Is it really possible to “rejoice always,” as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16?
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 – tribulationsTribulations or trials refer to any event or situation that comes your way that tempts you to sin; that gives opportunity for sinful thoughts and temptations to rise up in you. The tribulation or trial arises when your mind to serve God struggles against your lusts to sin. It also often refers to difficult situations that test your ability to... More I haven’t chosen, but which I know God has appointed.
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! Rejoice 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 sufferingThe Bible often mentions suffering. Though this can refer to outward, physical suffering, in the New Covenant it mostly applies to the suffering that occurs when you deny your own sinful lusts and desires and put them to death. It is an inner suffering that occurs because your lusts are not being satisfied, rather than a physical, outward one –... More
be joyful? Christ’s sufferings were those sufferings He experienced in order not to sinTo commit sin is to consciously do something that you know goes against God’s will. This can be in word, deed, or even thought. (James 1:14-15)... More
. A life of victory over sin“Victory over sin” means that you do not commit conscious sin – that which you know would be sin at that time when you are tempted. It doesn’t mean that you are without sin, but that temptation is overcome before it can become sin. (Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57; Revelation 2:7)... More
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 earthlyRefers to everything of this earth, as opposed to heavenly things. Example: Earthly treasures/heavenly treasures. The earthly things pass away (are temporal), but the heavenly things are eternal. (Matthew 6:19-21; Colossians 3:2; 1 John 2:17)... More
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 meSin is anything that goes against God’s will and His laws. To commit sin is to transgress or disobey these laws. The lust to sin dwells in human nature. In other words, it is contaminated and motivated by the sinful tendencies that dwell in all people as a result of the fall into sin and disobedience in the garden of Eden. This... More wants something, it wants to get angry and offended. But then I take up a battleAlmost all talk of battles and wars when concerning a Christian life refers to the inner battle that arises when a sinful thought tempts you. God’s Spirit and the flesh are at odds. When you have decided to only do God’s will and are being led by the Spirit, a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit arises: there is... More not to sinSin is anything that goes against God’s will and His laws. To commit sin is to transgress or disobey these laws. The lust to sin dwells in human nature. In other words, it is contaminated and motivated by the sinful tendencies that dwell in all people as a result of the fall into sin and disobedience in the garden of Eden. This... More – 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 ChristThe sufferings of Christ mostly refer to the inner sufferings that Christ experienced when He denied and put to death His own will when He was tempted, and chose to obey God instead. In some cases this also refers to Christ’s physical sufferings. (1 Peter 4:1; Colossians 1:24; Hebrews 2:18)... More, and victory will be the result!
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 fleshSin is anything that goes against God’s will and His laws. To commit sin is to transgress or disobey these laws. The lust to sin dwells in human nature. In other words, it is contaminated and motivated by the sinful tendencies that dwell in all people as a result of the fall into sin and disobedience in the garden of Eden. This... More 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.
Did you enjoy this article about what it means to “rejoice always?” You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about happiness and joy, or in the articles below:
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.