“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Unable to go to the Philippian church in person because he is in prison, Paul writes and calls them to a life of continual praise. That means praising in the problems not just when everything is going well. But this is the challenge how to keep a perspective of praise during the difficult times. Our human tendency is to stop worshipping and start whining when things don’t go our way. As you look back on this challenging year how much were you focused on praise and how much on the problems? Paul understood problems, his situation was more than just a pesky predicament, its prison, the loss of his friends and his freedom. But for Paul his focus was not on the problems but the praise, as he used the words joy and rejoice over 15 times in this short letter. Praise is the filter that lets us see our past or present predicaments and focus on the joy instead of the junk. How you might ask? First:
- 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 lifestyle 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. What are you currently focusing on the problems or the person of Jesus?