“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor.2:13)
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“REJOICE EVER MORE”
“Rejoice ever more. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1Thess.5:16-18)
The three verses that I have just cited were the most difficult for me and mainly the first one, which says “Rejoice ever more” My difficulty was due to the word “ever more” or “always” because of the expression of the third verse: “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I was often wondering: How can we ever rejoice “always”? When we watch the TV, we see and hear about economic and political crises, about insurrections, killings, murders, terrorist acts, massacres and suppression of human rights, car and plane accidents; natural disasters, economic and political refugees or for other reasons! And what should we say about the abounding immorality? Pedophilia, homosexuality, official homosexual marriages as well as the decline or even the total loss of moral values? Furthermore, how is it ever possible to rejoice when either we ourselves or members of our family suffer from incurable diseases, which are in a state of deterioration?
What is worse is the spiritual decline of the churches, despite their numerous activities and publicity campaigns, as if God’s Spirit had abandoned them! When I see such things, my heart is bleeding and my sleep is removed; as for my wife, she begins praying… Then, am I sinning on account of such things which grieve my heart? I must humbly confess that I feel as if I am in a state of psychological depression! I was feeling spiritually sick! At a certain moment, I was reminded however, of the verse: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Rom.12:15). This verse constitutes the will of God and a token of good spiritual health. Finally, if we take a look at the Old Testament we will find out that most of the prophets denounced and lamented the situation in their days!
Is it possible?
How is it possible to “Rejoice ever more”? I searched in the Bible to find out why the Bible teaches us that the true Christians must always be glad. In the first place, because what is happening in our days was already prophesized (2Tim.3:1-5 et 1Tim.4:1-2) and that there will be worse situations to come. Then why should I be surprised? In the second place, these words of the Bible constitute commandments for the believers. Commandments? Yes, commandments! The expression “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” does not refer exclusively to “In every thing give thanks” and to “Pray without ceasing” but, equally, to “Rejoice ever more”!
What the Bible says
Let us examine carefully some verses in order to understand why, we, Christians, should always rejoice:
- Jesus said to His disciples:
- “… He that believes on me HAS everlasting life” (John 6:47)
- “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11) What things? “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you” (John 15:7), and:
- “Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our stayed with him” (John 14:23). Jesus continuing his speech added: “… the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you” (John 14:26). Then, the whole Trinity abides in whom the words of Jesus abide, in whom who loves Him and keep his words! Incredible, mysterious, but true!
- “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20)
- “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt.5:12). We must, therefore be joyful even when we are persecuted! (1Pet 4:13).
- “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing always in prayer” (Rom.12:12) In hope? Yes, in hope because we are confident that He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Php.1:6) and that we are going to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!… (Ps 27:13); and
- “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Php.4:4). Paul explains the reason, saying “… The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:5-7).
Conclusion: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2Cor.4:17-18). All our difficulties, sicknesses, afflictions, etc., cannot be compared with the work God has done in us and the glorious destiny He has prepared for us because of his unconditional love for us!
But what does the Bible want to say by the expression: “Rejoice ever more”? Laughing, singing, clapping the hands and dancing according to the rhythm of the church music? The joy of Christians is more than that! Mainly, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit! Be joyful with a content heart for all the goodness that the Lord has done to us (1Kings 8:66) and wants to do to us! His plans are always for our good! Our Heavenly Father who loves us makes all things work together for good to them that love Him! (Rom.8:28). It is a deep and holy feeling of satisfaction and of optimism under all circumstances in which we are! Given that God reigns and works all things after the counsel of His own will, we conclude that a Christian without true Christian joy is not a spiritually healthy Christian.
Our heavenly father does love us and takes care of us! The Holy Spirit has undertaken the responsibility to abide in us in order to teach us, guide us into all truth and intercede for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Rom.8:26). There is also another reason, which is extremely important: We have, by the power of the Holy Spirit the victory over our sins and passions! Also, we have the Unction of the Holy Spirit, which teaches us all things!
He has not only guaranteed us eternal life, but He has also promised us to make us conform to the image of His Son Jesus Christ and that we will inherit all things the Father has prepared for His Son Jesus-Christ. Our joy and gladness must have a permanent character, a permanent optimism, irrespective of our situation and actual problems. Our faith in His words and our confidence in His character assure us interior peace and joy. How beautifully this is expressed by the prophet Habakkuk: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”!!! (Hab.3:17-18).
Christian joy is not intended for those who live in sin and in selfishness! There is no true joy and peace for those who live in sin, in anxiety and worldly cares, who live in lukewarmness, in indifference, in disobedience and in guilty fear. “In His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand there are pleasures for ever more” (Ps.16:11), the Psalmist says. True joy is for those who are saved, whose names are written in the book of life because they HAVE GIVEN HIM THEIR HEART UNRESERVEDLY AND HAVE MADE HIM THE LORD OF THEIR LIFE!
True joy is for the humble (Isa.29:19); for him who mourns for his sins and for him who puts his trust in Christ (Ps.5:11)! Joy is for the righteous (Ps.68:5); for those who seek Him with all their heart (Ps.105:3); for those who have presented their bodies to be a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God and who do not conform to this world but they are transformed by the renewing of their mind (Rom.12:1-2). True joy is for the good and faithful servants (Mat.25: 21); for those who are persecuted on account of their piety (Lu.6:23 and 2Tim.3:12); it is for those who demand and receive (John 16:24); for those who are being filled with the Presence of the Holy Spirit (Ac.13:52 and Rom.14:17) and who produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22)! For those who despise the shame of mockers (Heb.12:2); for those who love the truth with all their heart (1Cor.13:6); for those who rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Rom.12:15), and who rejoice when they make other people sorry in order to bring them to repentance (2Cor.7:9). There is joy in doing mercy (Jas.2:13)! There is more joy in giving than in receiving (Act.20:35). Only God gives true joy; inner joy and inner peace that no one can remove!
All I have just said does not mean that man must be perfect in all things so that God can give wisdom, knowledge and joy (Ecc.2:26). What counts is the sincerity of our heart towards Christ and most importantly our good choices. In conclusion, true joy belongs solely to those who walk in uprightness, in sincerity and in incorruptibility.
When we are in a state of true joy in Christ, the power of the Lord is manifested in our life and applies its beneficial effects on all who surround us; believers and non-believers (Neh.8:10 and Job 8:9). God blesses us by equipping us with a sound word by which we can deliver a soul from sinful slavery. God meets him that rejoices and works righteousness, him that remembers Him in his ways (Prov.21:15; Isa.64:5).
May God bless us!