I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend to every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how much I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. George Mueller  

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Phil 3:1
I think I am on solid ground to suggest that one of the leading problems of our culture is that people have lost their joy. By that I mean we have created a culture that is never satisfied, always looking for a new and more lasting experience. The search for satisfaction never ends. It is partially caused by a media which employs attractive models, backed up with exciting music, to tell us that if we don’t purchase the latest cell phone, own newest car or take the wildest vacation ever, we are somehow depriving ourselves. It has almost become a moral imperative to cram into our greedy hands as many things as we can grasp. To not follow that path is to fail to live up to our “divine right.”

At the same time, we know that that life is much more serious and deadly than attaining the newest application for I-pad. There is real evil all around us. There are terrible problems facing us that seem to have no solution. We are constantly reminded of that in our community where we may have hate filled terrorists, crazed gunmen, drunk drivers, cancer victims and abused children. The fact of the matter is that life is a struggle and the exclamation point to that truth is that we all die. Dreams and drugs can drown out that reality for a time, but we can never escape the inevitability of death.

The media does not help us with this. Television tells us that all our problems can be solved quickly with the help of technology, techniques and chemistry.  It offers us a seemingly unending offering of amusements to keep us from getting too down on what is happening around us. Neil Postman points out that the very word “amusement” means to “not” [alpha privative] “think.” He says that by failing to face life as it really is and by avoiding its challenges through entertainment, we are “amusing ourselves to death.” Indeed, we are becoming a culture of death. In spite of all things we have, many are bored, disappointed, depressed and in despair. One suicide victim left behind this tragic note: “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”

How different should be the outlook of the heart of every believer! That is the sense of Paul’s admonition: “Rejoice in the Lord.” Nine times in four chapters Paul uses the word “rejoice.” In the natural, this is a strange word coming from Paul. He writes as a prisoner and is in chains for being faithful in preaching the Gospel. [1:12-14] Where we might be tempted to whimper in self-pity, Paul sees his imprisonment as a divinely appointed opportunity to witness to the all-satisfying glory of Jesus Christ.

Paul was not only in chains, there were some, motivated by selfish ambition, using Paul’s imprisonment to advance their own prestige. How would we respond if we found ourselves in a similar situation? I know what I would do and I have done it. I would feel sorry for myself. I would make sure that everybody knew that my “competition” not only had bad motives, but any results they were having were probably shallow and without any lasting consequences. What was Paul’s response? Here it is in his own words: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” [Phil 1:18] He had one motivation that dominated his life and that was the manifestation of the beauty that radiated from Jesus Christ. Confident that the Lord would see to it that his name would be glorified in his life, no matter what came his way, he was confident he would continue to rejoice. [18]    

Now, Paul turns to his friends in Philippi. He sees problems coming from two sources. First, they will face the same troubles he has experienced. Later he would write, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [2 Tim 3:12-13] Rejoicing and affliction are part of the deal. The first challenge would come from the world. The second attack would come from within the church. False teachers having their own selfish agendas would shift the focus from Christ to their version of fools gold.

In both cases, the solution is the same. “Rejoice in the Lord.” In persecution, we remember what God has done for us. He went to the cross, rose from the dead, vanquished every power, and now rules in heaven for us!. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, nothing! Our past is forgiven. Our present is secure. Our future is sure. Christ has promised to be with us and to give us the strength to meet any challenge. Even when we are struggling and in great darkness we can testify with Paul that we may be “sorrowful but we are also “rejoicing.” [2 Cor. 6:10]

Although false teachers might not seem to pose the same kind of threat, they are just as dangerous as our persecutors. It is the truth, held on to [John 8:31-32] and contended for [Jude 3] and acted on enables us to overcome the evil one. [1 John 2:14]  It is right doctrine that reveals to us the Christ of the Bible. When we know the Jesus of the Bible, nothing can shake our confidence. So, the more time we spend in the Word of God, the more reasons we will have to celebrate and “rejoice in the Lord.”

Perhaps some of you are saying, “Ho hum, we know this. We have heard all this before.” The Philippians had also heard it before. But Paul says, “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again.” Why? We need to be reminded of the promises and provisions of God. we are given to forget and when we do, we get sidetracked and confused. So, Paul calls for believers to, ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.

But God’s word is not chained.” [2 Tim 2:8-10] It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, known, remembered, and believed, that is our strength and joy even when we are chained in prison.
Joy will not just come to us. We must fight for it. It is not just a nice feeling. It is a safeguard for us. When the joy of the Lord is our strength We win and God is glorified. When God’s Word rules over our fears we will say with the psalmist, “0 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise —  in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” [Ps 56:10-11]