Sunday, July 15, 2007

How to Rejoice Always

Rejoice always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
The Greek word used here for “rejoice” means to be glad, full of cheer, joyful. Paul tells us not only to rejoice, but to rejoice always — to always be full of cheer and gladness.

How is that possible? We find Paul saying that same thing in his letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:6). Notice the prepositional phrase “in the Lord.” The kind of joy Paul is talking about is supernatural — the joy of the Lord. Nehemiah said, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

This joy is an inside job; it does not come from outward circumstances. Real joy is not based on what is happening around you, but on what is happening in you. You can have the greatest joy in the worst of situations, and that joy will be the strength you need to prevail in the hardest of adversities.

We receive this joy, first of all, through faith in Jesus Christ, who came that we might reconciled to God. Through faith in Him we receive the new birth, born of heaven by the Holy Spirit. By that birth, we are born into the kingdom of God, and that has everything to do with joy. For one thing, Jesus said that when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, everything else will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33). For another, the Bible tells us that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

The kingdom of God is full of joy because the Spirit of God is the source of joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). If you know Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you; if you have the Holy Spirit, then you already have the fruit of the Spirit at work in you. It may not yet be apparent in your life, but it is a work in you, ready to be released.

How do you release this joy of the Lord in your life? You release it by yielding to it, and since it is a fruit of the Spirit, you yield to it by yielding to the Spirit. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul put it this way:
Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Let the Holy Spirit fill you, control you, lead you. Then you will be filled with so much joy, you will not be able to contain it all, but it will overflow to others. Your heart will be filled with gratitude and your mouth with praise, regardless of whatever difficulties you may be facing.

True and lasting joy is all about God. David said, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). In Jesus Christ, God is present in us by His Spirit, and when we yield to the Spirit, that presence begins to manifest in our lives. Not only that, but Paul tells us that we are seated in the heavenlies in Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 2:6). When we become aware of who we are in Jesus Christ, and where we are seated in Him, it is hard not to rejoice.

Father, I thank You for Jesus Christ, who came to save me and make me Yours. I thank You that I am already seated in the heavenly places in Him, at Your right hand, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore. I thank You that the fruit of joy is already at work in me through the Holy Spirit. I yield to Your Holy Spirit of Joy, and I thank You in Jesus’ name, Amen.