Rejoice in the Lord Always!
Happy New Year! May 2021 bring you and your loved ones God’s peace, joy, and favor.
While we are still in a challenging season with the pandemic, we can enter this new year full of faith and optimism. Jesus has never lost control, and we can trust Him always, even in the most daunting of circumstances. In fact, as I will examine in today’s article, we have reason to rejoice always—despite circumstances we face now or in the future.
The last couple of weeks I examined the miraculous conception of Jesus and John the Baptist in a message series titled For With God Nothing is Impossible. Critics doubt the virgin birth, and many deny the possibility of miracles, but Jesus is still the God of the impossible! In our darkest hour, He is there, and we can trust Him completely. Remember this as we enter 2021—impossibility is the realm of the miraculous for our God!
When Mary asked the angel Gabriel how she would conceive Jesus since she was a virgin, Gabriel told her the power of the Holy Spirit would overshadow her. He confidently stated, “For with God nothing is impossible.”
In Luke 1:26-38, Christ’s birth is announced to Mary. But notice the angel Gabriel’s greeting in verse 28:
And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” NKJV
The English word rejoice is from the Greek word chaírō, which means “to rejoice,” “to be merry.” It can also be a morning greeting.
Gabriel commands her to rejoice. Why? The Lord is with her! The God of creation, the Lord of heaven’s host, the everlasting Father, the mighty God, the Prince of Peace is with you, Mary.
Do you realize, as a follower of Jesus, the Lord is with you?
You are born from above, raised together in new life with Christ. The Holy Spirit lives in you, God’s glory is all around you. In fact, God’s angels are sent to help his followers, those who are inheriting salvation (Heb. 1:14). Whether you “feel anything” or not, God is with you!
When the Lord is with you, you have every reason to rejoice! The deeper your love for Jesus, the easier it is to rejoice always. When He is your closest friend, His peace and joy overflow in your life.
Writing about our heavenly inheritance in Christ, Peter states that for the believer, even though we may not see Jesus, we rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory! (1 Pet. 1:8)
Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age!” (Matt. 28:20) You and I have every reason to rejoice—every day—because the Lord is always with us! Despite life’s circumstances, He is always near and ready to help in our time of need.
2020 was a challenging year. The pandemic caused death, suffering, and hardship on a global scale. Like many churches this year, our church family experienced disappointment, suffering, and loss due to the pandemic. That said, we have reason to rejoice—we have an eternal hope in Christ, a guarantee that will not fade or diminish because of earthly circumstances.
Jesus declared to the disciples the night He was betrayed that He was leaving them but going away to prepare a place for them. He told them He would send the comforter, the Holy Spirit to be in and with them. He then told them,
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NKJV
Jesus said in this world we would have troubles, but He emphasized that as we remain in Him, we have His peace and joy because He overcame the world and gave us the precious Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us.
The term “be of good cheer” means to be encouraged, to have comfort, or joy, to have a good spirit, to shout, to incite. In other words, be full of joy and at peace, because we are confident in His resurrection victory and our eternal inheritance!
Paul writes in Romans 8,
…If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31 NKJV)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom. 8:35 NKJV)
Then he makes this confident declaration, “I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” (Rom. 8:38-39 CEB)
Are you convinced that no external circumstance could separate you from God’s love in Jesus? That Jesus is with you always?
Your ability to rejoice during difficult situations is a prerequisite to abiding in the peace of Christ
Solomon tells us in Eccl. 3:1 “to everything there is a season…” There are seasons and times in our lives where we face difficulty, hardship, and loss. He would state in verse 4 there is a “time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…” (NKJV)
Isaiah tells writes of Jesus that He would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isa. 53:3 NKJV) For example, Jesus wept when He heard of the death of his friend Lazarus. He knew the sorrow his sisters Martha and Mary were enduring. He understood the sadness and suffering His friends were experiencing. He wept for them in their pain. Yet, He knew the miracle that would occur with Lazarus because Jesus is the resurrection and life.
Sorrowful people can experience joy, and joyful people can experience sorrow.
Jesus was also a man of joy. In Luke 10:21 Jesus rejoiced when the 70 returned with joy from ministry.
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” NKJV
Paul understood suffering, but he always rejoiced during the anguish. He wrote of his hardships and suffering in 2 Cor. 6, but then makes this confident assertion in verse 10, “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…”
My Mother’s Passing—An Opportunity to Rejoice despite the Sorrow
Seven years ago, my mother passed suddenly from colon cancer. Prior to her passing, she miraculously recovered from colon cancer and a colonoscopy. She was cancer-free for nearly three years. But just prior to her passing, she began to have pain and discomfort in her intestinal area. For three months, she discussed this with her doctors and to all our surprise they could find nothing wrong.
After the Christmas and New Year holidays, she checked herself into the hospital and told the doctors she was not leaving until they found out what was wrong. The next day, the Lord spoke to me during my quiet time, “Your mother has cancer, and her time is short.” This was not what I wanted to hear and ran contrary to my understanding of God as healer.
However, not all are healed, yet God is still a healer. I have seen many healings and miracles in my ministry and church, including some with cancer. But I have also seen many who have not received healing. In a similar manner, Jesus is Savior for all, yet not all will be saved. It does not make Him any less a savior.
The doctor ran tests, and discovered she was terminal with cancer. He came to my mother and gave her the news that she had mere weeks to live. This occurred a couple of days after the Lord revealed to me my mother’s condition. She called to give me the news, and I was prepared for what she shared. Soon after, which I discuss in my book Receive Your Miracle Now, the Lord gave me a vision of my mother being escorted by Jesus into heaven. He let me know again, her time was short. My mother lived for another six weeks and passed confident in Jesus because she knew her eternal inheritance in Christ.
As is the case with the passing of any loved one, our family grieved her loss—yet we also rejoiced, knowing as Paul said, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
A few days later, a sibling called and asked me this question. “Do you think we should sue the doctors for misdiagnosing her for so many months? Their mistake could have cost her treatment that would have saved her?” A legitimate question, but I quickly responded, “Mom beat cancer once, and for reasons we will never understand this side of heaven, she was not healed. Suing the doctors will do nothing. She is gone, and we need to live our lives confident of her eternal home and ours one day.” They responded, “You are right. It was a blessing she lived another three years after her first bout with cancer.” I said, “Exactly, that needs to be our perspective.” In that moment, any unforgiveness disappeared and life for us continued—in God’s peace and joy.
One of the stages of grief is anger. We need to grieve properly, and part of the process is to release the anger and forgive as needed. Sometimes when loss occurs, we shift blame on others. But there are many things in life beyond our control—as we have experienced this year with the COVID pandemic. We can blame others for the cause of COVID disease, suffering, and death. But in the end, we must forgive others, if we believe they have wronged us somehow, and refuse to allow unforgiveness and bitterness to take root in our lives (Heb. 12:15).
Principles of Rejoicing and Joy from Philippians
Paul wrote the epistle to the Philippian church while imprisoned in Rome. Philippians is Paul’s joy letter! Fifteen times rejoicing or joy is used.
Rejoicing in Paul’s cultural context would have meant public celebration. In his day, the pagans would organize great festivals, games, and shows to celebrate their gods and their cities. Paul is telling Christians familiar with this cultural practice, in like manner, you “Rejoice in the Lord!”
Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.” Phil. 3:1 NLT
Has it ever occurred to you that your ability to rejoice in the Lord protects your faith in Christ? Your ability to tap into the joy of the Lord helps you overcome in life. “Rejoice in the Lord Always. Again I will say rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4 NKJV)
Joy is found in our union with God through Christ, abiding in His presence. Paul states some powerful truths in Phil. 4:6-7 NLT,
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
The context of Paul writing this letter is from a Roman prison to believers who knew that he was imprisoned in their region earlier. Prior to his Rome imprisonment, he and Silas were jailed in Philippi (Acts 16:24-25). But at midnight, they chose to pray and worship to God.
Consider this: they were in the will of God, sent to Philippi by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. They cast a demon out of a girl, and then they were stripped and beaten. They were next cast into the innermost part of a prison, and their feet were fastened in stocks. They were still bleeding, and in much pain. Their response: Pray and Praise!
I would like to believe I would have that much faith and courage. The truth is, most of us would grumble and complain instead of rejoicing always. Paul and Silas prayed and worshipped, they received deliverance, and the jailor and his family were saved and baptized.
In Phil 4:6-7 Paul gives Four Principles to Abiding in God’s Peace and Joy:
- From your life in Christ—Rejoice always
- Refuse to worry—Pray instead
- In every circumstance—Be thankful
- THEN as you walk with Jesus rejoicing, praying, and remaining thankful, God’s peace will guard and protect your heart and mind!
You have an active role in participating with these truths and the Holy Spirit! Again, your ability to rejoice during trials is a prerequisite to abiding in the peace of Christ.
Why? Your focus is upon Jesus, because He is with you, you trust Him—period! When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you remain at peace because you know you can trust Him always. You realize that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning! (Ps 30:5)
Did you know that troubles in life are an opportunity for great joy?
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” Jam. 1:2-3 NLT
Troubles occur in life, how you respond to them is a key to whether you walk in victory or defeat—get better or become bitter. We become better when we can rejoice through the trials. We become bitter when we doubt God, get angry with Him, or blame others.
Troubles are opportunities for God to display through you the riches of His grace and glory. James did not say in this passage to rejoice because trials test your faith. Rather, he was stating “It is joy in the midst of trials that sustains you and produces endurance.”
To become stronger spiritually, you must learn to rejoice through all of life’s challenges.
Joy is not just a characteristic of kingdom life; it is a powerful spiritual force of the kingdom. Joy was the ability Jesus had to endure the cross (Heb 12:2). Joy is an enduring Kingdom quality that sustains a person through tough times.
Joy is a characteristic entirely different from happiness. Happiness depends on happenings, but real joy depends upon abiding in Jesus in the happenings of life.
Happiness can be fleeting as circumstances change. When you are truly abiding in Christ, His joy remains a constant, regardless of the circumstances.
Sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther said, “You will have as much joy and laughter in life as you have faith in God.”
Confident Faith is a Platform for Great Joy
I am sure the devil thought he had Paul and Silas “sidelined.” He probably was whispering in their ears “Give it up, God has left you!”
Perhaps you are imprisoned and suffering much pain due to life’s circumstances. Perhaps the devil has been whispering in your ear, “Give it up, there’s no hope, you’re in pain.” Remember, nothing and no one can separate you from your Father’s love. Believe today that God is for you, not against you. No one can take your birthright from you. You are a covenant child, and your Father loves you with an everlasting love.
You may not “feel” blessed today, but facts and feelings change. The truth is, you are blessed. The Father delights in you because of your faith in Jesus. On this truth, you can give thanks to God always—no matter what the circumstances may seem like.
Nothing and no one can separate you from your Father’s love. God is for you, not against you! As a follower of Jesus, you are a child of the King and your Father loves you with an everlasting love.
Celebrate and focus on the blessings and breakthroughs you are experiencing. Paul states this in Phil. 4:8 “Think on that which is good, pure, noble …” When you live conscious of what God has done and is doing in your midst, you prosper, and peace and joy flow easily in your life.
Your joy flows from your faith and trust in Christ. Learn to rest completely on His word and promises. Learn to rejoice, pray, and thank God always! Praise changes the atmosphere!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Rejoice in the Lord Always!”
 Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 1299.