truly surpasses all understanding.

THIS is what we need.

 

And what does it do?  It guards our hearts and our minds.

This is not a peace that is simply emotional.  This is not a peace that just affects the heart and hopes to overwhelm or distract the mind by emotion.  Although this is a peace that surpasses understanding, it is not UNREASONABLE or RIDICULOUS.  But it is a peace that guards, or literally GARRISONS you.

This language is that of a Roman soldier.  Maybe Paul was thinking of the soldiers who guarded him, day and night, in that cold dank cell.  Maybe Paul was thinking of the Roman colony of Philippi where so many soldiers were stationed.

How the Roman soldiers are, constantly in your line of sight...this is what God’s peace will be to you.

And so, congregation, open yourselves up to the joy of God.  Open yourselves up to His peace.  Rely on His faithfulness and He will be beside you, always.

AMEN.




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

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