Edward Skidmore relates a memorable moment many years ago as he and his wife Susan were on their way to Sunday worship. Sitting in the back seat was their 2-year-old daughter, Kimberly and her slightly younger cousin, Able.
Kimberly was in a foul mood that morning, but her smiley-faced cousin decided it was time for a word of exhortation. Though he could barely talk, he looked her in the face and said happily, “Rejoice Kimmy!”
Through the years Ed says they’ve repeated Able’s exhortation whenever Kimberly’s mood began to deflate.
I’ve known some sourpuss Christians through the years that I would like to get in their face and exclaim, “Rejoice.”
This month I’m teaching the book of Philippians to the Sunday morning adult class with the theme “The Joy of Christian Living. Eighteen times Paul uses the words “joy” or “rejoice.” Although he was writing from a Roman prison, under less than ideal circumstances, Paul rejoiced.
The joy of his faith caused him to rejoice that Christ was preached. He rejoiced that his labor in Philippi had not been in vain. And even rejoiced in his persecution. His repeated message to them was to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 3:1; 4:4).
Rejoicing ought to be the hallmark of the Christian’s character and demeanor. William Barclay was right when he wrote “There is no virtue in the Christian life which is not made radiant with joy; there is no circumstance and no occasion which is not illuminated with joy. A joyless life is not a Christian life, for joy is the constant in the recipe of Christian living.
Because we have been “justified by faith”, we have access into God’s grace, enjoy peace and we can “rejoice in hope” (Rom 5:1-2). The joy of salvation supersedes whatever problems and pressures we experience in life.
In fact, Jesus promised this comforting assurance “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt 5:11-12)
Life is not meant to be endured but enjoyed. The ancient Preacher provided this counsel. “I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor — it is the gift of God”(Eccl. 3:12-13).
The 20th-century Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw offered this viewpoint that should be even more meaningful for Christians with a divine purpose and spiritual perspective.
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Our rejoicing should not be limited to our own lives but extended to honor others and share in their joy. Paul exhorted, “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom 12:15). Too often is easier “to weep with those who weep.” To rejoice in another’s good fortune calls for humility, unselfishness, and nobility that does not stoop to envy their success.
Never rejoice in another persons downfall or destruction. But always rejoice in things that are honorable, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Rejoice in truth. Rejoice in goodness. Rejoice in your blessings.
Rejoice when the lost are saved. Rejoice when the wayward are restored. “Rejoice with the wife your youth.” Rejoice in every good gift God gives you–both materially and spiritually.
“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman