From Gary Paulsen:
As I read through Paul’s letter to the Philippians, it struck me that the great apostle was struggling through some of the issues we find ourselves in today. He understood what it meant to be isolated. He understood being insulated away from family and friends. He knew what it was to be sequestered for he was a prisoner, a man in ultimate quarantine (see Phil 1:7, 13, 17). Beyond his isolation, there was the real possibility that his imprisonment could ultimately end in death (Phil. 1:20-21).
Many of us currently are in circumstances similar to Paul’s. This virus has isolated us, restricted us to our homes. We find ourselves absent from dear friends, family, and vital contacts. What’s more, as we read and hear the dark reports of those poor souls who have succumbed to this plague, we recognize that contact with the virus could lead to the real possibility of death.
So how does the isolate, sequestered, and perhaps even doomed Apostle Paul advise God’s people in Philippi? Instead of looking at the awful situation Paul charges them to do what he does: Rejoice!
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4-5)
Paul commands the Philippians and us to “rejoice.” It is imperative that we understand that this command to rejoice is not based on circumstance. We know that for four reasons.
First, the command to “rejoice” is presented in a verb tense that calls for habitual action. The believer in Jesus Christ is to be continually, habitually rejoicing. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance it is the directive of the inspired Apostle Paul that those who are followers of the Lord Jesus are to continually rejoice.
Secondly, we know that this command is to be met, not based on any situation we may find ourselves in, for Paul adds that we are to “Rejoice in the Lord.” The believers, you and I, are charged to continually rejoice “in the Lord.” That is, we are to rejoice continually in consideration of all that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, his people. We are to rejoice as we consider such benefits as his great salvation (Rom. 5:8). We are to contemplate Christ’s righteousness imputed to sinners like us (2 Cor. 5:17). The believer is to rejoice that he has been redeemed from all his sin (Eph. 1:7). We are to rejoice considering the Lord’s guarantee of Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The believer is to recall the magnificent promises of assurance found in Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. That is what it means to “Rejoice in the Lord.” Circumstances, conditions can be awful and frightening yet gazing upon Christ and all that he has accomplished for us gives us reason to rejoice no matter the state of affairs and in spite of the troubling times.
There is a third reason that we know that Paul’s charge to “rejoice” cannot be based on circumstance, is simply that he adds the word “always.” In the case that we somehow missed the command that we are to continually “rejoice in the Lord,” the apostle attaches the word “always.” It is apparent, that if we are command to “rejoice in the Lord always,” then there can be absolutely no circumstance that could arise that excludes rejoicing in the Lord.
And lastly, if we perhaps say to ourselves, “Oh no, this command to rejoice in the Lord continually cannot apply to my circumstance,” Paul commands us a second time to rejoice, Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.” Here Paul’s second command is in the future tense. Why? He is looking ahead and teaching us that whatever future circumstance that we are confronted with, we are nevertheless to continually, constantly, habitually rejoice in the Lord. Paul is stating that whatever comes our way the believer can rejoice in the Lord, always. We can obey the apostle’s charge to rejoice because, “We know, that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Believer, this virus has not surprised our God and though we may not see his hand working in all of this, it most certainly is. Our sovereign Lord is actively engaged in glorifying his name through this great difficulty. During this past week there have been reports that there is a revival taking place in Tennessee. It is claimed that people are turning to Christ, the result of people being confronted with death and questioning their eternal destinies. According to The Voice of the Martyrs, in Iran currently, there are many willing to listen to the claims of the gospel and many have come to Christ as they witness both the evils of Islam, and the devastating effects of the coronavirus epidemic. The Christian workers on the streets of Iran are calling for more workers because the demand is so great and the inquiries so many. There have been countless posts on social media showing doctors, nurses, and hospital workers kneeling in prayer, petitioning for help and mercy. Those are just a few incidents, and I’m sure there are countless other examples of our Lord’s work in the midst of apparent upheaval and tragedy.
And finally, God is using these current events for each and every believer’s good and his magnificent glory. So, my Christian friends, be of good courage! Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!