"Realities of Rejoicing"
"Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
Is this command of Scripture possible to fulfill? Did the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, "the Man of sorrows", always rejoice?
First, let us address the latter question. Yes, the Lord Jesus always rejoiced, even in those times of His greatest agony. In order to understand this seeming enigma, we must realize that joy, as defined by Scripture, involves a different spiritual substance than we often consider. While happy emotion often accompanies joy, it often does not. James illuminates us with his mandate that we "count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience" (James 1:2-3). Note that James does not call believers to "feel" it all joy when trials challenge us. He rather calls us to "count" and to "know" that trouble has purpose, as determined or allowed by God. We make a reasoned determination to believe that "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more eternal and exceeding weight of glory" (II Corinthians 4:17-18). We may very well feel nothing as we believe, or we may even feel the very opposite of our affirmation. As we trust and submit unto God in our trial, we nevertheless walk in joy, as defined by the God who "looketh on the heart" to behold realities of rejoicing far deeper than mere emotion. The Lord Jesus accomplished this monumental challenge of faith throughout His earthly lifetime, particularly at Calvary where "for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2). He felt sorrow, to an infinite degree, but He counted and knew joy in the faith that sees through blood and tears to the truth and faithfulness of God.
No honest believer will affirm that we have always walked in the counting and knowing of true joy. At times, we allow the feelings of sorrow to overwhelm our confidence that "all things work together for good to them that love God, and who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). However, we must believe that rejoicing is always possible through Christ, and we must set the sails of our hearts to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit's working in us to "count it all joy". In order to establish such confidence, we "look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). He makes joy possible where joy seemingly cannot be. "In the world ye shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer - I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Indeed, if we look to ourselves as the basis of joy, hoping to have enough faith to rejoice always, we will either crash upon the rocks of hopelessness or delusion. Our confidence is this - a faithful Christ dwells with and within us to enable rejoicing in times of light and glory, and in times of darkness and tribulation. He is our joy, and He is our capacity to rejoice - "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). Thus, through Christ, we can always rejoice. This we must believe as the foundation and preparation for times to come when our joy in sorrow will so greatly honor our blessed Lord.
We will one day experience an existence of tearless joy, wherein feeling and affirmation will abundantly coexist in the perfection of God's glory. This is not that day. Presently, we rejoice in both happiness and in sadness as we realize the truth of joy as now experienced by faith. Rejoice in the Lord always, commands Paul. Count it all joy, commands James. Our brothers unite to illuminate true joy, as presently constituted and experienced through Christ...
"As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."
(II Corinthians 6:10)
Weekly Memory Verse
By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.