Monday, January 31, 2011

Rejoice in the Lord

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. (Philippians 3:01, NKJV).

In the verse above, and later in the last chapter of this letter to the Philippians, Paul encourages his readers to "rejoice", to be "exceedingly glad", in the Lord. Although at first glance sometimes, this may appear difficult, when we take a second to fully understand what the apostle is saying, it becomes, in reality, a piece of cake. No, a whole cake, or whatever else your favorite desert might be.

Yes, we are also encouraged elsewhere to be thankful in, and for, everything, but that only makes any sense at all, if we understand first Who is irrevocably on our side, and sovereignly in control of everything - which brings us back to the first paragraph.

I admit to being cynical and skeptical of the things of this world, and of the motivations and actions of its inhabitants. I would count myself a fool not to be, given my age and personal experience. Gullibility is not a prerequisite for being a Christian, despite how we are usually portrayed by our post-modern cultural elites. And I include my own motivations and actions in these caveats, as well. I am told by God in His word that the human heart, every human heart, is desperately wicked. That seat of our will and emotion is a labyrinth of deception and conceit, and is irremediably damaged by our own fallenness. So much so, that when we are saved, we require a new heart by God Himself, with the old heart of stone removed.

But when it comes to Paul's multiple encouragements to be exceedingly glad in the Lord, there is no room for cynicism or doubt, not because of us or our circumstances, but because of Him. 

Look, it doesn't matter what is happening here on earth. Whatever chaos or joy, life or death, loss or gain, hardship or ease, is irrelevant in this regard. The Lord is good. The Lord is forever. The Lord Omnipotent reigns! Because of Him we live, and nothing can interfere with His perfect will for His children. Because of Him, because of Who He is, and how He is, when we see Him in all His goodness and love and power, we cannot help but have our hearts leap for joy, like the babe John in Elizabeth's ancient womb.

It is not happiness in view here, but unmitigated joy, and that joy is the ocean of life upon which He desires His children to dwell.

But when we forget His greatness, when we lose sight of His power, when we become immersed in the muck and mire of daily living in a dark and often dreadful world, then we fall into needless, and useless, despair.

That is why Paul tells us that for him to write the same things repeatedly to his people is not tedious, either for him or them, because it provides safety against the storms of emotion and events that can sometimes swirl around us, threatening to overtake us and carry us away into places and states of mind we need not go.

Everything in this world comes to an end. It doesn't matter how rich you are, or how beautiful, powerful, influential, protected, or comfortable. Your circumstances, your very life, could change in an instant. It is no accident that the Bible tells us our lives are vapor, our days like grass, here today, withered and gone the next. You can put your head in the sand, remain frenetically busy, concern yourself endlessly with the inconsequential details and tedium of daily living, or you can focus on things above, where your true citizenship as a child of God resides.

And when you do that, when you gaze upon the beauty and majesty of the everlasting God, you can rejoice and be exceedingly glad, because in Him is no darkness at all. In Him there is no shadow or turning. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And He loves you with an everlasting love, and has purchased you forever with the blood of His Son on the Cross.

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:10, 11, NKJV).