Had the Roman prison driven Paul insane? Or maybe he had been hit in the head one too many times in a flogging or stoning long before the post-concussion syndrome had been identified? Clearly, he was not thinking straight. "My brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord..."1
His word to the Philippians, his admonition for you and for me was be full of joy in the Lord - always. No matter what. Notice he connects being full of joy in the Lord with safeguarding our thinking and faith in the Lord. Hmmm.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Now I can hear some of your thoughts-from Georgia to my California home, from Israel to my quiet chair, from Arizona or from an airplane flying a cross country? You are thinking,
>'yeah right - rejoice in the Lord always, no matter what? My son recently died. Rejoice in the Lord? That is impossible.'
>'I do not know how I am going to pay my rent...I'm worried. Rejoice? Right.'
>'My pain is so bad and does not seem to let up ... rejoice in the Lord?! Seriously?'
>'You are ridiculous at best, possibly unkind. Rejoice in the Lord? Sure.'
Yes. I did not say it, God's Word says it. Not just here, not just Paul, but more than a thousand years before, the psalmist penned, "But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May you shelter them, and may those who love your name boast about you."2
Here's the thing:
when we intentionally rejoice or choose to delight in the Lord, we are exercising our faithin God,
our belief that he is on the throne,
and what's more, that he is at work in our lives!
We are choosing to walk in faith not by what we see.
When we rejoice in the Lord, we keep faith in Jesus Christ as our focus,
and we are not easily pulled away by errant thinking.
And to Paul's point, we are less likely to be distracted by false teaching. Paul warns the Philippians to watch out for the dogs which does not really translate to 2018 understanding. In the middle east, stray dogs roamed the streets, hunted in garbage dumps, snarled and snapped at those they encountered along the way. Just so, Paul compares them to those who harshly insisted that Christianity was Jesus Christ + something else. Jesus + the Law = Salvation. No! There were those in Paul's day who insisted folks had to be circumcised (Jewish law) to be saved; nope, not so.
Then, lest someone use their pedigree (family inheritance or degree from USC) for position or leverage, he refers to his own birth as a righteous Jew from the tribe of Benjamin . . . his training, his brilliance and his zeal for the Law as a most righteous Pharisee. None of which mattered compared to knowing Christ.
Friends, BEWARE. There are charlatans who endeavor to use erudite speech and intelligence to attract adherents. Why do you think Scientology has gotten a foothold? The promise of raising one's IQ. Why do you think anyone, much less a woman, would seek the company of the NXIVM leader--(the cult which has finally been busted wide open, out of upstate New York)? The man attracted brilliant people, and their money, across many disciplines and vocations because he had a charming intelligent allure and a promise of bringing individuals success in their own lives. You see, folks can get easily taken in when partial truths get woven into deceitful schemes to distract us from living according to the Word, close to the heart of God, and walking in the dust of the Rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus.
Thank you, Brother Paul, for reminding us to trust in Jesus Christ alone. It cost you everything-you paid the ultimate price--but you were ready for that. Even here in Philippians 3 you wrote, "I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."3
Thank you for reminding us, encouraging us to rejoice in the Lord always,
all the time, in spite of, and no matter what. Songs like this one, by Mercy Me,
Rejoice in the Lord and trust in Jesus Christ alone. Even If...it is well with my soul.
1 - Philippians 3.1
2 - Psalms 5.11
3 - Philippians 3.8