How do you respond when you are going through difficulties in life? Do you let the hard times get you down? Are you the same person when things are going right and when things are going wrong?
We all have opportunities every day to get upset and lose our joy. I hear people say, “I would be happy if my spouse treated me better. Or if I would be happy if I got a job. I would be happy if my children behaved well.” Then there are other things that hinder our joy – financial struggles, stress, people, circumstances etc. There will always be something that can steal our joy. Amid the ups and downs of life do you live hopeless and sad in life or does God’s joy sustain you?
1 Thessalonians 5:16 | Rejoice Always
Greek: pantote chairete (always be rejoicing)
It is a command: “Rejoice always.” This command is unambiguous, clear, not in need of much interpretation.
There is no event or circumstance that can occur in the life of any Christian that should diminish that Christian’s joy. God wants us to be joyful.
“Joy is the flag which is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there.” Robert Rainey
To rejoice is not an isolated command in the scripture:
Philippians 3:1 Rejoice in the Lord.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Even when we go through grief, it does not negate a believer’s inner joy.
2 Corinthians 6:10 Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
In Jesus’ final time with His disciples in John 13 to 17, the Upper Room Discourse, He mentions “joy” and “full joy” some eight times. In the night of His betrayal that Jesus reminds them repeatedly of joy, that they are to be joyful.
So the theme of joy was on the heart of Jesus the last night. It was part of His legacy as He left His disciples the promises of all the resources of heaven at their disposal, even though He was gone and the coming of the Holy Spirit, there was reason for them to rejoice.
In Philippians, which is apostle Paul’s prison epistle, Joy is mentioned some 16 times.
Joy is continually stressed throughout the New Testament. Throughout the book of Acts we find the disciples and apostles rejoicing that they were counted privileged to suffer persecution for the cause of Christ. We find joy as the emphasis in the Epistles.
Even in times of great adversity, we called to this consummate joy. In the beatitudes in Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Greek – Makarioi: Happy
So, even in persecution and trials we can find joy that can never be taken away.
Paul says in Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you….
In fact, James emphasizes, James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
1 Peter 1:6-7 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Rejoice Always Does Not Mean That You Will Not Feel Sad.
The Bible is realistic and yet balanced. We must look at the scripture in total. Do you know that the shortest verse in the Greek NT is 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, but the shortest verse in the English NT is John 11:35, Jesus wept? They are not contradictory. Jesus could weep and yet have the joy. Even when Jesus faced the cross he could have joy. John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy maybe in you and that your joy maybe complete.
Paul commands us in Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
So when Paul says ‘rejoice always,’ it does not mean that we will not feel sad. We enjoy God’s joy even in the midst of severe trials. Often in the Psalms we can find that the psalmist is overwhelmed by grief and sorrow, yet when he focuses on God, by the time you come to the end of the psalm, he is experiencing God’s joy even in the midst of tremendous pain.
So rejoice always does not mean that you will not feel sad.
The Command To Rejoice Is Not Then Dependent Upon Positive Circumstances.
The joy in the Lord is not superficial happiness based on the circumstances or the absence of trials. True joy is an attitude of hope in God that transcends circumstances.
You can rejoice in the Lord, in spite of the circumstances. No matter what you go through on the outside. We have that inner joy that our God gives.
Joy Of The World Is Short-Lived.
Job 20:5 They joy of the godless but for a moment.
Ecclesiastes 7:6 Like cracking of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless.
The joy of the world is connected to the desire of the heart, the impulse of the heart and when that desire fails, the joy is gone.
Money cannot give us joy.
“Researchers have found almost no correlation between income levels and happiness. Between 1957 and 1990 income levels in the U.S. doubled. Yet at the same period, people’s levels of happiness did not increase. In fact, reports of depression actually increased tenfold. Incidence of divorce, suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse also rose dramatically.”
How To Find True Joy?
1. Joy Comes From God.
Psalm 16:11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
David is praying to God in Psalm 4:7 Fill my heart with joy..
So we’re talking about a joy that comes from God. It’s a full joy. It is complete joy, it’s a supernatural joy. Joy comes from God.
2. Joy Comes Through Jesus Christ.
This God has come into our world through his son, Jesus Christ. God gives joy, but He only gives it to those who are in Christ. It is reserved for those who are Christ’s.
Do you remember at the birth of Jesus, the angels spoke about it to the shepherds and they were terrified. Then they spoke about the joy. Luke 2:10-11 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord…
Jesus said in John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy maybe in you and that your joy maybe complete.
Joy comes from God, through Christ. God is the source, Christ is the mediator, and the Holy Spirit is the energizer of that joy.
3. Joy Comes Through The Holy Spirit.
Romans 4:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
So real joy comes from God as source. God sent joy through Christ as mediator, by the Holy Spirit as energizer. That is why it is said in Galatians 5:21-22 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control.
God is the source of real joy.
It is an unlimited, undiminished, full joy. It is as if God fills a well with joy out of which you can draw your whole life and never diminish the source.
But the drawing of that joy is dependent upon the Holy Spirit; that is to say, walking in the Spirit, obeying the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit. That’s what delivers that joy.
But there’s a fourth element in this.
4. Joy Comes From Receiving The Scripture.
1 John 1:4 We write this to make your joy complete.
John said he has written the scripture so that our joy is complete. So we are filled with joy of God when we read the scripture.
In the book of Nehemiah, we find Ezra the priest brought the law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible and read it before the assembly.
Nehemiah 8:5-10 5Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
9Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
God has given us the holy scripture and when we read it, understand the scripture, we are filled with joy.
In the midst of all that is happening around you, do you have a Bible reading plan? Are you reading and meditating on the word of God?
Joy is related to the Scripture. Joy is from God, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit, as we understand the Scripture.
5. Joy Is Enhanced And Enriched Through Trials.
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
So one can find true joy, even in the midst of trials.
Peter says it like this: 1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
No circumstance affects joy.
Also, no event affects it, no acquisition affects it, and no loss affects it. No gain affects it, no deprivation affects it. The kind of joy we’re talking about is not related to your position in life or your possessions in life.
Christian joy is an experience that springs from the deep-down confidence in the Christian that Christ is sufficient, and God is in perfect control of everything, bringing it all to our good in time and eternity. It’s that joy that’s unassailable, because it’s below the surface, unaffected by the winds and the waves of experience on a human level. It’s the joy that comes out of that eternal, unchanging, unalterable, rich relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, as we receive the Scripture in the midst of trials.
So, the command then is to rejoice always.
God was the source. Christ brought it to you. The Spirit energizes it in you. The Word of God enriches it, along with trials. It’s there, it’s yours, you can claim it; you’ve got this deep well of joy.
Motivation for Joy
1. I Rejoice Because Of The Character Of God.
God is unchanging. God is working behind the scenes for my good. Understanding of God and His sovereign love, and His infinite wisdom and grace gives me joy.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
God is too wise to ever make a mistake. He is too loving to be unkind to His children. Also, God is too gracious not to overlook my sin. God is too merciful to allow me to be devastated. He is my protector. God is more powerful than Satan. Again, God is more powerful than demons. God overrules all circumstances. And I belong to that God. He’s my God. Scripture is filled with these confidences.
My joy is, first of all, anchored in my God.
So what motivates me to be joyful in everything is my understanding of God and His sovereign love, and His infinite wisdom and grace.
2. I Rejoice In Appreciation For The Work Of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:3 KJV For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
We rejoice in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
We rejoice in what Christ has done for me, we rejoice in what Christ is doing through me, and we rejoice in what Christ will do for me. Ephesians says that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. So, everything is mine because of His death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, second coming, and eternal reign.
Romans 8:38-39 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
3. I Rejoice That God Answers Prayer.
I also rejoice always as an act of reasonable response to answered prayer.
John 16:24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
Our prayers are answered. The moment I call out to God, he answers my prayers. Our God never sleeps, our God never slumbers. God is attentive to our prayer.
How Can We Rejoice Always?
1. Have A Personal Relationship With Jesus
Paul’s joy was based on his personal relationship with God. A child of God has a personal relationship with God. You receive Jesus as your Lord and savior, and you become his child.
There’s a well of joy in the believer. If you don’t see it, start at that point questioning whether that person’s really saved.
Isaiah 12:2-3 2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” 3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Ask God to forgive your sins. Become a child of God. If you are already a child of God, let me ask you is there a hint of unholiness in you?
Sin is the hole in the bucket of your happiness.
