This is a popular verse in Philippians. When this passage is studied, someone usually says, “Paul commands Christians to rejoice always and he means it so much, he says it twice.” That is a good point, but it is missing one of, if not the most important part of the verse: “In the Lord.” Our continuous rejoicing is not in our career, property, hobby, or even our family. It is in the Lord. He is the only Being that can empower us into a state of constant rejoicing.
An example of this is Paul’s rejoicing that the gospel is being preached in chapter 1. Paul has a lot to be sorrowful about while writing Philippians. He is imprisoned by the Romans due to the Jews hatred for him. He isabout to appear before Caesar. He does not know if he will live or die. While all these things are happening, preachers, out of selfish ambition,try to add affliction to Paul’s chains. Perhaps they speak ill of himor say that he deserves to be in prison. One would think that it would be reasonable for Paul to be angry and bitter about his current state. However, Paul is rejoicing in the Lord.
“15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” (Phil. 1:15-18)
Paul finds things in the Lord to rejoice in. Earlier he says he rejoices that the whole palace guard now knows about Christ because of his interaction with them (1:13). As well, he sees his brethren become bolder in their preaching, inspired by Paul’s endurance through persecution (1:14). Even though preachers are speaking ill of Paul, he rejoices that the truth is being taught. Paul’s optimism in his distress displays God’s ability to give his people something to rejoice in.
Paul rejoices in the Lord again, when he received the gift from the Philippians. They showed their love and care for him by sending him support in his present distress.
“10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:10-13)
Paul rejoices in the Philippians’ care. However, Paul says that he can rejoice and find contentment in whatever state he is. Why? He can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. Only the Lord can provide continuous joy. He can empower us to find contentment in whatever state we are in.
When we are hurting and having a hard time finding joy or contentment, let us think of what God has done for us. Let us think how God is still furthering His gospel. Let us think that God has the power to provide us with continuous joy. If we are rejoicing in the Lord, we will be rejoicing for eternity.
— Andrew Smith