Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

My wife, Renske, and I have three children. Our youngest, Jaana Madeleine, was born on New Year’s Day 2020. So, you can understand why “date nights” are at a premium in our household. In an ideal world, grandma and grandpa will have the kids over while we enjoy a quiet dinner at a new restaurant we’ve found. However, this kind of arrangement doesn’t occur as often as we’d like, and we’ve discovered, as perhaps you have, that the importance of a good date night can be boiled down to one key ingredient: meaningful conversation. Thus, as children have multiplied and time has become an increasingly precious commodity, we’ve sought to carve out space for this to happen. Because if we want to protect our marriage and see it flourish, then we must take care to guard one another’s heart and mind. And one of the primary ways this happens is through regular, meaningful communication.

But this reality holds true in the spiritual realm as well. If we want to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ (Phil 4:7), then we must engage in regular, meaningful communication with the Creator who spoke the universe into being and has spoken at many times and in many places to humanity, but, in these last days, has spoken to us by his Son (Heb. 1:1-2).

It is in the context of this prayer-dependant relationship with Jesus that Paul, the writer of the letter to the Philippian church, can not only encourage, but command the believer to rejoice (Phil. 4:4)! In these strange days, we remind ourselves that joy is not dependant on our circumstances, nor on our emotions. In Christ, we continue to rejoice because we know that He holds all things in His hands and that nothing can separate us from his love (Rom. 8:38)! He is not surprised. He is not taken aback. He will use this for his good purposes (Rom. 8:28). So, as we set aside time to focus on His goodness and power, and as he builds our love for and our trust in Him, we will find ourselves able to rejoice in all circumstances.

A New Perspective in Light of our Circumstances

Sandwiched between the commands to rejoice and pray in verses 4 and 6 respectively, Paul includes two other significant statements. First he says, “let your reasonableness be known to all people”. The reality is that those who rejoice in the Lord in all circumstances, and particularly in adversity, will have a perspective of wisdom and humility allowing them respond with a spirit of gentleness and moderation in the most difficult of situations. James clarifies this for us in his own epistle. He writes:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jam. 1:2-4)

Those who look upon hardship with joy knowing that God in his goodness and providence uses it to bring spiritual maturity will begin to respond in more Christ-like ways. That is, they will respond not as a people given to panic and self-preservation, but with wisdom, discernment, and humility as well as a willingness to lovingly sacrifice what they have for those who have not.

A New Perspective in Light of Eternity

Paul’s second statement is also about perspective. But rather than a perspective on our immediate circumstances, it’s about the bigger picture. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything”. James once again helps us understand, “You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (Jam. 5:8).

Establish your hearts. Gird yourself with the belt of truth. And the truth is that these hardships are not the end! The Lord is near! He will one day return. Therefore, as Jesus said to His disciples, let not your hearts be troubled because He is coming back (Jn. 14:1-3) and we have a hope that will not be put to shame because He has put His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee of our future inheritance in Heaven (Rom. 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14)!

Finally in closing, as we become more isolated in these days of pandemic, and especially if you’ve never made this a habit before, we highly recommend adopting a daily time of prayer and thanksgiving (even if it’s hit or miss!). There is no better antidote against fear, panic, and anxiety than earnest prayer and joyful thanksgiving to the Lord. Prayer is the first work of the believer. Because even when we can do nothing else, we can still pray.

Author

  • Timothy Berry

    Tim and Renske met and were married in Toulouse, France. They have three wonderful children: Matthijs, Anouk, and Jaana. Before planting City Church Wolverhampton, they served at Mendham Hills Community Church in Chester, NJ as the Pastor of Worship Arts. Tim is ordained by the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA).