September 24, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”—Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
Did you know in the Book of Philippians, which is a short, 104-verse letter, Paul uses the words “joy” and “rejoice” 16 times? The interesting thing about that directive is that Paul was writing it to the Philippians from jail. He had also been beaten, whipped, stoned nearly to death, shipwrecked, gone hungry, been persecuted, and much more. So, how is it that this man could sit in prison, having endured so much, and say, “Rejoice in the Lord always!”?
Because unlike happiness, joy isn’t based on circumstances. Joy also doesn’t come from within you. It doesn’t come from what you do; it doesn’t come from finding yourself, accepting yourself, or focusing on yourself. It doesn’t come from doing what makes you happy, following your bliss, or living your best life. These are all things we’ve been told by our culture, the movies, the media, celebrities, self-help gurus, etc. And, friends, if I can be blunt, these are all lies straight from the mouth of the enemy meant to keep us striving and searching in this endless and empty pursuit.
Do __, buy __, have ___ enhancement surgery, marry ___, identify as ___ . . . and then you’ll have joy. It’s all just carrots being dangled on a rope in front of us promising joy that will always be just out of reach. And despite our best efforts, we’ll never find joy in ourselves or the things of this world. Why? Because genuine joy finds its source in God alone.
Look again at the text. Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord.” The word in the Greek we translate as rejoice is chairete. There are two key things to note about this word: 1) This word isn’t passive, it’s active. It’s a verb. It’s not simply something you feel, it’s something you do! It requires intentionality. And here’s why: 2) The root word found within the chairete is charis, which is the word we translate as GRACE, meaning undeserved favor, kindness, and gift of God.
Did you see that? The root of joy is grace. In fact, the literal dictionary definition of chairete, of joy, is to LEAN TOWARD GRACE. So joy, in its simplest, most basic definition, means to lean into God’s grace, to live with this constant awareness of the grace of God in Christ and to press into it.
The apostle Paul is telling us that even in the most difficult, dangerous, painful, and uncertain times in our lives, God’s grace is sufficient to sustain and satisfy us; to change us and fill us with delight as we press into Him. This is important to remember and to be reminded of every day, which is why Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always” and then declares “I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Why the repeated emphasis? Why counsel us 16 times in 104 verses to lean into God’s grace? Because we’re prone to forgetting! We get caught up in the cares of this world, we get stuck in our own little world, we fall into the traps of striving and works, and we can fall prey to the cultural lies that if I have _____ then I’ll find joy. This means it takes intentional effort to walk in joy by devoting ourselves daily to pressing into the Lord and relying on His grace, goodness, love, peace, and power to fill us with delight and satisfy us!
Pause: How is it possible to always rejoice?
Practice: Consider where this truth gets tested in your life and how this passage can help you to overcome those tests.
Pray: Lord, I choose to fix my focus, not on the things of this world that are happening all around me, but on who You are and on all You have provided for me in You. Help me maintain this perspective and not get distracted by the things that would move me from true joy. Teach me to press into Your grace and find delight in You. And produce in me the fruit of joy that can be seen and experienced by others so they may come to know the joy of Your salvation. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.