Summary: God’s strikingly positive principals for how we can live and think as Christians.

Today we’re looking at a wonderfully positive passage of Scripture written by a man who, apart from his relationship with Jesus, had every reason not to rejoice, every reason to be anxious.

The author of this passage, the Apostle Paul, lived as a hunted man. Having initially come on the scene as the One Guy who would wipe out the church, Paul, after an encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, became the One Guy who God would use to bring the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles.

I wanted to focus on this passage today, in what will be my last message to you for the better part of 6 months, because I truly believe that God wants us to live in its principles.

Among hundreds of beloved passages, this is one that stands out for me, that crystalizes how I chose to live. And it might be of some encouragement to you as well.

So…let’s look at our passage today again more closely.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

I think when I started reading the Bible, it was so overwhelming that I glossed over a lot of it. It was so unfamiliar and it described a way of living that was so alien and new to me, that I spent a lot of my Bible-reading time gobsmacked, to use a word that Barb introduced me to.

By the time I read this for the first time, I had already read the Book of Acts, much of it a fairly nerve-wracking account of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys.

In the book of 2nd Corinthians, a book Barb and I are reading right now in our devotions, Paul recounts a lot of what happened to him in his missionary journeys.

2 Cor 11:24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

This was the life of Paul; this Paul…same guy who writes, while in prison (Paul was in prison by the way, in a cold, miserable Roman jail when he wrote the book of Philippians)…this is Paul who writes:

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

I remember my first response to this exhortation to live at all times in a mode of rejoicing was: what? either this guy is nuts, not too smart, sharp as a sack of wet mice…OR… he has something remarkable and wonderful in his life; something amazing in his heart; something fascinating in mind.

In a world where sadness and injustice and despair are everywhere how can this be even reasonable to suggest, to rejoice always in the Lord?

The author of Hebrews, who to me sounds an awful lot like the Apostle Paul himself, writes:

Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

It is easy to be happy when everything is going our way. There is no pressure then, there is nothing butting up against our lives or our faith or our comfort.

It is easy, brothers and sisters, to be content when everything’s going good: “God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world”, or so they use to say.

But you and I know that it’s rare thing when everything external to us is as it should be. Who here doesn’t know someone we love who is sick, who is fighting cancer, who is struggling with addictions?

Who isn’t affected by a world economy that 4 years after the recession started is still kind of circling the drain? For Paul, everything external WASN’T going his way. Messy and chaotic and violent and downright scary are better descriptors of normal life for Paul.

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