Paul says to rejoice in the Lord, not just once. In case you missed it, v4, Paul says, I will say it again: Rejoice! Rejoice, rejoice! Consider the specific context into which Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice.
Phil 4:2-3 [READ]
Euodia and Syntyche, two women in the church who were probably leaders of some sort because Paul knows them and he hears that there is some sort of disagreement between them and this has become a big deal at the church in Philippi. Everyone here in this room has gotten into a fight with a parent, sibling, roommate, friend, church member, spouse. When you are in the heat of a fight, the last thing you want to do is to rejoice. Even if you want to rejoice, you can’t. Physically, maybe it’s just me, but when I get into a fight with Jackie, physically, my entire chest area gets tight. Heat surges to my heart and head. My lungs constrict. I have a hard time breathing. Phil 1-3, forget about it. The humility of Christ, considering others as more important than myself, it’s all goes out the window when you’re mad. Right? When I am angry, forget the rest of the day, forget the next day and the next, I’m stuck. Until the fight gets resolved, I’m just going through the motions. I think this is why Scripture says in Eph 4:26, do not let the sun go down on your anger.
It doesn’t matter how great of a DT you had that morning or how sweet of a prayer time you had, when a fight breaks, it all goes out the window. So the question we want to answer today is simple. Practically, how can we prevent our faith from going out the window when we are in a fight? Or how can we prevent our faith from going out the window when things are crumbling around us? Or when we are stressed? Or when we are depressed? Or circumstances beyond our control bear down upon us? Or when you feel stuck? We can’t change the brokenness of this world. We can’t guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong. We can’t avoid sinful, angry, proud, moody people from trying to ruin our day. But we can control our response.
In the messiness we call life, when any of these things that I just mentioned happens, how will you and I continue to rejoice in the Lord? That’s the question. Phil 1-3 is theology. Now in chapter 4, we have real life. How are we going to put into practice what we have been learning about in the first 3 chapters? For instance, how can we continue to rejoice when we are at each other’s throats, as Euodia and Syntyche were?
You can fill in whatever your current situation is. How can I continue to rejoice when I am doing poorly in school? Or when I am out of a job? Or when money is tight? Or when my marriage is rocky? Or my kids are rebellious? Or when I am fighting with a friend? Or when I am lonely as a single? Or when you get a phone call from your doctor’s office and you hear the words, cancer. In each of these, how can we continue to rejoice?
First thing: Phil 4:5 [READ]
A person who rejoices will also be gracious. The two go hand in hand because they grow out of the same root. Show me a person who is constantly rejoicing and graciousness will not be far behind. For the Christian, there is one characteristic that we want to be known for. It’s not Bible knowledge. Or teaching ability. Or how much we do for others. One thing we want to known for, the one thing that should be evident to everyone who knows us is that brother or that sister is gracious. The word can be translated as graciousness, gentleness, or patience, or mildness.
Why can we rejoice always, no matter the circumstances? Why can we be gracious no matter what someone says to us or does to us? The answer is in the second half of v5–The Lord is near.
“The Lord is near” can mean that the Lord is at hand. He is coming at any moment. This refers to His Second Coming. Or, it can mean, literally, the Lord Jesus is near, He is always within reach, He was with me in the past, He’s with me at present and He will continue to be with me in the future. It doesn’t matter which interpretation you subscribe to. Either way, the effect of both interpretations is the same, practically. Either Jesus is at hand, He is coming any moment and we need to get our act together and rejoice and be gracious toward others. Or, He is literally near, He’s in our midst right now, He was with us in the past, and He is with us now and He will continue to remain near forevermore. Either way, the effect upon us is the same.
I prefer the second interpretation. I believe Jesus is always near. I believe Jesus is near when life throws you curveballs. I believe Jesus was in the hospital room when Jeremiah was getting treated for Kawasaki. It helps me to visualize Jesus in my past. When I was tempted to think, God, you dropped the ball on this one. You abandoned us. Instead, I like to picture Jesus holding Jeremiah on the hospital ball, stroking his head, whispering words of love. How else can we possibly rejoice during moments of crisis? Unless we believe that the Lord is near. He was with me. I can trust Him. He is a good God. He’s not caught off guard. It’s not like he’s the ambulance driver and he arrives onto the scene after the fact. Okay, what happened? Where is he? Let’s triage this thing. No, God is sovereign. He is in full control. And when our eyes tell us we’re alone, our faith informs that the Lord is near.
How can we rejoice when we are in the middle of a fight? And the other person lashes out at us? In that moment when you are boiling with anger, how can you be gracious toward the other person? The Lord is near. Where 2 or 3 are gathered, Jesus is there. It’s a promise. He stands in the midst of you and the person who is egging you on and blowing their top. We can rejoice. We can be gracious. Why? Because the Lord is near.
When I am not gracious toward others, I know that the Lord is not near me. That I have drifted away from him. When I am short with Jackie and irritable toward my kids, I know this is revealing that the Lord is no longer near. Graciousness is a good indicator of how I am doing in my relationship with the Lord. If He is near, I will rejoice and I will be gracious.