Richard Hofler, in his book, “Will Daylight Come?” tells of a boy who went to his grandparents’ farm for the summer. Jimmy made himself a slingshot & practiced shooting it, but he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
One day his grandmother’s pet duck was in the backyard. On a whim, he shot at it with his slingshot, & lo & behold, he hit the duck in the head & killed it. He panicked, dragged the duck behind the barn, & buried it under some straw. Just then his sister Sally came around the barn & said, “I saw what you did with that duck.” He begged her not to tell.
That evening, Grandmother asked Sally to do the dishes, but Sally said, “No, I think Jimmy would like to do the dishes tonight, wouldn’t you, Jimmy?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck.” Jimmy did the dishes.
Later that night, Grandmother asked Sally to carry some clothes upstairs for her. Sally said, “No, I think Jimmy would like to carry the clothes upstairs, wouldn’t you, Jimmy?” Jimmy carried the clothes upstairs.
For a day & a half, Jimmy was Sally’s slave, until finally he could take it no longer. In tears he went to his grandmother. He said, “Grandmother, I’ve got to tell you what I did. I didn’t mean to, but I hit the duck with my slingshot & killed it.”
Grandmother said, “Jimmy, I was watching out the kitchen window, & I saw what you did, but I love you & I wanted to hear you say that you were sorry. It’s all right; you’re forgiven.” And Jimmy was free.
Sin makes us slaves to the dictates of this world.
It makes our conscience hurt. It limits our effectiveness. But the good news is that Christ came, He saw what we did, & He will forgive us & release us from our sin if we will only come to Him.
Have a personal relationship with Jesus.
2. View Your Trials Through The Lens Of Scripture
Paul was going through some trials and he could have easily become depressed. In Philippians he was in jail. Writing to the Thessalonians, he was accused as a false apostle. People, circumstances were all against Paul, yet he was rejoicing in the Lord. Why? Because, Paul knew God’s sovereignty over his life. Paul viewed his trials through the lens of scripture.
Many people get depressed because they do not get to understand God’s purpose in trials.
View your trials through the lens of scripture.
James 1:2-3 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
1 Peter 1:6-9 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
3. Joy Is A Response To Christian Fellowship.
Joy is found as we meet together to worship the Lord. If the enemy can keep you away from Christian fellowship, he can zap you out of your joy. The covid-19 pandemic has closed churches worldwide. Many are living in stress, anxiety and depression. What we need today is the presence of God and true Christian fellowship.
When we meet together and fellowship together in the presence of God, we are filled with joy irrespective of our circumstances.
Look at Paul’s joy of Christian fellowship:
1 Thessalonians 3:9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
2 Timothy 1:4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.
Philemon 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
We can rejoice irrespective of our circumstances. Our joy is from the inside knowing that God is in absolute control over our circumstances. God gives us joy through his son, Jesus Christ. This joy is made complete by the Holy Spirit and the scripture brings that joy into our lives.
This joy is not based on our circumstances.
Men and women throughout the centuries have found great joy in the midst of sorrow and trials. Hudson Taylor, the great pioneer missionary to China, lost his beloved wife, Maria after 12 years of marriage. They had been delighted with each other’s love.
Shortly after her death, Hudson wrote to his mother in England,
“From my inmost soul I delight in the knowledge that God does or deliberately permits all things, and causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him.
He and He only knew what dear my wife was to me. He knew how the light of my eyes and the joy of my heart was in her…. But he saw that it was good to take her; good indeed for her, and in his love he took her painlessly, and not less good for me who must henceforth toil and suffer alone…yet not alone, for God is nearer to me than ever. And now I have to tell him all my sorrows and difficulties, as I used to tell dear Maria, and as she cannot join me in intercession, to rest in the knowledge of Jesus’ intercession; to walk a little less by feeling, a little less by sight, a little more by faith.”
To one of his mission leaders, Hudson Taylor wrote:
“My eyes flow with tears of mingled joy and sorrow. When I think of my loss, my heart, neigh to breaking, rises in thankfulness to Him Who has spared her such sorrow and made her so unspeakably happy. My tears are more tears of joy than of grief. But most of all I joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – in His works, His ways, His providence, in Himself.
Do you find such joy in Christ regardless of your circumstances? True joy is possible through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.