Updated: Aug 3
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)
In church last Sunday, we went over the passage that includes this verse to finish our study in Philippians. Philippians 4:4 can be found on Christmas cards from forever, and Christmas is one of my favorite seasons. A time of laughter, good cheer, presents both given and received, family… and of course, celebrating the birth of the Messiah. It’s easy in that light to say “Rejoice!”
But what does the word really mean? One can see a sort of root of “joy” in it, which makes sense for the season. According to Google, the Greek word it’s translated from means “to rejoice, be glad, full of joy.” Joy and rejoice have the same Greek root word, which is also related to the Greek for “grace.” And overall, the terms can sometimes be used as a greeting, such as “be well” or “thrive.”
In this one verse, God, through Paul, repeats the word twice. The words “joy” and “rejoice” are used 16 times throughout Philippians. The way it’s written is like a command: “In the Lord always, be glad! Be full of joy! Thrive!” And like every command, it’s a struggle. It was a struggle for the Jews to follow the Ten Commandments and Mosaic law, and rejoicing wouldn’t be easy for Christians following Jesus, either. Circumstances can be difficult, and rejoicing may not be the forefront of your mind. That’s all part of the spiritual battle.
“Rejoice” as a command, though it sounds simple, is probably one of the harder ones for me. It feels like I must try harder to be “happy” in God. That’s the association I somehow made to that word; it’s something that I can choose to feel and do because it sounds so simple. And we all know how our feelings are tied into our circumstances. However, my quick little search on the internet causes me to pause because of the relationship to the word “grace.” There’s the main point: there’s nothing more to do after accepting Christ but to receive that grace, and thus my joy, in the Lord. Grace is freely given, releasing us to thrive in Christ. In Millennial-speak that would also be known as “Live your best life” in Christ!
What does “to rejoice” look like for me, knowing this meaning? To rejoice in the Lord is to lean into and be glad or conscious of that grace, both in good and bad circumstances. It’s to live knowing that through grace, nothing separates me from God’s all-powerful, all-knowing love (Romans 8:38-39). “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). In other words, it’s Jesus. It’s the Good News, the BEST news, and the reason for the season! Rejoice!