Tonight we continued looking at Paul’s most joyful letter to the Philippians (Phil 3:1-14), seeking to find the secret of how to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 3:1, 1 Thess 5:16) Such a command isn’t difficult to understand (as some parts of the Bible are – see 2 Pet 3:16) – it’s just difficult to do! Can we really be expected to rejoice always, even when we face imprisonment (as Paul did) or bereavement or illness or unemployment?
The fact that this command is repeated so frequently in this letter alone implies that this is not just an idle idea (and Paul demonstrated how to rejoice in difficult circumstances in Acts 16:23-25), and Paul certainly doesn’t mind repeating this command over and over again (see also Phil 4:4), even saying it is a safeguard for us (a source of protection.) The key to being able to rejoice always is that we are to rejoice ‘in the Lord’ – not in circumstances, not in feelings, not in our own righteousness.
Paul makes it clear that we are not to rejoice in our own righteousness, cleverness or goodness. All the ‘religious’ trappings which characterised his previous life (Phil 3:4-6) and which so many people were claiming were necessary for salvation are classed as worthless, useless, ‘rubbish’, ‘garbage’, ‘trash’. What is important for our ability to rejoice in the Lord is focussing on who Jesus is and what He has done for us. We have to forget what is behind and press on towards Him. Knowing Jesus is the end goal; when we are focussed on Him, we are given the ability to see life from His perspective and can therefore rejoice always.