"Finally, my brothers, (uh, sisters), rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me and it is a safeguard to for you." Philippians 3:1
I must have read the book of Philippians a hundred times before I saw the last clause of this verse. Rejoicing as a safeguard. Whatever could the Apostle have meant by that?
God is certainly serious about rejoicing......commentaries tell me that "rejoice in the Lord" is mentioned nearly 200 times in Scripture. Let's unpack what He means, why it's important, and how it is a "safeguard for us".......
What does it mean to "rejoice"? To find joy? I think it's as simple as it sounds - being happy and satisfied and content and pleased.
We all want to be happy and satisfied. All of us. We pursue it, whether we realize it or not. To quote one more wise (and famous!) than I -
. Blaise Pascal, who saw that "all men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. . . . The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves"
Some Christians think that seeking to be happy is wrong. That we should just want to be holy. (Note to self: those are hard friends to have fun with!) I don't think that's God's perscpective - He made us to long for happiness. He even commands us to be happy! And He lovingly guides us to the source of immutable happiness....Himself. Finding our joy is who He is.....that's what "rejoicing in the Lord"means.
Why is it important? Well, back to those folks that think we should just be holy -- do they make you long for a deeper walk with Christ? Mmmm, didn't think so. I like what John Piper says - "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." Joy in the Lord is magnetic. It draws others, not really to us, but to the source of the force field within us.....Jesus. And that honors the Lord.
But rejoicing in the Lord is not only about Him. Or others. That's where the "safeguard" part comes in. It is for us. Since we are designed to seek happiness, we are going to do it....automatic pilot, sort of. The decision on our part isn't whether we will seek to be happy but rather where we are going to find that joy. Being satisfied....content.....happy....joyful in the Lord means I don't need to find it anywhere else. Not in other relationships or possessions or status or circumstances. When those things "all line up", they are just icing on the cake. But when they don't, my joy is not threatened. And if I can grasp the Truth that those things really can't deliver on the "joy" promise like Christ can, then I don't wear myself out trying to get them to.
Here is how God explains it through Moses, in Deuteronomy 28:47-48 - "Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart . . . therefore you shall serve your enemies" . And that's exactly what happens. When we aren't satisfied in the Lord, we wind up a slave to whatever else we think will make us happy. Beauty. The opinions of others. Material gain. Whatever promises to make us feel valued or loved or accepted. Unlike our powerful Heavenly Father, those things are hard masters. They demand our time and affection....and yet they don't make good on their promise. Any happiness we find is temporary, subject to unceasing demands to give more, more, more of our time or energy or emotion. And yet delivering less, less, and less happiness.
So that's what the "safeguard" part of that verse means. Finding my joy in the Lord keeps me from looking for it in all the wrong places.
Rejoice, sisters, rejoice!
This post originally appeared on February 15,2013