I put something on layaway once when I was growing up. I had a job delivering pizzas, and there was something I wanted but couldn’t afford all at once. I didn’t have a credit card, so I thought I’d put it on layaway. Do you know what’s sad? I don’t remember what it was. I am pretty sure that I never finished paying it off. I made the initial deposit, but I never went back and finished the payments to get the thing, whatever it was. I’m sure other things came up that I decided to spend my money on like gas to be able to drive to and from school.
Nothing stirs someone’s heart to be joyful like another person commanding you to be so. I don’t know about you, but when I’m not joyful and someone commands me to be, I just snap right out of my sulking stupor and jump right into a state of joyfulness. But, just in case that doesn’t work for you, how do we as Christians respond to the command to be joyful?
Philippians 4:4-8, NET: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! 5 Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.
So what does it mean to rejoice? Is it what you do when your first friend Joice moves away and you have to find another one? Well, not quite. While, if your friend Joice moved away, you might need a new friend, to rejoice is to be glad, be well, thrive. It’s a verb, which means it’s something you do.
There are three things we should note about this gem of a passage that Paul wrote while he was in prison. But first, imagine that. Paul writing and telling people to be full of joy when He was in prison. While I’m sure it was a pretty dire situation for Paul, the emphasis of his letter wasn’t “don’t you dare let me rot in here!” The thrust of the letter is about being joyful. He even says that being in prison is a good thing. And he’s essentially going to try to win over everyone while he’s on the inside.
Can you imagine the guard that was responsible for Paul? Poor guy didn’t have a chance. He probably heard Paul talking about Jesus so many times there was no way he could keep from becoming a believer. “Hey Paul, it’s time for another thirty lashes.” To which Paul replies, “Well, isn’t that great! I’m being tortured again for Jesus!”
Imagine what the guard must have thought. “What in heaven’s name is wrong with this guy?”
Then Paul reads his mind, “That’s exactly it; heaven’s name is the whole point. No other name than the name of Jesus, at which every knee will bow and tongue confess. You gonna bow now or later, guard?”
Okay, Paul probably couldn’t read his mind. But you get the picture. Paul was full of joy and writing about joy in a circumstance where most would be bitter and pessimistic. How? I think there are three simple practices we can learn from these 5 verses that will help us be more like Paul and be joyful always.
But we’ll have to save that for next time!
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