Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines rejoice as “to experience gladness in a high degree”. The Bible instructs us to rejoice always in 1 Thessalonians 5:16. In just these past few weeks, how many times have you truly rejoiced? When was the last time you had that feeling or experience of gladness in a high degree?
We tend to have special reasons for feeling gladness of high degree. A loved one gave you a wonderful surprise on your birthday. Your spouse gave you a special gift on your anniversary. You finally achieved the dream job you have been aspiring! You received a promotion! You won in a lottery! The list could go on. But these are special moments. It is not always that there is a special day. It is not always that there is a special occasion. It is not always that there is a special event. So how can we be able to rejoice always?
“Rejoice always” is a very meaningful statement coming from a man who suffered much. Apostle Paul instructed this to the Thessalonians Christians. Isn’t it odd for him to say ‘rejoice always’? After all these are the things he suffered for the sake of Jesus Christ. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less 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.” – 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. And yet even through all these, Paul said, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-9. And in another passage, he said this: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13.
We understand from Apostle Paul that to rejoice always is not dependent on circumstance or any special events. Because if it is so, Paul would not have time to rejoice and he would not even instruct as to rejoice always. To be able to rejoice always is to understand who we are in Jesus Christ. Like him, we may be afflicted in every way, but we are not crushed. We may be perplexed, but we are not driven to despair. We may be persecuted, but we are not abandoned. We may have been struck down, but we are not destroyed. We may be in lack, but we are not cast aside. On the contrary, God is with us (Isaiah 41:10). Paul knew the secret to contentment in abundance and in need and that is dependence in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we live in dependence to God and His grace, we can rejoice no matter the circumstance. We have hope that abounds in Jesus.