Yesterday we talked about giving thanks in all circumstances. Today I want to continue that theme but include rejoicing. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18) I have believed that we rejoice when we are happy, which is a feeling. Our circumstances and our feelings are not why we should rejoice in the Lord and be thankful. Our rejoicing and thankfulness is because of who HE is and what HE has done. I found the following article from Steven J. Cole at Bible.org that shows that rejoicing in the Lord is a choice.
Everyone wants joy in life. On the surface, Paul’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4) are some of the simplest in Scripture to read and understand. But when you scratch beneath the surface, they raise a pile of questions: Is it really possible to rejoice always? What does this mean? We need to recognize that what Paul commands here is not just a cheerful disposition, which many have by nature, but rather something that requires supernatural power–it is joy in the Lord. And, while we may never perfectly attain such joy in this troubled world, Paul repeats the command for emphasis, as if to say, “It is possible, so don’t shrug off what I am saying.” His emphatic words show us … Abiding joy in the Lord should be the aim of every Christian.
Philippians 4:4 is a commandment, repeated twice for emphasis, so that we will not shrug it off. It is a command that we must deliberately choose to obey, especially when we’re in difficult circumstances. It has to do with our attitude which depends on our mental focus which depends on our choice. The choice to rejoice often must go deliberately against how we feel. When we go through trials, when we’re treated unfairly, when we’re disappointed by people or circumstances, we are faced with a decision: Will we obey this command to rejoice in the Lord or will we allow ourselves to be swept along by our feelings?
I just wish that Paul had been more realistic and had said, “Rejoice most of the time”! But if he had said that, most of us would have justified ourselves by thinking, “I usually do rejoice.” But we wouldn’t have had to confront our grumbling and complaining when things don’t seem to go our way; our lack of trust in God in the midst of trials; our anger when we’re treated unfairly; our disappointment when people let us down or, to be honest, when we feel that God has let us down.
We see this choice to rejoice illustrated in Paul’s life in this very epistle. He has been incarcerated for well over two years and is facing possible execution because the Jews in Jerusalem falsely accused him of bringing Gentiles into the temple and of stirring up rebellion against the Jewish people and their Law (Acts 21:28). Not only that, but on the way to Rome Paul had gone through a shipwreck at sea. Once he arrived, many of the pastors in Rome were not only distancing themselves from Paul the prisoner, but were preaching out of envy, selfish ambition, and strife (Phil. 1:15, 17). Paul had good reason to be angry and depressed at the treatment he had received over the past few years. You would think that he would have been in need of the Philippians writing to cheer him up. But instead, this short letter to them is filled with joy (15 x). As Paul’s words in 1:18 show, his joy was not an automatic feeling, but rather a deliberate choice: “… in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.”
Though our hearts may be heavy with sorrow or grief because of trials, beneath the surface is the abiding confidence that our God is sovereign and that our lives are in His hand, so that not even the hairs of our heads fall to the ground without His knowledge. Paul had learned to be content in every situation (Phil. 4:11-13). “Every situation” for Paul included some severe trials, in some cases where he despaired even of life. But this, he writes was “in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;” then he adds, “He on whom we have set our hope” (2 Cor. 1:8-10).
This joy in the Lord which we must aim for is not a superficial happiness based on circumstances or on the absence of trials, but rather is a solid, abiding contentment and hope that is as steady and certain as our faithful God who has given us His promises in His Word. Our Lord Jesus knew that joy even as He faced the cross (John 15:11; 17:13). The apostles knew that joy when they were flogged for preaching the gospel, and they went on their way “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Paul and Silas knew that joy when they were unjustly thrown in the Philippian jail, their backs torn open, their feet in the stocks, as they sang hymns of praise to God (Acts 16:25). Many martyrs, like John Hus, knew that joy. He died singing praises in the flames as his enemies gloated.
God intends for every believer to know this same joy in the Lord, especially in difficult times. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and the Bible is filled with commands, such as our text, to rejoice (Ps. 5:11; 33:1; 64:10). It’s a matter of obedience, not of temperament. If we’re constantly depressed and weighed down with care, we’re not attractive advertisements for our Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t be effective leaders in the church or godly examples to our families if we are dominated by depression. So we must work at developing this abiding joy in the Lord. How?
In Galatians 5:16 Paul says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” He goes on to catalog some sins that characterize the flesh. There is a direct correlation between many of those sins and depression. Then Paul lists the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). To walk by the Spirit means to live in moment-by-moment submission to the indwelling Holy Spirit, saying no to self and yes to the Lord. It means to trust in the sufficiency and power of the Spirit because you distrust your own ability (see Prov. 3:5). As we learn to walk by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, including joy, will grow in our lives. So if you want God’s abiding joy, you’ve got to walk in submission to His sovereign Spirit.
Many Christians get depressed because they do not understand God’s purpose in trials or they do not mentally deal with their trials in the light of God’s Word. Often it can start with a simple disappointment–something you hoped would happen didn’t happen. Someone you were counting on let you down. A situation you were hoping and praying for did not come about. If you don’t consciously yield your disappointment to the Lord and thank Him by faith, trusting in His sovereign love, you can slip into depression. Satan often comes to you in a moment of disappointment and tempts you to doubt God’s loving care. Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, casting our cares on Him, and to resist the devil, firm in our faith, in such times of trial (1 Pet. 5:5-11).
The Christian life is a walk of faith, of trusting in things not seen, not of “getting in touch with your feelings.” Peter wrote to Christians going through intense trials, “… though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Or, as Paul wrote, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
Source: The Choice to Rejoice