2022-10-16 “Rejoice in the Lord Always”

Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning

Franklin, NC 28734 October 16, 2022

Rejoice in the Lord Always”
Philippians 4:4

Though my favorite verses of the Bible are in John’s Gospel (11:25-27), my favorite book of the Bible is Philippians. This is true for several reasons; among those reasons is this one—I find Paul’s letter to the Philippian Christian households to be the epistle of Christian joy. Some form of the word joy or rejoice occurs sixteen times in the letter—a letter divided into a mere one hundred four verses and gathered into four chapters. We get two of those occurrences in our single verse today—a verse that has but seven words in the Greek. It’s hard to miss the heart of the matter today: Rejoice in the Lord always. Let’s hear God’s Word read and proclaimed once again in this place.


Questions may form in your mind immediately after hearing this verse read. Among them may be, “Always? Rejoice in the Lord always?” and, “How can I rejoice in the Lord always—or even in my current dismal state?” Consider the following extended answer from the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. Note, first, his manifold difficulties since he came to Christ (ca. A. D. 35), which may be summed under four heads: dangers, hardships, exposures, and injuries (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:24-28).1 All of these troubles get us only to about A. D. 57, when Paul likely wrote 2 Corinthians. In the five intervening years since the writing of 2 Corinthians, Paul endured a two-year imprisonment in Palestine (57-59) for a baseless charge, a harrowing voyage across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome (59-60) upon his appeal to Caesar, and a two-year imprisonment in Rome (60-62)—first under house arrest (Acts 28:16, 30) and later at the praetorium (Philippians 1:13). If anyone ever had occasion to carp at his circumstances and murmur at God’s providence, it was the Apostle Paul.

We read nothing of carping and murmuring anywhere within the canonical Pauline correspondence—especially not in Philippians. On the contrary, joy shines forth from the page filled by Paul’s Spirit-led words. Paul prays with joy for the Philippians before the Father (1:4). He expresses joy at the proclamation of Christ—no matter the motivation, whether out of rivalry or out of sincerity (1:12-18). He labors for the Philippians’ joy in Jesus (1:25), and even if his imprisonment at Rome leads to martyrdom, he rejoices at the prospect (cf. 2:17, 1:21). Based upon all the foregoing, then, Paul encourages his readers to rejoice in the Lord (3:1, 4:4), and to do this always—and to do this independent of circumstance.

We may rejoice in the Lord along two lines. First, we rejoice in His being—in Who He is. We rejoice in the fact that He is at the same time both one and three—and we rejoice in the implications this has for us. We rejoice in the fact that God is infinite. There is no limit to His size, to His power, or to anything else true about Him. Furthermore, we rejoice that God is both eternal and unchanging. He always was, is, and evermore shall me. Moreover, He always was, is, and evermore shall be the same as He was, is, and shall be. This is only a partial selection of God’s incommunicable attributes (i. e., attributes true of God alone, which are not true of us), but these suffice for abundant rejoicing in Who He is.

Second, we rejoice in God’s doing—in His work in time past, present, and future. We rejoice in His creative prowess. He is a powerful artisan, Who creates glorious things for His own glory and, secondarily, for our joy in Him. We rejoice in His redemption—which, of course, presumes and Fall and subsequent needful redemption. We rejoice in the provision of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the eternal second Person of the Trinity in human form, as the necessary, gracious, penal, substitutionary sacrifice for elect sinners—who, by the secret work of the Holy Spirit, will trust in Christ’s person and work for salvation and never will find that trust disappointed. We rejoice in the coming consummation of redemptive history in the Second Coming of Jesus, at the Father’s cue. Then, all shall be set right to all eternity—evil, and evildoers will be vanquished finally, and the people of God in Christ will enter into their full enjoyment of God and His blessings to all eternity. This too is cause for great rejoicing in the Lord.

Even in the full knowledge of these joyous truths, there are things and times that threaten to sully and to steal our joy. What are some of those things for you? They may include health woes—which hurt, sicken, and weaken, which seem to grow worse over time, and which avail little hope of improvement. They may include material woes, made worse by our late economic downturn, and they may hurt worse and worse with little hope of relief. They may include relational woes. We may find ourselves estranged and alienated from loved ones, perhaps to the degree of absolute rupture—with little to no hope for remedy or reconciliation. They may include disappointment over how things turned out in our lives—and they may include regret, or unanswerable wonder, over our choices that led to our lamentable state. As difficult as these things are, they may feel worse to you if any, or all, of them occur in the lives of your loved ones.

Even amid any, or all, of these things threatening to steal your joy, rejoice in the Lord always: both in Who He is and in what He does. By the Lord’s powerful grace through the work of the Holy Spirit, we shall see that joy trumps any difficult circumstance we endure. Many Christians today, like the Apostle Paul, understand this and rejoice in the Lord through apparently unendurable external and internal pain. We can too. May God grant His grace that we rejoice at all times in the Lord—and, perhaps especially, that we rejoice when every facet of our lives seems a wet blanket to our soul’s flame.

Therefore, beloved in Christ Jesus, I close today with today’s verse once again stated in our hearing: Rejoice in the Lord always—and, again, I say, rejoice.


1The full text of 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, in the English Standard Version of the Bible, reads as follows: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”