I have been thinking about the command to “Rejoice Always” a lot over the last five weeks for two reasons. First, I have been preparing for a teaching series on God’s will in the Scripture “rejoicing always” is clearly His desire for us. The apostle Paul wrote: “Rejoice always. Pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). Second, it has been five weeks since I separated my shoulder when I went over the handlebars in a mountain-biking accident.
On Sunday evening five weeks ago, I went bike riding and was in awe of how beautiful the sunset was. I met some other guys on the trail, some believers, and we were talking about how awesome it to enjoy God’s creation, to reflect on His goodness. I often listen to sermons and worship music when I ride. In other words, I don’t believe biking was an idol for me. It could become one, I know. Idolatry happens when a tool for worship becomes the object of worship, but I do not believe this was the case for me. The next morning I went bike riding again and went over my handlebars and separated my shoulder. It was so frustrating, not only because of the pain but because I could not do this thing I love anymore. I was reminded that even good things could be taken away. Good things are temporary. The blessings can be enjoyed but they can also go away really fast.
Back to the command to rejoice always…
I have been reminded that we can only “rejoice always” if our rejoicing is grounded in Christ because only He is eternal. If my rejoicing is rooted in something other than Christ, I may rejoice but I won’t be able to “rejoice always.” The only way we can rejoice always is if we are rejoicing in the love and acceptance of God, because if we find our ultimate joy in something else, it can be taken from us in a second.
God cares deeply about the source of our rejoicing. He is going to constantly bring our rejoicing back to Him. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus sent the disciples out to serve people in His name. Amazing things happened. They came back thrilled. During the debrief, the disciples declared “that even the demons submit to us in your name Jesus.” Jesus responded: “don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
He was caring for their hearts. He wanted them to be more excited about what God had done for them by putting their names in heaven than what God did through them. He wanted them to rejoice more in what Christ had done for them then in what they did for Him.
The temptation the disciples faced is still a big temptation for those of us who lead and serve in ministry. We can easily (and sadly) rejoice more in our work than in His work on our behalf. I have been guilty. God wants us to rejoice more in what Christ has done for us than in what we do for Him. If something other than Him becomes the source of our rejoicing we will not be able to “rejoice always.”