Rejoice… for your own good? There is reason a plenty for us to rejoice – to honor God, to encourage others, etc. But I’d like to emphasize how important it is that we abide in joy – that we keep on rejoicing in the Lord – for OUR OWN GOOD.
It is not unusual for Paul to enjoin his audience to rejoice (Philippians 4:4, I Thess. 5:16). When he does, he urges their joy always. Paul’s priority of and purpose for joy is revealed in his letter to the church at Philippi (Philippians 3:1). Here’s an augmented translation of Paul’s counsel there: “Whatever happens, from here forward, keep on rejoicing in the Lord. I never grow weary of telling you this; I tell you for your own good, for your strength, to safeguard your faith.”
Believers should rejoice in the Lord, and keep on rejoicing, for their own good. Why should we be so serious about joy? Consider the following reasons:
To rejoice in the Lord is to agree with truth
When I rejoice, I am agreeing with heaven. I am saying “yes” to the truth of God’s nature—His Goodness, loving kindness, faithfulness, wisdom, and power. When I rejoice, I am also responding to and agreeing with the glad consequences of the finished work of Jesus. It is finished; I am glad. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him (Heb. 12:2) – the joy on the other side of the cross. I am glad to be on that side with him, the joy side. When I rejoice, I am agreeing with the promises of God—all that He has promised to be and do for us in Christ. I rejoice because, like Paul, I know that God is causing all things to work together for my good (Rom. 8:28). That is grin-worthy.
Not incidentally, by recognizing that joy is agreement with heaven helps me see that joy – rejoicing – is a heart posture and mindset. It need not be loud or wild, it need only gratefully agree with truth. Joy is agreeing with Heaven.
Furthermore, I can (and should) agree with heaven anytime, all the time. Too often in times of frustration, crisis, and heartache it is easy to forfeit joy. I might argue, “Hey – this is a tragedy and no place for joy for cryin’ out loud!” But I would be wrong. Because Joy is agreeing with heaven. In crisis, joy looks like hope. In heartache, joy looks like compassion. In conflict, joy looks like gentleness and love and patience and forgiveness. Even in broken-hearted grief, joy may mourn, but “not like those who have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13). I bring my joy with me into hard times, because there is no greater need for heaven than when we hurt. Keep on rejoicing – for your own good!
To rejoice is to strengthen ourselves
There are few things more devastating than despair, and the slow drain of discouragement can leave us empty. Melancholy moods, ambivalent attitudes and the drip-drip-drip of negative thoughts and words weaken our soul. We are left unprepared for challenge, distracted by the unimportant, and confused as to why we feel so grumpy.
The joy of the Lord, on the other hand (the joy that comes from Him and in response to Him), is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Joy strengthens our soul. Joy lifts our attitudes and sweetens our demeanor. Joy makes us optimistic and resilient. Joy gives us strength to endure, to overcome, and lets us enjoy the ride. We are most powerful when we are most joyful. Keep on rejoicing – for your own good!
Hope is a byproduct of joy
Without hope, faith is dormant. Faith is the substance, the currency, of things hoped for. Without a resilient hope, our faith isn’t reaching for or laying hold of anything. Robust faith requires resplendent hope. This kind of hope is produced and protected by joy. Paul prayed in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you will all JOY and peace in believing so that you will OVERFLOW with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Overflowing hope is the product of being filled with joy. Hope thrives in the atmosphere of joy. Keep on rejoicing. For your own good!
Rejoicing repels the ugly and unhelpful
When I rejoice, I reject and displace other things that produce nothing good. Joy cannot coexist with ugly attitudes. Joy will not abide anxiety. Joy is not irritable. Joy is never pessimistic. This makes perfect sense when I remember that joy is agreeing with heaven, with truth. My mind is never as clear and calm as when truth is prevailing there. Joy keeps truth in pole position. For those who might struggle to overcome unholy habits or unhelpful behaviors, I boldly prescribe joy. You’ve probably tried to beat yourself up, struggled to abstain, or maybe even flicked a rubber band on your wrist. Behavioral modification might work on puppies, but joy is heaven’s antidote to your angst.
What’s that look like? Well, there’s not much complexity to it. If I begin with the conviction that rejoicing is agreeing with truth – then I can simply decide to rejoice in whatever expression I choose. Seriously. Sometimes I just smile really big on purpose. (Smiling actually sends signals to and through your brain that triggers natural pleasant and happy feelings.) Sometimes I will breathe in deeply and find something to give thanks for or just begin to praise God. Most often, however, rejoicing is as easy letting out a good chuckle. Seriously LOL. “Hey Dav, I don’t want be fake.” No one does, and rejoicing never is – because it always agrees with truth. And furthermore, why would you feel so obligated to be loyal to a bad mood? What’s that bad mood ever done for you? So, laugh out loud. Laughing is worship. Laughing is agreeing with the Lord of the Cosmos. Laughing is celebrating the finished work of Jesus. Laugh with God. Rejoice.
Finally, in those moments when smiles and laughter are not on the menu, don’t forfeit joy – never do that. Rather, quiet your heart. In silent reflection, remember who God is, what Christ has done, what God has promised to be and do for us, and place your trust in His nature. And let your heart rejoice in Him.
Joy will protect your thoughts, guard your heart, strengthen your soul, sweeten your spirits, promote great hope, and keep you in agreement with Heaven.
Keep your joy on, for your own good.