Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7    

    Why do you celebrate in life? What gets you up out of your seat to give a little jig? What gets you excited? These are real questions that differ greatly among any person, group of people, and any church.

    Why do you rejoice in the Lord? What makes God so marvelous to you? Is it an attribute of God like his goodness, his kindness, or is His love? Does His righteousness and promise to make things right when everything seems to go wrong get you excited? Maybe God’s character is not what excites you because it is the awe of His power. He created everything and sustains it after all. Maybe it is His selflessness when it comes to you and me, He listens to us when we often fail to listen to Him.

    This is a little different. It has a lot less to do with others. It has a lot more to do with you. So, for this topic aim at looking at yourself. Do your best to not think about how this could be good to talk about with others. And, if you have had the privilege to dive into this text before, remember that study with fondness and determine to apply this text all the more to your particular life.

    These verses come at the end of a very weighty letter, a heavy reality checking section of scripture, and a petition from Paul toward two sisters in Christ and contenders with Paul and each other for the Gospel to have peace between the two of them.

    This is where you do have to take a moment and understand the context of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. And, it is essential to understand the overall flow and theme of this letter because in doing so you should be effectually challenged.

    Paul opens the letter saying, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:2… He goes on to thank God for the Philippians in all his prayers while in chains as a prisoner for defending the Gospel. He then goes on to speak about his confidence in them and Christ whether he dies or lives for Christ. He does all this while strongly commanding the Philippians to rejoice about Christ preached even as some aim to disgrace him and preach out of selfish ambition. This is still while he is in chains not knowing if he will suffer and die or live for Christ.

    He challenges the Philippians and all believers to have unity in Christ. To be of one accord. And, “in humility value others above yourselves” Only to command again that the people do all of this without grumbling or arguing in order to be a light for Christ in the midst of the darkness.

    Then we see Paul commend the Philippians that in any and all circumstances to have contentment. Well, how do you have contentment when everything around you has went into the pits. Well, of course it is through Christ. You can have contentment through Christ who strengthens you through everything.

    You can forgive, you can outdo one another in showing honor, you can find humility, you can rejoice in suffering and success through Christ who strengthens you!

    And so, Paul encourages two sisters in Christ who have proven their love for each other and the Gospel to find peace between the two of them in verse 4:3. This entire letter is about finding peace as a believer so that in all circumstances we can stand tall and rejoice in the Lord. I’ve heard it simply put this way, “If I have God and nothing else I the same as if I had the world and God because God is simply more than.”

Situations do not determine our ability to praise the Lord.

    One of the more interesting points in this letter is the difference of tone. The emphasis is not simply about putting up airs to give grace and save face for those outside for the church. Every section brings up some type of disunity among the believers.

    Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

    Paul tells the believers that in the midst of all of the turmoil outside of the body and the obvious turmoil and fighting in the body to rejoice. Rejoice in success, rejoice in failure, rejoice while you are attacked, rejoice while you wish you had others to rejoice with, and rejoice when those closest to you make you feel like saying, “y tu Brutus…”

    A commentary I have says, “The joy that Paul calls for is not a happiness that depends on circumstances but a deep contentment that is in the Lord, based on trust in the sovereign, living God, and that therefore is available always, even in difficult times.”[1] This rejoicing in the Lord has nothing to do with circumstance. Paul felt alone, abandoned, and even to some extent betrayed as seen throughout this letter, yet he commended the readers to rejoice.

    You are a real person with real struggles in life just like Paul. And yet, it almost seems like Paul in this letter is telling you and me that life’s circumstances of happiness and disaster are distractions from our rejoicing in the Lord.

    Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

We must be known for our gentleness.

    Now here is the tumultuous transition. It just feels impossible to make this simply about you doesn’t it. But, reflect on the second part of this statement. Let your gentleness be evident to all. After all that Paul has commended the believers to do throughout this letter for the sake of unity in Christ he insists on gentleness. He commends to believers at odds with each other to be gentle.

    This is the same Paul who had a “sharp disagreement” with his close brother in Christ and went two separate ways to share the Gospel. He is now commending us to be gentle. And, why must we be gentle? We must be gentle as evidence to all that we rejoice in all circumstances.

    This is no simple task. “The term “gentleness” (epieikes) was often used of an attitude of kindness where the normal or expected response was retaliation.”[2] Who wants to be gentle when it is time to fight or for flight. Who wants to be gentle when someone has provoked you. Certainly the Philippians with a garrison of soldiers ready to defend them would not have wanted their defenses to be gentle when provoked.

    Yet, we as believers with our hope set on gaining Christ are called to give kindness when receiving pain. We are called to celebrate the Lord when turmoil strikes our lives. And, in this passage in particular, as we display gentleness and while petitioning the Lord for aid we are commended to give thanks. Why?

