Three weeks ago, I was scheduled to preach at all 3 of our morning services at ICC. Pastor Mike had asked me to continue on in the Resilient series and look at Philippians 4:2-7. Unfortunately, due to my feeling under the weather and a false positive COVID test (long story!), I did not make it to church to preach that message. I was blessed by Pastor Bob Snider who stepped in last minute and did an incredible job with the passage.
If there was a theme to the book of Philippians, it would be JOY! Incredible when you think that Paul wrote it while under house arrest in Rome. We clearly see this theme play out in Philippians 4:4 when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
As I was preparing for the sermon, I was up to this part of the passage about rejoicing in the Lord when a flood of bad news came in. We were about 45 minutes away from leaving for a family get together when we got the news that someone in our extended family tested positive for COVID. There would be no family get-together. Then literally just a few minutes later, we found out that Janette’s Uncle was being admitted to the hospital with a serious blood infection. Little did we know how bad things were about to get! Janette’s brother would later be admitted to the hospital due to COVID, and quite frankly, it’s been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster ride. As of this writing, he’s been in the hospital in ICU for almost 2 weeks now and the situation is very serious. Beyond our family, many in our church family are suffering and going through some difficult times. The hits seem to keep coming. Can you relate?
REJOICE in the Lord
Well, in light of all this bad news that we had just received, the words “Rejoice in the Lord” jumped off the page. If I’m being honest, rejoicing in the face of adversity seems very counter-intuitive to me, and yet it’s stated here as a command. Rejoicing is easy when things are going well, but when your whole world is falling apart; when everything around you is being shaken and there’s not a thing you can do to change it, that’s another story! I’ve come to realize that rejoicing during the difficult moments of our lives won’t come naturally to us, it’s a supernatural working of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Listen closely to what Paul is telling us here. He’s not telling us to rejoice in WHAT is happening, although we know that God uses these tough times for our good and His glory according to Romans 8:28 and James 1:2-4. We are not told to rejoice in our circumstances, we are told to rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice not in WHAT but in WHO! Rejoice in the never-changing, Faithful Friend, The Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ!
His MERCIES are new every morning
Corrie Ten Boom, a battle-tested saint, a woman who in her life endured so much pain and hardship, said it this way, “I’ve experienced His presence in the deepest darkest hell that men can create…I have tested the promises of the Bible, and believe me, you can count on them.” Our life circumstances will go up and down. There will be good times and there will be long dark nights. Through it all, there is a faithful and good God that can always be counted on. Jesus will always be the constant! Because the world isn’t the origin of our joy in the Lord, they can’t take it away. Our joy is dependent on a Person. It’s dependent on a God who keeps His promises. A God who is forever faithful, a God who conquered death and the grave! The Prophet Jeremiah, the writer of Lamentations, reminds us where our hope lies, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)
Isn’t this what Christmas is all about? It’s about eternal hope. God enters into our human suffering by coming to earth as a little baby to suffer and die on the cross as the perfect spotless Lamb of God to pay for the full price of our sin. When we place our trust in our Christ, we can be certain that our forever home will be Heaven, and while here on earth, we will never be without His presence…Immanuel, God is with us!