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Rejoice in the Lord (even in 2021)

by Dale Buchanan  
3/10/2021 / Bible Studies

"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." Philippians 4:4

How can I rejoice – or be joyful – when everything is going so wrong?  You might say, I have relatives sick with COVID-19, or I lost my job because of the pandemic, or I have chronic bad health or any of a wide variety of other bad events happening in your life.  It sounds incredibly challenging.  What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord?

Paul Was Rejoicing!   But He Was in Prison!

Keep in mind that the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome in the 1st century when he wrote this. There was the possibility of execution for his crime of preaching the gospel.  I don't know about you, but humanly speaking, that would not be a time for rejoicing.  Yet Paul did rejoice.

What Does It Mean to Rejoice in the Lord?

Rejoicing is NOT happiness.  When everything goes right for you, you may be happy.  But rejoicing comes from the heart and not circumstances.  It reflects the internal condition of your heart.  As a prisoner, events were not going well for Paul, but he was joyful.  Notice that the command is Rejoice IN THE LORD.  The rejoicing is possible because the focus of our joy is the Lord, -- not circumstances, not health, not money, not job – but the Lord. It is gladness and rejoicing in His presence and in what He has given to us.

Why Should We Rejoice in the Lord?

Paul had some specific reasons to rejoice – and every Christian can have the same reasons.

He knew Jesus forgave his sins.  (Col. 1:14)

He knew that he had peace with God and thus cause for joy.  (Rom. 5:1,2)

He knew that he was on his way to heaven. (Rom. 8:38-39)

He knew that "Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice" (Phil. 1:18)

He knew that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Lk. 12:15)

He knew that "to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil. 1:21)

He knew that if he died, he would be "absent from the body" but "present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:8) 

The book of Philippians gives many reasons to rejoice.  The words joy, or rejoice, or rejoicing are used 18 times.

The circumstances of life can take away our health and all our possessions in a moment.  But what we have in Jesus can never be taken away from us.  Therefore, WE REJOICE!

Who Can Rejoice in the Lord?

Those who qualify can rejoice.  Do you qualify?

Saints Can Rejoice in the Lord – What is a Saint?  Who are They?

Paul wrote this short book to the "saints in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:1).  The word "saint" had a different meaning in the first century than the usual definition today.  In the Greek language, it means "separated" or "devoted to."  Morally and spiritually, the word describes someone or something that is separated from sin and devoted to God. 

Being a saint is a position that one receives at salvation when born-again (born anew or born from above).  It is defined further by saying "in Christ Jesus." When a person is born-again, he is "in Christ." "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.  Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." (II Cor. 5:17)

The word "saint" in the New Testament applies to every born-again person. (Philippians 4:21-22; Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2; Acts 9:13, 32; 26:10; Rom. 8:27; I Cor. 1:2; Additional references are too numerous to list.)

A person is not born again by being baptized or joining a church, or by good works.  A person is born again by repentance, faith, and trust in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.  It is a conscious decision made by a person who knows and confesses that he is a sinner.  He knows and believes that Jesus died to pay for his sin and then rose again from the dead.  He trusts Jesus as his own personal Savior and receives assurance from the Word of God that his sins have been forgiven.

Being a Saint is a Position "In Christ," But Not All Saints Live Up to That Position.

Many years ago, I earned a BS in Accounting and immediately got a job as an accountant.   But to say that I was a proficient accountant the first day, or month, or first half-year, would be a great stretch of the imagination.  The New Testament compares newly born-again Christians to human babies.  They need to grow up, and that is a process that takes time.  They are still a child of God, but they are not acting like their Father.  The Bible is full of stories of Christians that failed and fell into sin.  They were still Christians but had to repent, ask for forgiveness, and the Lord restored them to the place of blessing.

So, the first qualification to rejoice in the Lord is to be a born-again Christian. 

Rejoice in the Lord: Making It Possible

The rest of the criteria to be able to rejoice in the Lord is given in Phil. 4:5-9.  (5) "Let your

moderation (gentleness) be known unto all men.  The Lord is at hand.  (6) Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.  (7) And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  (8) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  9) Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." 

Perhaps the key to the whole secret of rejoicing is in v. 9.  What you have learned, received, heard, and seen, DO.  It is good to have Bible knowledge.  But if you don't act on it, there will be few good results. 

Actions that Make Rejoicing in the Lord Possible:  Actions enabled by the Holy Spirit.

  • Gentleness (moderation) (v. 5)  This is a spirit of calmness, kindness, and tranquility.  If there is rudeness, harshness, and a critical, judgmental spirit, there can be no joy, peace, or harmony but just contention.


  • Be careful for nothing: Not full of cares, or worried, or anxious, or upset, but instead: - -


  • Prayer – asking and supplication – pleading, voicing definite requests. In the words of the old hymn, "Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there."


  • With Thanksgiving – we can even be thankful for the trial or problem that has come our way because God wants to teach us or bless us through that trial. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In EVERY THING give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." When we reach this point, we have wholly entrusted the problem or need to the Lord. 


  • Results: Peace of God – His peace that He gives us internally because we have committed the problem entirely to Him – and left it there. This peace keeps (guards) like a garrison of soldiers internally protecting your heart and mind.


  • Discipline your mind (v. 8) to keep the peace and joy. You've committed the problem totally to the Lord. Leave it there. Don't pick it up again, figuring out how you are going to solve the problem.  Instead, discipline your mind (with the Lord's help) to think about those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.  Sometimes this step seems the most difficult because we, as humans, like to think we can solve the problem ourselves.

Review and Apply

The applications to remember from this Bible study are:

Make sure you are a saint – a born-again Christian

Build gentleness into your Christian demeanor

Don't be anxious, but pray

Thank the Lord

Voice your specific requests to the Lord

Experience His peace

You've committed the problem to the Lord, so now discipline your mind to leave the problem with the Lord and think true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and good report thoughts.

May God give you victory and peace so that you can REJOICE in the Lord!

(Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.)

Dale Buchanan is an ex-Baptist pastor and retired accountant who started his writing career a couple of years ago. He desires to honor the Lord with his writing, win the lost to Christ and encourage Christians to make Christ the pre-eminent person in their lives. Contact [email protected].

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