Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Devotion: Philippians 4:4

One point I find myself making often is that most of the Scripture, especially the letters of the New Testament are written to a plural audience. Many of those 'you' statements in Scripture are plural. Our friends in the south would say, "y'all" and our friends in the northeast would say, "yous guys." This is especially important to remember when we approach commands in the New Testament, like we have in our quite famous passage this week:
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." -Philippians 4:4 ESV
After urging the Philippians to greater unity (see last week's post), the Apostle turns to exhortation and begins with rejoicing. To be sure, he is writing to a community that is going through deep conflict and seeking resolution. In my experience, following resolution of conflict what I long for is rest and perhaps retreat. Yet, and this is crucial, the Apostle says that not just at the resolution of conflict, but perhaps even in the midst of it, we are to rejoice.
So what if I do not feel much like rejoicing? Ah, this is where the plural becomes important. I once had a friend going through an extremely difficult period in his life. As we talked together, it became apparent that he was not doing much praying, let alone much rejoicing. As a brother in Christ I encouraged him to pray and even to find reasons to rejoice in the Lord, yet even if he could not, I assured him that the Church would be praying and rejoicing on his behalf until such time as the Spirit restored his joy.
If there was anyone who had reason to complain and avoid rejoicing, the Apostle Paul had more. Indeed, even as he wrote to the Philippians he was imprisoned awaiting a trial with an uncertain outcome, but could very well result in his execution. Yet, it is the Apostle who urges rejoicing. It is the same Apostle who assured the Romans, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." [Romans 8:18]. With that assurance, the Apostle had every reason to rejoice even in the midst of suffering and conflict because he knew that he had a bright hope in the resurrection in the Kingdom of God.
So what in your life is keeping you from rejoicing? Do you need someone to come alongside you in prayer and support to rejoice with you? Do you need to seek the Spirit to restore your sense of joy in salvation in Christ. Whatever the case, listen to the Apostle and rejoice in the Lord again and again.

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