The Apostle Paul was known for encouraging followers of Jesus to rejoice. In 1 Thessalonians 5.16, he wrote, “Rejoice always.” In Philippians 3.1, he wrote, “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord” (NRSV). Paul added in Philippians 4.4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (NRSV).
The word “in” is important in these verses. We rejoice in the Lord—in who God is and in our relationship with God … always!
I’m slowly reading through Eugene Peterson’s Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers. In his chapter on Jesus’ story of “the Good Samaritan,” Peterson highlights what happened before the story. Jesus had sent out seventy-two followers in teams of two to do ministry. They came back rejoicing in what God had done through them.
Peterson describes the verb “rejoice” as “an exuberance we see in dance and cartwheels” (34). Rejoicing is a good thing!
But after their rejoicing, Jesus offered a word of caution …
Do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10.20)
Certainly, we should find joy in serving God and bearing fruit for God’s kingdom. But our greater joy is that our “names are written in heaven.”
Peterson cautions …
There is danger that we will become overly excited at what we see going on around us and neglect the center, our heaven-inscribed identities, out of which the work develops. (34)
Getting distracted by what goes on around us and neglecting the center are very real pitfalls for Jesus followers. The temptation is always to base our joy on what is happening in our ministries, instead of our relationship with God.
Peterson concludes …
Not what we do, but who we are ‘in heaven,’ anchors the joy. (34)
So, rejoice. Rejoice always. Rejoice in the Lord always.
Where does your joy come from?