“Last night,” I commented to Stan, “I was reading in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and I saw something that seems impossible to me.”
“What’s that?” Stan asked.
“Where Paul says that I am to rejoice in the Lord always,” I replied. “I just don’t see how I can do that.”
“Why not?” he responded.
“There’s just so much not to rejoice about. Just look around at what’s going on in the world. How am I supposed to rejoice in all of that stuff?”
“Maybe that’s the problem,” Stan said. “What you’re looking at. I know for me that if I start looking at all there may be for me not to rejoice in, it takes my focus off of all that I do have to rejoice in and about.”
“For me,” he added, “it’s helpful if I look at what Paul wrote about in a slightly different way.”
“How so?” I asked.
“If I look at what Paul wrote and see that where he wrote I am to rejoice ‘always’ as also including ‘all ways,’ I have a much better chance of doing what he wrote.”
“Okay,” I said, “I see what you mean. In addition to always rejoicing, I am to rejoice in every way there is to rejoice. But how do I do that?”
“Focus,” Stan replied. “Choose what you focus on. In the first instance, remember that Jesus told His disciples that they were to rejoice that their names are recorded in heaven. If I do that, if I always rejoice that I know where I’m going when my time here is done, I am way ahead of the game in rejoicing in ‘all ways’.”
“As well,” he continued, “if I look at rejoicing as being part of what it means to be a disciple, and if I follow the steps that Jesus said lead to discipleship, I can and will rejoice always in all ways.”
“How?” I asked.
“The first step of denying self,” Stan replied, “is getting me out of the way so I can and will rejoice in what God has for me to rejoice in. Second, I am to take up what God has for me to take up, in this case, rejoicing is what I am to take up.”
“And then the third step,” I added, “would be following in rejoicing. Wherever, however, and wherever God has for me. I guess that would make what Paul wrote include ‘all ways’ in addition to ‘always’.”
“More than a guess, my friend,” Stan replied with a smile.
Bible verses to consider:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! Philippians 4:4.
Rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven. Luke 10:20.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, that I have so much to rejoice about. First, that my name is written in heaven because I have accepted your free and gracious gift of life with you in eternity when my time here is done. Second, that you give me the opportunity to rejoice in knowing you and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship on this side of eternity. I confess that too often I take my focus off of you and the reasons I have to rejoice. Please forgive that foolishness. And please help me in following every step of your lead so I do, in fact, rejoice in you always and in all ways. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Do you have reason to rejoice that your name is written in heaven? If no, is that because you have not accepted God’s free and gracious gift of life eternally with Him? If that’s the case, what’s standing in the way? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing in rejoicing on this side of eternity? Do you rejoice “always” as well as in “all ways”? If you sense you are being called to deeper and more consistent rejoicing, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?