What does it mean to “rejoice always”?
The Bible commands us to “rejoice always.” But how can I manage to do that?
I look at my computer in the midst of my workday to see an advertisement pop up of a tropical vacation destination—blue water, white sand, palm trees, sunshine! “It sure would be nice…” I think to myself. Life can seem like an endless round of tasks that need to be accomplished, bills that need to be paid, a to-do list that only seems to get longer, and a body that gets weaker as the years go on. And that doesn’t include the sometimes more serious situations that can crop up—tribulations I haven’t chosen, but which I know God has appointed.
It seems like my happiness is completely dependent on getting what I want.
If I could just take a vacation; if I could just _______, then I’d be happy. Here you can fill in the blank. If I could just make more money; if I could just be healthy; if I could just get my dream job, and so on and so on, ad infinitum!
These things are nice and often do make me feel happy for a while. But if they are lacking I am back to my dreary everyday life, pining after them again. It seems like my happiness is completely dependent on getting what I want. But does it have to be this way?
Partake of Christ’s sufferings
One of the best known verses in the Bible is only two words long: “Rejoice always…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) It’s written as a command, not a recommendation. So I know that it must be possible to do it! God doesn’t give us commandments that are impossible to keep! Always! That means right now, today, in this moment, in this situation, with the body I have, the job I have, the home I have, the circumstances I find myself in. But if this joy isn’t connected with all those circumstantial things, then where does it come from?
One hint can be found in 1 Peter 4:13, “… but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…”
Peter talks about rejoicing because I can partake of Christ’s sufferings. But how can suffering be joyful? Christ’s sufferings were those sufferings He experienced in order not to sin. A life of victory over sin is an exceedingly joyful life, and no other short-lived joys can be compared to it! As a Christian, I also can partake of those sufferings, regardless of my earthly possessions or situations, and the result is a victorious life that fills me with joy!
Joy that comes from suffering
Perhaps I feel someone has treated me unjustly. What I really want to do is to do something back. Get even with them. The sin in me wants something, it wants to get angry and offended. But then I take up a battle not to sin—not to be suspicious, bitter, or irritated. I am denying my sinful desires what they want. And because they are not getting what they want I am suffering. I am partaking of the sufferings of Christ, and victory will be the result!
I have a faithful Creator who knows what is best for me.
I come to that pure joy in my spirit that isn’t dependent on my feelings, my situations, how others treat me, or anything else. Then it is possible to rejoice—always! It sure would be nice with a vacation right now, but if it doesn’t work out, that inner joy that I have isn’t dampened. Rather, I can use the opportunity to get rid of even more ingratitude and demands in my flesh and be filled with that true, lasting joy that comes from doing God’s will and being transformed.
I have a faithful Creator who knows what is best for me. I can do God’s will today, partake of the sufferings of Christ, and be filled with the joy of victory! That’s why Jesus’ true disciples are the happiest people on earth.
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