Summary: Learning how to rejoice during anxiety
Note: I used Max Lucado's book Be Anxious for Nothing as a reference for this sermon series. Many of the quotes come from this book.
Title: The Choice to Rejoice
Theme: From the series of Be Anxious for Nothing
Philippians 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (5) Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (7) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. (9) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
"Paul urges us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4, emphasis mine). Not just on paydays, Fridays, good days, or birthdays. But rejoice in the Lord always. You aren’t the first to read the word always and arch an eyebrow. Rejoice in the Lord always?
“Yeah, right,” mumbles the reader from the hospital bed.
“How?” sighs the unemployed dad.
“Always?” questions the mother of the baby born with a disability.
It is one thing to rejoice in the Lord when life is good, but when the odds are against you?
There is another man in scripture who know this challenge. .Joseph predated the apostle Paul by about twenty centuries. But both knew the challenge of imprisonment. Joseph’s jail was dank and dark, a dungeon of underground, windowless rooms, stale food, and bitter water. He had no way out.
And he had no friend to help him. He thought he did. He had befriended two men from Pharaoh’s court. One was a butler, the other a baker, and both were troubled by their dreams. Joseph had a knack for dream interpretation and offered to help. He had bad news for the baker (“Get your affairs in order; you’re going to die.”) and good news for the butler (“Get your bags packed; you’re going back to Pharaoh.”). Joseph asked the butler to put in a good word for him. The butler agreed. Joseph’s heart raced; his hopes soared. He kept an eye on the jail door, expecting to be released any minute.
“The chief cupbearer [butler], however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (Gen. 40:23 NIV). So had everyone else, it seemed. Joseph’s story is one of abandonment.
His brothers had disliked his dreams and swagger and decided to kill him and throw him into a pit. Had their greed not been a feather heavier than their thirst for blood, he would have died. When they had a chance to sell him to traveling merchants, they did.
His father was uninvolved. You’d hope to read of the sudden appearance of Jacob, who searched for his son, rescued him, and took him home. We don’t, because Jacob didn’t. He was MIA.
Joseph was carted off to Egypt and raffled off like a farm animal. The great-grandson of Abraham was sold to the highest bidder.
Even so, he landed on his feet. He worked his way to the top of Potiphar’s household. But then the mistress of the house put the hanky-panky on him. The lady went shady, and Joseph got out, leaving her holding his coat. When she accused him of attempted rape, her husband took her side and tossed Joseph in prison. Joseph landed in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.
Still, he didn’t give up. He became a model prisoner. He made his bed, made friends, and made a good impression on the warden, who recognized him as inmate of the month and promoted Joseph to convict-in-charge. Joseph met the butler and requested help. The butler agreed but quickly forgot, and cruelty tipped the scales. Joseph languished in prison for two years with no word and no solution.
Two years! Plenty of time to give up. Plenty of time for the world to turn gray, for gargoyles of dread to appear. Plenty of time to wonder, Is this how God treats his children? Is this God’s reward for good behavior? Do your best, and this is what you get? A jail cell and a hard bed.
If Joseph asked such questions, we don’t know. But if you ask those questions, you aren’t alone.
Denalyn and I spent the better part of last evening listening as a wife told us of her husband’s latest affair. This is dalliance number three. She thought they had worked through the infidelity. The bridge of trust was enjoying some fresh mortar and reinforcement. They were talking more. Fighting seldom. Life seemed to be on a good path.