“Rejoice always…” (1. Thessalonians 5:16)
“Rejoice!” That sounds good, but, “rejoice always!”? If we take a look at our world, at all the problems and needs, who can rejoice always? It seems as if the apostle Paul never thought of those times or experienced them himself. Yet, in God’s Word we see how the apostle had to suffer persecutions, dangers, hardships, needs and disappointments.
The word: “Rejoice always!” was given to the apostle through the Holy Spirit. But, it is written for believers, and only they can understand it. They are the ones who have found the spring of eternal joy. Christ, who was saddened unto death, took their fear along when He was nailed on the cross. For this reason, fear is eradicated from the world for the believers.
Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We have a contrast here, “in Me” and “in the world.” In the world you will have tribulation (or fear), not in Me. In this we see that the great privilege of always rejoicing is for the believer.
However, it is not just a privilege; it is also a command. Sadly, many believers do not follow it. But, this is because they are not truly believers. Jesus told His disciples many times that their joy should be complete. It is only complete if it remains during difficulties, troubles, concerns, and sickness. Those who truly believe know that all things work for good to those who love God.
They can say: “If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).
And in Philippians Paul writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). Here we can also consider this contrast between “in the Lord” and “in the world.” What is impossible in the world is made possible in the Lord. The source of joy is still available. Christ is the source of eternal joy. The man of God of the old covenant, Nehemiah, already stated: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
The joy of the Lord is so strong that it can glory even in suffering. The believer sees the blessing that is hidden in trials. He can count it all joy when he falls into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience (see James 1:2-3). The believer who does not doubt the Father’s love, also does not become discouraged when he is chastened (Hebrews 12:5). Even though rebuke does not seem joyful at the time, later on it brings a peaceful fruit of righteousness. In God’s many promises we find confirmation that a believer can be always rejoice.
The three men in the fiery furnace praised and worshiped God. Paul and Silas praised God when they sat in prison. During the great persecution of the Christians they couldn’t stop them from praising when they were led to the stake where they were martyred.
When Jesus tells us: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), do we still have reason to trust? Some say that Christians are sad people. This is not true! God’s children can rejoice – and this joy makes them strong, so that they can live their life to God’s praise and as a blessing for others.
“Rejoice always!” This word applies to you too, if you feel misunderstood in your family. It is meant for you if you have lost a loved one. Or you, if you are suffering pain, this command is for you. Yes, it is meant for us all, whether we are young or old, poor or rich, educated or uneducated. Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness will give us this joy!