Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Phil. 4:4)
The scripture should never feel out of touch to real circumstances. Every part of scripture is attached to some actual, real situation in life. In this verse is a perfect case in point. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, was saying to us that we can and should always be rejoicing in our acceptance in Christ and of God’s loving protection of us.
The apostle had been writing from prison to the church at Philippi, and he had written a VERY personal letter. Here is where he explained his own faith with some of the most profound utterances of the Christian faith ever made, and he also gave practical commands to them (and us) to follow:
Phil. 1:21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Phil. 1:29-30: For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Phil. 2:3-5: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…
Phil. 3:8: Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
As he ended his letter to the church he wanted to see them moving from friction within to rejoicing within – both rejoicing in their hearts and rejoicing in the fellowship.
But there was a problem – two women who were both true servants of Christ – Euodia and Syntyche – had a history of conflict (Phil. 4:2). Paul could relate to this because he had had conflict with Barnabas earlier. But he also saw the folly of it and the danger of it. Conflict between two people in the church tends to create divisions in the body. Most people may decide to stay out of it, but eventually, if the conflict is not resolved, it will divide the congregation.
So Paul’s words here are covered with worldly circumstances, they are dripping with reality. Like someone coming into the house still wet from the rain, these words speak of inner peace in the midst of the rain of accusations and disagreements in church. Well, we know that Christians are not perfect, and it is the nature of Christianity to seek the ideal and the perfect. But we tend to get confused often about what is the ideal in terms of the grace and peace of God and the way we live out the faith in our earthly circumstances.
It is one thing to agree together that Jesus is the only way to the Father. It is more difficult to agree on where we will put the visitors’ cards in the church vestibule. It is one thing to agree that Jesus has come that we might have life in abundant supply. It is another thing to agree what hour we should start the Wednesday night prayer time. So there are always issues where conflicts are easy to be experienced. We can agree in principle with very little problem, but to agree in the application of the principle is much more difficult.
But the important matter to consider for us today is the possibility of God’s eternal joy in our hearts constantly no matter what. Joy is a deep and profound idea and includes the confidence of the protection and goodness of God toward the believer. We can rest in Him with full confidence of His care and love for us. No matter what we can rejoice in Him. And we must rejoice in Him, because it is our rejoicing in Him that allows us to see how unimportant some issues are. Many of the things that churches and Christians talk about are not important at all. Some are VERY important, of course, but many don’t really matter that much.
But unless we can daily recognize the truth, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27), we will not be in shape to truly discuss anything. So today, stop and rejoice in Him. This confidence in Him, of His eternal love and of our acceptance in Him through Christ, is the source of our peace. And when inner peace rules our hearts then we can settle other issues much more efficiently.