Third Sunday In Advent 2018-Rejoice, And Again I say Rejoice
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4
A man went to see a psychiatrist, and told him that he was lonely, despondent, and miserable. He begged the doctor to help him. The psychiatrist suggested that he needed to laugh so he instructed the patient to attend the circus and watch the clown who was famous for being able to make anyone laugh. His patient looked him in the eyes and said, “But Doctor, you don’t understand! You see I am that clown!” That man’s name was Joseph Grimaldi, one of the most celebrated English clowns of the late 18th and early 19th century.
We live in a society where many people are desperately consumed with looking for true happiness, peace and joy, but coming up empty. People have tried to fill that huge empty hole with work, families, relationships, wealth, fame, power, purpose, alcohol, sex, etc., but still failing to find the peace and joy they long for.
Many people believe peace and joy can be found in fame, and wealth. Elvis Presley had it all, the fame, fortune, adoration of fans, and incredible talent, and yet he lacked real happiness and joy. In the last days of his life he became increasingly dependent on prescription drugs, and shortly before he died said “I’d rather be unconscious than miserable.”
On his deathbed Jay Gould, a leading American railroad developer and speculator. As well as one of America’s richest men, said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.” In other words, his wealth did not bring happiness.
Ultimately there is only one person that can give us the true peace, joy and happiness that we all long for, and that is Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can satisfy that emptiness in your soul!
Into todays Epistle, that we read, Saint Paul commanded us to: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice.” (4:4). Though short and simple, it may be one of the most difficult commands to obey consistently. Perhaps you may identify with W. C. Fields who said, “I start off each day with a smile, and get it over with.”
In Chapter 4 of this Epistle St. Paul commands 6 things.
Stand Fast vs1
Be of one mind in the Lord vs2-3
Rejoice in the Lord vs4
Let your modesty be known to all men. Vs5. That is to be nonobtrusive and humble.
Be nothing solicitous;(do not be anxious) but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. Vs6
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things. Vs8
VII. The things which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, these do ye, Vs9
Notice that the command to rejoice is the only one that is repeated. Why is that? I think it’s because we tend to forget this one in the midst of dealing with difficult people and the upsetting problems of life. When Paul says, “Rejoice always,” he’s not talking about giddiness or a positive mental attitude. This is not “put on a happy face” or “look for the silver lining.”
The rejoicing he has in mind is not based on outward circumstances.
That’s crucial because very often our circumstances are quite depressing. It is worth remembering that Paul wrote Philippians whilst he was imprisoned in Rome. Not an environment that you would imagine would lead to one feeling full of joy and hope. Therefore it makes this theme of joy even more significant.
But not only was he spending his last days in a Roman Prison, He had spent a bit of time in the Philippian Jail as well. He understood exactly what the Philippian Christians were going through. In Acts chapter 16 it describes St. Paul and Barnabas situation:
"And the people ran together against them; and the magistrates rending off their clothes, commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them diligently. Who having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight, Paul and Silas praying, praised God. And they that were in prison, heard them."
If Paul could know and write about true joy while imprisoned, then there’s hope for us that in whatever circumstances we are in, we too can know true joy.
Paul had the supreme qualification to issue this call, because he himself was engaged in the same struggle as they were. In encouraging the Philippians to be full of joy, and to rejoice, Paul is reminding the Philippians to place their trust and faith in the Lord. It is above all an appeal to faith.
What enabled Paul to be full of joy was the knowledge that no matter what happened to him, Jesus Christ was with him. Several times in this letter Paul urges the Philippians to be joyful, because it was a message they clearly needed to hear. It’s all too easy to get discouraged about unpleasant circumstances or to take unimportant events too seriously. We need to see life from the right perspective.
Paul’s instruction to them is to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice”. It may seem an extraordinary thing to write, because when life is tough, when it feels as though the world is against us, the last thing you feel like doing is rejoicing, or being full of joy.
Listen to the Joy coming from the words of those who having gone before us, suffered for Christ:
For my heart is always with Him, day and night it thinks unceasingly of its heavenly and divine Friend, to whom it wants to prove its affection. Also within it arises this desire: not to die, but to suffer long, to suffer for God, to give Him its life while praying for poor sinners.
-Elizabeth of the Trinity
If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.
-St. Ignatius Loyola
In order to purify a soul, Jesus uses whatever instruments he likes. My soul underwent a complete abandonment on the part of creatures; often my best intentions were misinterpreted by the sisters, a type of suffering which is most painful; but God allows it, and we must accept it because in this way we become more like Jesus.
Blessed be He, Who came into the world for no other purpose than to suffer. Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end ...so take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.
-St. Teresa of Avila
Paul had the supreme qualification to issue this call, because he himself was engaged in the same struggle as they were. In encouraging the Philippians to be full of joy, and to rejoice, Paul is reminding the Philippians to place their trust and faith in the Lord. It is above all an appeal to faith in God.
What enabled Paul to be full of joy was the knowledge that no matter what happened to him, Jesus Christ was with him.
Several times in this letter Paul urges the Philippians to be joyful, because it was a message they clearly needed to hear. It’s all too easy to get discouraged about unpleasant circumstances or to take unimportant events too seriously. We need to see life from the right perspective.
Happiness depends on our circumstances, and this can change. But joy runs deeper and stronger. Joy is the confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives, and that He will be there no matter what!
Paul goes on to write, in vs 6: ‘Be nothing solicitous (don't be anxious); but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.’
The problem with anxiety, and worry, is that it ultimately displays a lack of trust in God.
But Paul’s advice is to turn our worries into prayers. Do you want to worry less? Then pray more! No one can pray and worry at the same time. When we pray we are handing over our worries and concerns to God, and asking Him to deal with them. This is the path that leads to true peace.
So are you looking for the secret to true joy, peace and happiness? It is not to be found in money, wealth, fame, work, relationships, it can only be found in Jesus Christ. If we reject worldly anxiety, and demonstrate in our prayers and actions the qualities of thankfulness and compassion which reflect God’s heart and God’s priorities, our reward will be that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
It is in this attitude of thankful, prayerful, generous hope that we wait this Advent for the coming of our Lord and the fulfilment of his promises.