Our God is bigger than anything!

    Why would we rejoice in all circumstances, why would be gentle so that others can see our reaction to attacks, and why would I ask God for help through the troubles of life with thanksgiving? We do these things because our God is great enough to bring us peace.

    Simply put, “The task is great; the power is equal to it.”[3] Scratch that, the task is great the power we have access to is greater than it!

    To rejoice in all circumstances is difficult enough, but for Paul to raise the stakes not once, but twice is even deeper. We are called to respond to others attacks even, and especially, those inside the church with gentleness because our God is bigger than any and all attacks made against us. That is the constant petition of the Psalms as well, so it is not unheard of in the Bible. Our God is greater than our present circumstance, fight, and enemy.

    This quote challenges our depth of peace found in Christ. And references the differences in our view of peace.

    “It would, therefore, be an unnatural constriction of Paul’s thinking to understand him as offering, say to Euodia and Syntyche, a peace powerful enough to master anxiety but impotent to mend their broken relationship, or to imagine him inviting them to lay hold of God’s strong peace only as an interior fortress and not also as an antidote to their ill-feeling towards each other. Surely it is also in these outward areas of demonstrable effectiveness that the peace of God is to become apparent as the mark of the supernatural on our lives.”[4]  Earlier the right prefaces with this, “The God of peace is the God of salvation who does away with sin by the cross of his Son.”[5]

    What is the depth of your God? What is the depth of your worship of God? A peace that is so strong it is able to grant you internal peace but does not effectual transform your peace with those around you, is impotent and ineffectual. If you cannot make peace with those around you so that they can know Christ, or if they are believers know Christ more, than the purpose of the Cross is lost on you. 

    Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

    This is no sweet or simply comforting statement or command. It is a call to remember who your God is. It is a call to remember what He has done for you as well as those who are with you. Rejoice, be gentle, have thanksgiving to God through your circumstances, and be at peace because the great God is guarding you.

    You are guarded. You have a stronghold. You have a promise to rest in the assurance of eternity with God. You have more in Christ than you would have if you had the whole world. Don’t forget what Jesus encouraged and challenged his disciples saying,

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. – Luke 6:20-28

Our belief in God’s greatness is displayed through our gentleness, restoration with others, and rejoicing in all circumstances.

    What we have may be in the future but who we have now is the God of angels and armies. We have a friend and protector. We have promise not simply for strength today, but the hope of future glory. Set your hearts and minds on the Lord God!

    It may have been a little misleading at the start of this when it stated that this topic was about you. It is about you. You are the focus of this discussion. Your actions and attitudes have a spotlight on you. How and why you get excited in life, what you rejoice about with fervor, and what drains you of that excitement have consequences on more than you.

    Your responses display who God is to you. Believing in Christ Jesus is to have someone greater than anything in all creation. You who have Christ Jesus have more than all of creation. And, you that have Christ Jesus have a greater experience of life, hope, and peace than any situational variance or fleeting pleasant experience can give you. But, do you embrace and feel that?

    All of this depends on who your God is. Is your God the God who created the universe and sustains it? Is your God the one from whom you were made in the image of? Is your God the God who had Joseph endure countless evils so that He could prepare His people to display His glory? Is your God the one who can speak through a flame in a bush and send plagues that could cripple nations for His people? Is your God one who sees you look at two impossible forces and says nothing is impossible for me and parts the sea only to swallow up the other problem behind you?

    Is your God the one who saw the desperation of His creation that He entered it to show His love through their torture of Him? Is your God the one who would send His own Spirit into you and me to give us hope and transform us from the inside out into imitators of the one whose image we represent?

    Is your God the one who promises more than eternity on a beach? Is your God the one you long to spend eternity with in Heaven? Or, is heaven simply about you? I tell you this with all heartfelt sincerity, your view of heaven gives you a greater understanding of your today and your view of God than what you say God is.

    As you gaze toward eternity, do you remember that the body of Christ you are with, and have been with, will be in eternity with God…and you? Rejoice always. Rejoice with each other in the God of the universe! Rejoice that your God is not simply a God of the past and the future, your God is the God of today!

    And, the God of today is about everyone’s eternity, are you?

    Get excited about what the Lord is doing! Get excited about what you are doing for the Lord! Get excited about how you can be a part of someone’s eternity with Christ through your gentleness, your selflessness, and your ability to rejoice in all circumstances because you know that Christ is more!

 

[1] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2286.

[2] Frank Thielman, Philippians, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 218.

[3] J. A. Motyer, The Message of Philippians, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 209.

[4] J. A. Motyer, The Message of Philippians, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 209–210.

[5] J. A. Motyer, The Message of Philippians, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 209.