Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”
Unable to go to the Philippian church in person because he is in prison, Paul writes, calling them to life of continual praise. For Paul this is more than just a pesky predicament, its prison, the loss of his friends and his freedom. But for Paul his focus is not on the problems but the praise, using the words joy and rejoice over 15 times in this short letter. Praise lets us see past our present predicament and focus on the joy instead of the junk.
- Praise sees the Person of Jesus not the pain
Paul reminds us that our rejoicing is in Christ not our circumstances, rejoicing is a result of relationship not religion. The peace of Christ is greater than any predicament we may face. Paul’s Prison cell didn’t limit the Lord, Christ was not chained down because of Paul’s circumstances. I love Corrie ten Boom response when she was released from Ravensbrück concentration camp after being arrested and imprisoned by the Natis, and later learning that her release had been a clerical error, “God does not have problems — only plans.” Today many have replaced the joy of relationship with ritual, stuck in a rut, or wrapped up in the rules of religion. We have traded following Christ for a formula, but relationship is not a recipe we religiously repeat. It’s not about measuring and mixing the right stuff, it’s about the Savior and living together in His light and love. We have traded communion with Christ for convenience, buying into a ready bake religion instead of a relationship. Surrounding ourselves with comfort and preferring a problem free life over the present peace of the Lord. In this life we will have pain but Paul reminds us of a powerful truth, we have a choice to rejoice. We may not be able to remove the chains of our current circumstance but we do not have to be bound by the bars of bitterness. This is a call to choose Christ over the crisis, to be motivated by the Master and not the misery. Christians are the victorious not the victims, we are His royal priesthood not raged paupers, we are the redeemed not the ruined. We need to stop living like losers; we need to look to the Lord, to believe in God and let Him guide, not fate, or some uncontrollable force. This is not a seasonal summer joy that is stolen away and swallowed in the snows of winter. No this is a life style of joy, a chorus of choosing Christ. The choice to rejoice is ours every day and to refuse to choose is in itself a choice. Our greatest work is worship, praise that proclaims the power of our King, so we must go to work regardless of the weather. Seasons come and seasons go, circumstances change, but our praise should persist.
- Praise sees the possibilities not the problems
The apostle Paul wasn’t blind to the problems in the church at Philippi, he knew about the people problems like Euodia and Syntyche who were quarreling. But problems will always be a part of life and we can let them control and consume us or we can look past them to the possibilities. Chuck Swindoll once said, “We all are faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” We all see the problems but do we see the possibilities? The key to dealing with our problems is perspective. When the Israelite soldiers saw Goliath, they saw someone so big he couldn’t be beat, but David saw someone so big that he couldn’t miss. While the soldiers focused on Goliath, David focused on God, giving him a greater perspective. A proper perspective results in praise, you are either going to focused on the size of your problem and feared or focus on the Father and praise. There is a story that is told about two shoe salesman that were sent to Africa. One sent a message home that said: “Get me home, nobody here wears shoes.” The other salesman’s sent a message that read: “Send me all of the shoes you can, nobody here wears shoes.” So what is it that you see? Are you caught up in the problems or the possibilities?
- Praise lets us see people in relation to their potential
The Philippian Christians were dear to Paul and as he writes to them he says: “I thank God every time I remember you” Philippians 1:3. How do you see people? Do you see them primarily as a problem, or in relation to their potential? Jesus saw the potential in people, encouraging them to become the persons God created them to be. Often the disciples looked more like a dangerous disaster than the dream team. They were often childish, careless and cowards, yet Jesus chose to journey with them, to lead and love them. Praise gives us more than just a positive outlook it gives us a people perspective, allowing us to see past the pathetic and view the potential. Am I looking at the mess or the most in people? Ministry is messy, but praise lets us mentor the most in people, to draw out what can’t be seen and cultivate what is rough until it becomes ripe. What we believe about others will overflow in our behavior toward them. Are you despising or developing, complaining or cultivating? Praise gives us a proper perspective allowing us to view people through the vehicle of potential. How do you relate in your relationships, Paul chose a pep talk over a put down.
- Praise sees the present in relation to God’s promises
If you’re not careful, you can get stuck in the prison of your present problems. Many today are trapped by their jailhouse attitude, living in regret instead of rejoicing. Rather than self-pity Paul chose praise, fixing his mind on things above instead of below, as he pressed on toward the goal. Nothing alters our attitude more than praise. There will always be high and low points and even though we may have no control over your altitude we do over our attitude. What happens in you is more important than what happens to you. When we see the present in relation to the promises, we are able to hold onto the hope that our future is in God’s hands. Promises protect our hearts from our heads, allowing us to spend our time in devotion not doubt. Promises let us operate above the problems, positioning us in the present and preparing us for what is to come. Praise will fuel your life like a fire and take you father. Today no matter what the prison choose to praise, let joy rattle the chains of your circumstance. Clap your shackle hands, jumping for joy in your jail, lift high your hands and hold onto the promises of God.