Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord!
I suppose if you wanted to sum up Christianity in four words this would be the best possible phrase you could use: rejoice in the Lord. This is the mark of spiritual life, of a truly spiritual Christian. It is the distinctive sign of a victorious Christian. It is the one attitude that invariably brings peace and contentment to the heart. Therefore, it is the one thing Paul repeats over and over and over again: rejoice in the Lord. He knows he has said this many times before, and he will say it two more times before he ends this letter. But it is so important, he says, that he doesn’t mind saying it as many times as necessary, and it’s safe for them to hear it.
As we saw earlier in this letter, Paul pointed out the opposite as well. The sign of unbelief in the Christian life is always grumbling and disputing. Do all things, he says, without grumbling and questioning, because that is the sign of an unbelieving believer, who doesn’t believe what God is telling him. The mark of one who has learned to believe is rejoicing. Remember that definition of a Christian we have given from time to time: one who is completely fearless, continually cheerful, and constantly in trouble. It is the continual rejoicing in the midst of trouble that marks the Christian life.
It is a remarkable commentary on Christian unbelief that the mark the world usually associates with a Christian is not a smile but a long face. This being the case, it reveals how little we believe in the God we love. You remember that story of the little girl who first saw a mule in the countryside. She looked at it for quite a while, then she said, I don’t know what you are, but you must be a Christian. You look just like my grandfather. Unfortunately, the mark of a Christian has become a sober, solemn mien, casting gloom on every occasion. This isn’t real Christianity. The mark of a true Christian is a smile of confidence, despite the circumstances. Not a screwed on smile, one that is forced, to appear something we are not, but a genuine smile, sometimes through tears, but a smile nevertheless. It comes as a result of acceptance of all events as ordered by the Lord. That’s the secret. It arises from a quiet trust in his indwelling adequacy to handle whatever comes. It is living out of adequacy. Living out of inadequacy is what puts the frown on people’s faces. It is trying to face the inrushing tumult of life with inadequate resource. This strain shows in the face. But if we genuinely believe what God tells us, that we have within us one who is completely competent to meet every situation through us, there is never any strain, for whatever comes we know he is adequate to meet it in and through us. We rest on that fact, and that is the quiet confidence that marks the Christian.
There is nothing new about this experience. It is the experience of the believer in any age. When we learn this secret we discover there are mysterious bridges flung over every abyss to which we come. An invisible strength is imparted to meet every stress life lays on us. No matter how long you have been a Christian, if you are still grumbling and complaining, griping and grouching about what life gives you, you need to be taught again what are the first principles, the ABC’s, of the gospel of Christ.
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I rejoice in you, Lord. Thank you that you have put a smile in my heart because I know that you are Lord and I can trust you for even the most challenging aspects of my life.
While the world seeks happiness, the Christian finds Joy in knowing and trusting the character of God. Are we missing out on that heritage because we fail to seek to know Him through His character revealed in His Word?