Summary: This sermon lifts out three markers for the Christian life from Philippians 4:4-9.
“No Long Faces Allowed!”
October 10, 1999
Can you pick a Christian out of a crowd of people? Maybe not, unless the crowd in doing something clearly wicked and there is one person who is not participating, which might suggest that they are a Christian. But hopefully, if we get to know someone personally we should be able to tell.
Between college and seminary I worked for a pipe-fitting company that had contracts at Miles, now owned by Bayer, here in Elkhart. Most of the men that I worked with were the fairly stereotypical construction workers; gruff, foul-mouthed, etc. But the first day I met Alex on the job, I knew he was different. Without even talking to him alone, I could tell he was a Christian. I could tell because of the things he did or did not say around the lunch table. I could tell from the way he treated other people and was concerned for their welfare, and how his main goal in life was not to keep his pride intact. It was not just that his mom and dad had taught Alex to be a nice boy, but there was something spiritual about his behavior. I knew he was a Christian even before I asked him.
My point this morning is that the Christian life is supposed to have certain markers. I will share with you this morning three such markers from Philippians 4.
I. It is to be marked by an unshakable joy (vs. 4).
To begin with, the Christian life is supposed to be marked by an unshakable joy. I say “unshakable”, because the kind of joy that is offered to the Christian does not depend upon outward circumstances in life. The kind of joy that God offers us is something that the problems of life cannot take away. That is why it is an unshakable joy that is to mark the Christian life.
Most of us have known Christians that at one time or other in our lives that had a lot of joy! Those persons who, no matter what they went through in life, seemed to retain a healthy joy that was clearly spiritual in nature. I think of Ruth Hadden, a little old lady I knew in our home church. She was elderly - in her eighties, lived alone, a widow. Her family did not visit her as they should have. Her health was poor, her eyes nearly blind. Each time I talked with her, I was amazed at her outlook. She was full of joy. No matter how alone she was, no matter, how bad her health was, she still had joy.
Where does this come from? How do I get it, you might be asking! What is the source? The key is right here in verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” The key is rejoice in the Lord. The Philippians were living in a day when Christians were being persecuted severely. They had apparently faced various trials and tribulations. And since they were normal human beings like us, they suffered in life just as we often do. Yet the Apostle Paul tells them to rejoice! Not because their lives were always so wonderful, but because of their relationship with God. Rejoice “in the Lord” - that is, rejoice because of your relationship with God.
His point is that no matter what goes on this life, no matter how rough it gets, you can still rejoice in the Lord! For the Lord has saved you! He has transferred you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light! He is enriching and blessing and guiding your life since you became a Christian! And not only that, but you have the promise of being with him for all eternity after this life is over! And the promise of a resurrection on the day Jesus returns. And he is also closer than your own breath whenever you have to face adversity.
This is more than reason enough to rejoice! Nothing can come between you and your relationship with the Lord! No matter what happens in this life, the blessings that come from knowing God now and from having the hope of heaven are yours. And THAT is plenty reason to rejoice.
But note one more thing here about this mark of joy, rejoicing. Note that rejoicing is commanded. The word here in verse 4, “rejoice” is an imperative - that is, it is a command. Paul is telling the Philippians to rejoice. He is commanding them to rejoice. He is not saying it is merely a good idea to rejoice, nor is saying that they should rejoice just when they feel like it.
No – he commands them to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.