“Rejoice In The Lord” (Philippians 4: 4, HCSB) by Carley Evans

“The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything.” (Philippians 4: 5 – 6) Because the Lord is with you, you need not worry. He knows you thoroughly; He knows your need before you know your need. And, because the Lord is love, He is ready to help you. Because He is there and ready to help, “the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, guards your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 7) Therefore, Paul calls upon you to “rejoice in the Lord always.” He says it twice! “Rejoice!”

Jesus gives you His joy. He tells you that you “are not of the world anymore than [He] is of the world.” (John 17: 13 – 14) You are a stranger here. Jesus is a stranger here. As Jesus is sanctified, so are you.

God gives you His Word. He gives you His Holy Spirit, the Helper. Paul tells you, therefore, to “rejoice in the Lord always.” He says it twice! “Rejoice!” “Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but…also rejoice in [your] afflictions, because [you] know affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint [you], because God’s love is poured out in [your] heart through the Holy Spirit who is given to [you].” (Romans 5: 2 – 5)

“Yet I Will Rejoice” (Habakkuk 3: 19, NIV) by Carley Evans

(June 8, 2010 8:42pm)

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I rejoice in the Lord, I am joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3: 17 – 18)

Though the bank account is empty and there is no food in the refrigerator, though the job expected does not come to fruition and no job is in sight, though friends are seemingly scarce to non-existent and there is no one nearby to whom to turn, yet rejoice in the Lord, be joyful in God the Savior.

God is our strength. We run like deer traversing rugged, even treacherous ground, and God gives us sure feet. We do not stumble as we go up to the heights. Our God is sovereign, and His complete control reassures us that we are safe even here on the edge of the cliff.

We are enabled by God Himself. We do not fall so as not to recover.

“God Accepts Us; Let Us Accept One Another” (Romans 15: 5 – 6, HCSB) by Carley Evans

God gives endurance. He builds hope through endurance. He gives encouragement and instruction through His Word. God allows us to live in unity and harmony with one another “with a united mind and voice” glorifying Him.

God fills us with joy and peace. He makes our hope overflow.

God gives us grace. He shows us His mercy.

God accepts us.

“Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14: 13)

“Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepts you, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15: 7)

“But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14: 10 – 12)

Rather than criticize, you ought to live in harmony. If you have a conviction, says Paul, you should “keep it to yourself before God.” (Romans 14: 22) Paul encourages the pursuit of “what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” (Romans 14: 19)

Therefore, accept your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Do not criticize. Instead, join together with them to praise our God, who gives us endurance, encouragement, hope, peace, and joy.

“Joy Is Possible” (Romans 12: 12, HCSB) by Carley Evans

Paul expects us to “rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” Our hope rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, joy is possible. In moments of pain, our patience emerges from Christ’s own patience as He endures the Cross. Our prayer life is also continuous and persistent as we walk within the power of the Holy Spirit.

Be joyful, be patient, be persistent. “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12: 21)

“Nothing Left Undone!” (Romans 5: 10, ESV) by Carley Evans

The truth — which should make all of us who call ourselves Christians — leap for joy in our hearts is that Jesus dies for us while we are His enemies! If God is willing to send His only Son out from glory into the world of hatred, mistrust, and agony so that He can save His people, then we should know in our hearts that He will not leave that task unaccomplished. Jesus, on the cross of Calvary, cries out in both His misery and His satisfaction — “It is finished, completed, accomplished, done with nothing left undone!”

“Like A Refiner’s Fire” (James 1: 2 – 3, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” writes James “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” James further writes that the full effect of steadfastness is perfection, so that we are “lacking in nothing.” (James 1: 4)

God is “like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He purifies the sons of Levi and refines them like gold and silver, and they bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” (Malachi 3: 2 – 3)

Trials are common to humankind; not one of us escapes them. The son of David writes,”Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, both to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and to him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all the is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all.” (Ecclesiastes 9: 1 – 3)

Very few are able to count trials as joy. But Christians “know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom [God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8: 28 – 29) If we are to be “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son,” then we must be refined. The process of refinement is often painful as the dross of our daily lives is burnt off, melted away through adversity. Adversity makes as stronger, if we submit to it and learn from it. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecclesiastes 7: 14)

The manner in which we respond to the days of adversity is key — if we trust that God is at work in us for His good pleasure, to perfect us; then we are able to count those times of suffering as joy.

“Go Out In Joy” (Philippians 2: 14 – 16, ESV) by Carley Evans

How do we become blameless and pure and shine like stars in a crooked and depraved generation? Paul says we become such by “doing all things without grumbling or questioning” and by “holding fast to the Word of Life.”

If we hold fast or cling to the Word of God, then we are prepared in every situation so that in a sense nothing surprises us. We are never caught off guard. If we hold fast to God’s Word, then we have no cause to question, complain, grumble about our circumstances.

Paul writes for us to “rejoice in the Lord.” He calls us not to a life of complaining, grumbling, arguing, back-biting, envying, striving, hating, cheating, lying, self-loathing; but to a life of rejoicing in the Lord. We of all people are to be joyful.

“For you shall go out in joy.” (Isaiah 55: 12)

“Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16: 22)

“No One Will Take Your Joy” (John 16: 33, ESV) by Carley Evans

Here in this world, Jesus tells us we will have trouble; we will have tribulation. But, He also promises that He has overcome this world; therefore we are able to take heart. Even in the deepest pain, we find His peace is available.

“You will be sorrowful,” says Jesus. “But your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16: 20 – 22)

Jesus sings of His death and resurrection through the psalmist, David: “I will extol You, O Lord, for You have drawn Me up and have not let My foes rejoice over Me. O Lord My God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed Me. O Lord, You have brought up My soul from Sheol; You restored Me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor lasts for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30: 1 – 5)

Like Jesus before us, we leave suffering behind. Joy returns to us in the morning. And no one will take it away.

“Our Only Prayer” (Psalm 51: 12, ESV) by Carley Evans

David sings a request to God. He asks God, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” When does David misplace this joy? David has committed adultery with Bathsheba, and he is keenly aware of his transgressions, saying, “And my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51: 3) David is weighed down with wrongdoing. “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51: 4)

If only we felt this as keenly as David. If our sins against others became sins against God, and God only; then we might turn from them quickly and back to Him even faster.

David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51: 5)
David finds no escape from sin. He knows that God is “justified in [His] words and blameless in [His] judgment.” (Psalm 51: 4)

The only answer for David is to ask God: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51: 7)

He begs, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 10)

How is it that we think we are different from David? What makes us believe that we are capable of creating clean hearts of our filthy ones or that we are able to renew our distorted spirits under our own power?

God requires of us “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, [He] will not despise.” (Psalm 51: 17)
Notice that David asks God, “Uphold me with a willing spirit.” Even our willingness comes from God’s hand. (Psalm 51: 12)

Finally, our only prayer is: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51: 1)