“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)
“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 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.
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)
“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.