Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rejoicing in the Lord ~ Always!

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:4-5)
The believers at Philippi have been experiencing increasing persecutions from outside the church as well as tensions from within. Paul has dealt with both of those realities, each in turn. Now he offers some brief comments that are broad enough to address both sets of circumstances, as well as many other troubles besides.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” You can’t get more emphatic than that. There is always joy! Always. This is not some glib saying Paul serves up to paste a good face on a difficult situation. It is the reality he lives in, regardless of whatever else is going on in his life or in the world. The joy of the Lord is our strength and it is bigger than the world.

Paul frequently speaks of joy. The word for “rejoice” is found about thirty-three times in his letters, eleven times in the book of Philippians alone. The word for “joy” comes up about twenty-four times overall, including five times in Philippians. Look at a few of the occurrences in this present letter and notice what his joy is centered on.
  • “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (1:18).
  • “Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (2:16).
  • “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (2:17).
  • “For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me” (2:18).
  • “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (3:3).
“Let your gentleness be known to all.” No one English word captures all of what is meant by the Greek word epieikes, here translated as “gentleness.” It is a word that speaks of a having a sense of proportion and balance for the give-and-take of life. It is patient, decent, gracious. Some of the more expansive translations put it this way:
  • “Let your sweet reasonableness, your forbearance, your being satisfied with less than your due, become known to all men” (Wuest, The New Testament: An Expanded Translation).
  • “Let everyone see that you are gentle [kind; considerate; patient]” (The Expanded Bible).
  • “Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit)” (The Amplified Bible).
This is how we ought to be with all people, whether they are fellow believers with whom we have differences, or with those outside the church who might consider us as enemies — even those who want to persecute us. Epieikes is the same Greek word that is used in the ancient Greek translation of one of the apocryphal books, where wicked men conspire against one of the righteous and say: “Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle [epieikes] he is, and make trial of his forbearance” (Wisdom of Solomon 2:19, RSV). The world is watching how we live, how we act and how we respond to adversity. Let us always show the gentle and patient forbearance of the Lord Jesus.

“The Lord is at hand.” In the give-and-take of personal relationships, we will never come up short, no matter how much we give, because the Lord is always with us. When we are experiencing persecution or other adversity, we can meet it with patience and forgiveness and faith — to a degree beyond our own natural capacity! — because God is with us, enabling us to desire His good will and empowering us to do it. We do not need to seek revenge or try to settle accounts on our own, because God sees what is going on and will set things right at the appropriate time.

Focus Questions
  1. Where did the apostle Paul find his joy? What was it centered on?
  2. Where and how do your find your joy?
  3. What is the connection between joy and “gentleness” (epieikes)?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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  1. Jeff, I pray that members of our group on Facebook see this and take your important word to heart as they write in any genre. Just reposted your URL on the Christian Poets & Writers blog. God bless.

  2. Anonymous3:07 AM

    This is the second time in little over 48 hours that this passage has been brought to my attention.
    That alone must be telling me something, surely.
    Thanks for filling in the extra meaning of the words - much appreciated.
    And thanks, Mary, for forwarding the link.