Rejoice in the Lord Always

“Rejoice in the Lord alway”

Phil 4:4a

What a simple command is set before us: rejoice. Surely there is nothing we more enjoy than rejoicing in the Lord? There is nothing that excites our soul like rejoicing. There is nothing we would rather have than joy. Yet this rejoicing can be a most difficult calling for us. Why is that? If it is so amazing, why do we not cling to it and live constantly in joy? Oftentimes the circumstances of our lives can drive us to sadness and discontentment, our view of ourselves can cause us bitter shame and fear, or a weakness in our faith can cause us to doubt God’s promises. 

Every day we face new situations and often our lives can be characterized by trials and pains. It is silly for one to suppose that there are no challenges in our lives. Indeed, we will and do face many trials, such as sickness, death, broken relationships, bad work situations, difficult financial situations, an impenitent brother, and so much more. Remember the Israelites’ wilderness journey which continually brought them challenge after challenge. During their journey, they too often lost their joy. We often hear verses such as Exodus 16:2, which says, “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” Perhaps we are tempted to think we are no grumblers or murmurers like the Israelites. However, how easily we are tempted to say in our hearts, “God, this way you have chosen is not what I want, and I have a better plan. This is too difficult, it could be so much simpler.” God has given us the example of the Israelites so that we might learn to choose joy. The problem the Israelites had in the wilderness, and that we often have today, is that we look with only our physical eyes and forget to “walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7). We open our eyes only to the fiery serpents that mark our path instead of lifting our heads to Jesus Christ our hope and our joy. When all seems against us we must lift our heads to our faithful Saviour and not be overwhelmed by the troubles of the world. If in our weakness our eyes are focused on this world, we will only see sin. Seeing only sin, we will be restrained from having joy. It is only when by the Spirit, we see Jesus that our heart can be filled with delight in God. There is no fellowship between Christ, our joy, and sin. Christ saved us from our otherwise miserable state!

At times, we can lose our joy in Christ as we get overwhelmed by our sins. We can get wrapped up in a “condition of spiritual darkness” (Hoeksema, pg. 133). As Hoeksema well describes in Communion with God

“The worst manifestations of this chronic gloom and dejection of spirit you find in the Christian who stubbornly refuses to be delivered from it and to be led into the glorious liberty of the children of God; who systematically defends that state of constant spiritual darkness as the normal condition of the child of God in this world; who considers it a special mark of piety always to doubt and to wail and lament, though it be to no purpose at all; who raises this doubting state to a standard of spiritual living for all who are truly saved.”

Hoeksema, Communion with God, pg. 133

We can be inclined to sit in darkness and think that our sorrow will make us feel better about ourselves, as if we are so pious and humble to accept our sinful nature. If you have ever felt this way (I know I have myself have become overwhelmed by my sinful nature so that I do not look at Christ’s Spirit within me at times) remember the encouraging words of Micah 7:8 “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” This verse points out two truths about joy. First, the enemy can never rejoice because they will never have the victory. Secondly, though we may slip and fall the Lord will redeem us from sin and our sinfulness and restore our enjoyment of that salvation. Always remember that God is our light! No matter how dark you may feel your soul is, do not identify yourself as your sinful nature. Jesus has said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). We are children of God, elect and chosen.

“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness”

John 12:46

Finally, we can lack this joy by weakness in our faith. It is only possible through the strength of the Holy Spirit that we can confess Jesus and therefore have joy in Him. When we are found “lov[ing] the world” then “the love of the Father is not in [us]” (I John 2:15). Throughout the Psalms, there are about twenty-one times in which David makes some reference to our joy being found in the Lord. He realized that when we are in the Lord and He in us, then we are strong to delight in the gift of joy. We must always strive and pray with David that God “rejoice the soul of thy servant” (Ps. 86:4). We cannot expect to find joy in ourselves, or by ourselves. We rely on God and pray that He will continue to direct our eyes to Christ so that we can experience joy. 

As we examine our lack of joy, we realize it all comes down to the fact that we do not set our eyes on Jehovah as we must. Whether it be focusing only on the circumstances around us, our own selves, or altogether looking away from God, we see that our lack of joy comes from looking at that which is not God. We must remember, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Before closing, I want to make clear that I am not accusing anyone of sinning by being sad. It is not wrong to experience trials and feel sorrow in them, but we may not let these things consume us and take us away from our joy in Christ. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a “time to weep” and “a time to mourn” and that God certainly does have his people “[see] travail.” He uses these trials and “[makes] every thing beautiful in his time.” There is “no good in [trials], but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life” (vv. 6, 10, 11, 12). 

Luke Christian Potjer

Works Cited:

Hoeksema. Communion with God. Reformed Free Publishing Association. 

