No Distasteful Duty: Rejoicing in the Lord Always

by Mike Riccardi at TheCripplegate

Rejoice in the Lord Always 2

Last week I shared some passages about the centrality that joy has in the Christian life. Today, I’d like to think more about the nature of joy so that we know precisely what it is we are to pursue in our walk with Christ.

Joy is a Duty

First, we must recognize that we are commanded to rejoice. Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4; cf. 1 Thess 5:16). He is not making a request, nor merely offering a suggestion as if to say, “If you’d really like to make progress in your Christian life, if you really want to be a mature Christian, you might consider diligently pursuing your joy in God.” No! He’s speaking to all the Christians at the church of Philippi (1:1), and by extension to all Christians today. He is informing us of our duty. It is a present imperative, and so even if he didn’t include the word “always,” the original language would still have the force of: “Be continually rejoicing.”

And Paul is not innovating here. There are numerous other places in Scripture where God’s people are commanded to rejoice.

Psalm 33:1 – “Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones.”
Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the LORD…”
Psalm 97:12 – “Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones, and give thanks to His holy name.”
In Matthew 5:12, the Lord Jesus Himself commands us to “Rejoice and be glad” when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
And in a very similar fashion, the Apostle Peter commands the churches under his care, “…to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.” (1 Pet 4:13).

Scripture makes it emphatically clear that joy is a duty of the people of God. But in spite of that crystal clear emphasis, so many Christians continue to believe that joy is some sort of ancillary, incidental footnote to the Christian life. And I’m sure that response was as old as the commands themselves, because Paul feels the need to repeat himself before the end of the verse! It’s as if, as he sits there and pens this command, he can already anticipate the objections. “Well, surely he can’t mean rejoice in the Lord always! Doesn’t he know what we’re going through?!” And so he repeats himself: “Again I will say, Rejoice!”

I love the comment Spurgeon makes on this:

“Do you not think that this [repetition] was intended also to impress upon them the importance of the duty? ‘Again I say, Rejoice.’ Some of you will go and say, ‘I do not think that it matters much whether I am happy or not, I shall get to heaven, however gloomy I am, if I am sincere.’ ‘No,’ says Paul, ‘that kind of talk will not do; I cannot have you speak like that. Come, I must have you rejoice, I do really conceive it to be a Christian’s bounden duty, and so, ‘Again, I say, Rejoice!’”

Well, if Scripture is so clear that joy is a Christian duty, we need to clearly understand thenature of true, Christian joy. What is it that the Word demands from us here?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: