"Rejoice always" ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16
"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice." ~ Philippians 4: 4
"in this [your heavenly inheritance] you rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ." ~ 1 Peter 1:6-7
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." ~ Romans 5:1-5
"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." ~ Romans 12:12How do we rejoice always? How is that even possible? I think it has everything to do with trust and the sovereignty of God. Let's take a look at some things that the Scripture shows us about who God is and what He does for us.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." ~ Romans 8:28
"And He said to His disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouses nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why ar eyou anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the filed today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not see what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom and these things will be added to you." ~ Luke 12:22-31
"And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in this city who kept coming to him and saying, "Give me justice against my adversary." For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, "Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming. "" And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?"" ~ Luke 18:1-8
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" ~ Matthew 7:7-11So now we've established that 1) God works all things for our good, 2) He is a loving Father who gives us what we need, and 3) that God brings us justice. Let's look at some verses that establish God's sovereignty:
"A man's steps are from the Lord, how then can man understand his way?" ~ Proverbs 20:24
"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that stands." ~ Proverbs 19:21
"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." ~ James 4:13-15
"[God] works all things to the counsel of His will" ~ Ephesians 1:11
"I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things." ~ Isaiah 45:7
"Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?" In all this, Job did not sin with his lips." ~ Job 2:10
"Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases." ~ Psalm 115:3
"all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, "What have you done?" ~ Daniel 4:35
"Also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?" ~ Isaiah 43:13God is sovereign over all situations, good and bad. There are plenty more Scriptures all over the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that make this clear. So when we pair up that God is completely and totally sovereign over every situation, good and bad; and if we put that together with what we laid out earlier, that God is working for our good, then we can fully and completely trust in Him through each and every circumstance that comes our way! Even when we can't see why something might be good for us right now, God has a plan and will make it happen. Nothing can thwart Him! We can rest in that. Truly and completely understanding this is the key and bedrock of rejoicing always.
Not only is our joy rooted in the sovereignty and goodness of God, but also in the hope given to us in salvation. We aren't looking to our circumstances to give us joy. We must look toward a Saviour who has promised us that we have eternal life in Him. We must place our hope in the glory of God rather than the ups and downs of our daily life. That is when we can rejoice always, because our hope and trust have been place in something unshakable and unchangeable, rather than our fickle circumstances. And even within those ever-changing circumstances, God is present! They aren't just happening to us randomly, God has a purpose and He cannot be thwarted!
There's one other piece to rejoicing always, one that is inextricably connected: contentment. When we are completely content with our lot, the circumstances God has sovereignly ordained in our life, we will have joy. Jeremiah Burroughs, who wrote The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment says this, "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to, and delights in God's wise and Fatherly disposal in every condition." The key to contentment? Knowing what we truly and completely deserve: death and eternal punishment. And once we have that perspective, we realize that anything - anything! - outside death in hell is a blessing! So how can we grumble and complain about inconvenient, difficult or sorrowful circumstances when we realize that this is so much better than we deserve? This is where contentment comes from. The peace of that contentment comes hand in hand along with the rejoicing always in every circumstance.
But what happens when the joy is gone? What does that mean? We'll take a look at that in part 2.