References to joy found “in the Lord” or some variation in the Psalms: 5:11 9:2,14 13:5 16:11 21:1,6 31:7 32:11 33:21 34:2 35:9 40:16 43:4 51:12 63:11 66:6 68:3,4 70:4 85:6 86:4 89:16

The Importance of Silence and Solitude

My friends and I are going through a book about spiritual disciplines. The latest chapter we read was about silence and solitude. The idea that silence and solitude could be spiritual disciplines seemed strange to me, but the more we read and discussed the more it made sense. Our days are filled with noise. In fact, it is hard to go someplace that is truly quiet. 

Especially, I think, in recent years; technology keeps getting bigger and better. Perhaps in the days before we had all these smartphones, Bluetooth, streaming music apps, Netflix, and other video players, the world might have had some silence—a peaceful time when you were alone and could sit out on the porch and listen to the chirping of the crickets and frogs, or a time to walk through a field of flowers or produce and enjoy the silence and the beauty of God’s creation as the sun sinks and the sky bursts with amazing colors. 

It would seem those days were easier to find time for silence and solitude. Now, people, including myself can sometimes find it uncomfortable to sit in silence. How often do we pick up our phones and play music to pass the time while we’re getting ready? Even though it might be harder nowadays and possibly uncomfortable to be by yourself and in silence, it is still really important for a Christian to find that time. 

Even when I do find myself in silence and not bothered by it, I never think to use it as a time to grow closer in my relationship with the Father. Silence and solitude can and should be used as a time to read the Word, concentrate on prayer, listen for God, enjoy His handiwork, and more. It could be used as a time to try and see where God wants you in your life and in any decisions you need to make, or it could be used to take time to rest in God and His promises. Basically, it should be used to strengthen your relationship with God and for you to listen for God, for the Holy Spirit, to lead you and strengthen you. 

Learning to take opportunities of silence as well as make times of silence and solitude will be a hard habit to get into, especially in the always-connected and noisy world we live in, but it is a very important discipline to get into and use in our Christian lives. 

Brittany Bylsma

His Mercy is More

Have you ever wished that there was a rewind button, that you could go back to the hour before and redo your reaction to something? To do something better or take out the part where you yelled or were upset? Maybe there was a time when the weight of your sin was so heavy and the only thing you longed for was for it to go away.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a time machine or a guilt eraser for a quick and easy fix to this inherent problem of sin that we all face. Instead, we have something that works even better, and it comes at no cost for us. What is this non-magical, yet life altering fix? The mercy of our Heavenly Father.

God’s mercy is an incredible blessing. It has incredible power: removing the sin of an entire nation in a day (Zechariah 3:9), taking our sins and hurling them as far as east from west (Psalm 103:12), throwing them into the depths of a fathomless sea (Micah 7:18-19). This power of God’s mercy comes down to us and wipes away our sins from our record, throwing them into a sea “without bottom or shore,” the depths of which are known and fathomed only by the Almighty Creator, Himself.

Our sins are remembered no more. That is a promise. But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t see them in the first place, that he turns a blind eye to them. That’s not how God’s mercy works. This mercy comes at no price to us, but that doesn’t mean that there was not a great cost; we no longer feel the weight of our sin, but that does not mean this incomprehensible load would just cease to exist.“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed”

God’s mercy is granted because of the work that Christ did for us. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

To me, this is one of the most powerful statements in the entirety of scripture. The chastisement on him and his wounds are what brought us peace, what healed our weaknesses! He bore that heavy load so that we might be freed from it. He took the beatings and the scorn and the weight of God’s wrath, so that we might be spared!

“His Mercy is More” is a song that so accurately depicts the depth of God’s mercy. The lyrics include: ”What riches of kindness He lavished on us. His blood was the payment, His life was the cost. We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford. Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more.” We were under the weight of sin that we could never overcome, and so God, in His mercy, removed the debt and gave it to another who could bear it.

God’s mercy, His kindness, is also patient. He deals tenderly with us in our infirmities. Those he forgives are not the ones that have it all figured out, who would have no need for a Savior. He didn’t come to heal the righteous, but to bring sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:12-13). What a comfort! “He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor.” That’s you. That’s me. And no matter the sin, His mercy can cover it, and indeed already has. Our sins may be great. They may be overwhelming for us, but with God, nothing is impossible, even forgiving the worst of sins (Matt. 19:26).

To me, the greatest comfort is found in the reason for God’s mercy. He had no obligation to draw us out of our sins. He had no need for us to be saved, and yet, that is exactly what he did. Why would he do that? The answer is in the very first line of this song. “What love could remember no wrongs he hath done…” God’s love. It’s the only reason we are given this mercy. 

This forgiveness came at the cost of Christ’s life. His sacrifice is the proof that our God has mercy on us. His blood was the payment that washed away our sin. God gave up His son to save us. What a love!

These mercies are given to us, not of our own merit, but of God’s abundant grace. They are new every morning. They will never run out or become weak. What a faithful, amazing, loving God we serve.

“Praise the Lord! His mercy is more. Stronger than darkness, new every morning, our sins, they are many, His mercy is more.”

“His mercy is more” by Keith Getty

Mikaia Looyenga