For When We are Much in Need {Part III}

Did you find yourself awoken this morning to many needs? I did, as I do most mornings. There is much in my world and heart that isn’t right. {Just pick up a newspaper if you’re not convinced.} Our fallenness is problematic for us and others {and even our environment}.

When I am much in need I want to do something to fix it. If I’m hungry, I eat. Tired I sleep. Lonely, I call a friend. Some needs are just easy to make right.

There are others that I don’t even know where to begin. Homelessness. Child Abuse. Slavery {Yes, this is still a modern problem.} Before I can even finish my list, I just want to pull the covers up over my head and hide there, all day, forever.

When the Apostle Paul frequently tells us in his writings to “rejoice,” I’m annoyed. It seems like such a trite solution. What will rejoicing fix? Furthermore, in the passage we have been looking at (I Thessalonians 5:12-24), Paul exhorts believers to “rejoice always” (v. 16).

Always? As in, continually? Even when there’s no fruit on the trees, no food in the fields, no flock in the fold, no cattle in the stalls? It appears yes, even then. “Yet will I exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

This sounds like Paul is asking us to depart emotionally from reality. Right?

But maybe, Paul is encouraging us to embrace a deeper reality. Maybe he’s telling us that circumstances are not what define our reality—rather, God does. God—the One who judges justly, loves without limits, provides abundantly with bread and wine and presence, and saves utterly and completely—is the source of and reason for our rejoicing.

I have found two things helpful as I lean in to develop the discipline of rejoicing:

#1—We must know what to rejoice about. See, our hearts are governed to think that rejoicing is celebrating a personal win. Watching the Olympics reminds me how quick we are to celebrate human strength and victory. Biblical rejoicing is celebrating God’s strength and victories. This is why Paul can tell us to always rejoice, because God is always strong and yes, He is always winning.

Biblical rejoicing isn’t going to look like what you see in your local sports bar. It is anchored in the character and testimony of God. It acknowledges outright, “This problem is big…but my God is bigger.” Biblical rejoicing draws courage for the future on the witness of the past. It doesn’t helplessly hide under covers—it awakens the heart to look for evidence of God’s presence even in the least expected places.

Here are some examples of biblical rejoicing {hardly complete}:

a. The wisemen rejoiced in seeing the star—the God of Israel was fulfilling His promise (Mt. 2:10). What sign of God’s fulfilled promise will you look at today and rejoice?

b. Jesus instructs us to rejoice for the reward that awaits us even when today is filled with persecution (Mt. 5:12). Would you trade the momentary praise of man for the eternal reward of Christ?

c. A lost sheep is found and there is much rejoicing (Mt. 18:13; Lk. 15:6). Do you rejoice that you are found? Do you rejoice when others are found?

d. Christ, Immanuel, was born (Lk. 1:14). This miracle should astound us every day. God became flesh and dwelled with man. {Stop. Pause. Don’t move on until that amazes you.}

e. Our names are written in the Book of Life (Lk. 10:20).

f. Jesus rejoiced in spiritual revelation (Lk. 10:21). Can you rejoice today that you have had your eyes open to the reality of Jesus and His great love for you?

g. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the resurrected Christ (Jn. 20:20).

h. Barnabas rejoiced to see God’s work in other’s lives (Acts 11:23).

i. The believers at Antioch rejoiced to read the letter from the Jerusalem council inviting them into full participation in the community of faith—this is really rejoicing in the unity that Christ brings to His people (Acts 15:31). I’ve been thinking so much lately about how we ought to be telling stories of reconciliation—that we should be sharing how the power of the cross has demolished strongholds that have kept individuals, families, and tribes apart. Wouldn’t those be beautiful stories to hear?

j. A jailer rejoices that he has come to faith in Christ (Acts 16:31-40). The reality of Christ was bigger and more beautiful to this guy than the fact that he was out of a job. Are you depressed about how your life is going? Invite someone over to dinner, share with them how you came to know Christ, and see if that doesn’t do your heart some good.

k. Rejoice when others are honored (I Cor. 12:26); rejoice with the truth (I Cor. 13:6); rejoice that God uses so many in different ways to complete His work (I Cor. 16:17); rejoice when the Spirit brings repentance (2 Cor. 7:9); rejoice because God encourages you through others (2 Cor. 7:13); rejoice that Christ is proclaimed (Phil. 1:18).

l. Rejoice that your sins have been forgiven (Rom. 5:1-2)

m. Rejoice in God’s enduring love for you (Rom. 8:37-39).

n. Rejoice about your troubles—they are the spring showers of God’s flowers of sanctification and hope (Rom. 5:3-5; Col. 1:24; I Pet. 1:6, 4:13).

o. Rejoice that someday our enemy will know the victory that has already been accomplished by Christ (Rev. 12:12).

p. Rejoice that Christ is coming again (Rev. 19:7).

#2—We must practice rejoicing as a solution to our need. The brain is a muscle and just like all our other muscles, by memory it does what it knows. What habit have you taught it? Is it time for a work out to teach it how to rejoice? Do you need a trainer–someone to hold you accountable to remembering that God is big?

Why does Paul tell us so many times to rejoice? I think it’s because he knows we will have many much-in-need moments. The temptation is to trust in our own ability to fix it. The practice of rejoicing keeps our confidence in Christ alone, which is the only sure confidence at all in every much-in-need moment.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”~ Phil. 4:4
 

4 thoughts on “For When We are Much in Need {Part III}

    • Thanks for passing the post along! It’s always encouraging to know that someone found your work worth referring to others. Thank you!

  1. That’s the third time this week I’ve come across that passage in Habakkuk. Hmmm…. do you think the Lord might be trying to tell me something??

    “Biblical rejoicing draws courage for the future on the witness of the past.” Yep, that might be it. And I agree, we ought to be telling stories of reconciliation, because otherwise all we can easily focus on the brokenness of a fallen world. Add to that stories of healing, of provision, of changed hearts and minds…. overcoming by the word of our testimony… talk about a way to retrain your brain.

    Great post! Thank you for taking the time to craft it!

    • Yes! Retraining the mind…allowing it to be renewed! Third time this week, huh? I say the Lord is confirming His love for you in a reassuring way.

      Thanks for reading and responding…I’m always humbled when i know you’ve been reading my chicken scratches here. You bless me!

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