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Rev. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

Last month the saints in Canada observed a national day of Thanksgiving. This month we do the same in the States.

This national day of Thanksgiving is a day in which the leaders of our nations call us to give thanks to God for all the bounties He has given to us.

We understand that our thanksgiving is not to be limited to mere material things. As saints of God we are also to give thanks for spiritual blessings. Nor is our thanksgiving to be limited to one day of the year. We are to thank God every day for His blessings to us.

But to give thanks to God and be a thankful people we must be those who rejoice in the Lord always.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.


In his letter to the Philippian church Paul emphasizes that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Earlier in this letter Paul has pointed out that on the basis of Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father, God has highly exalted Jesus, given Him a name above every name, and made Him Lord over all. God accomplished this through the ascension of Jesus into heaven (Phil. 2:6-11).

Now in this concluding chapter Paul speaks again of the same lordship of Jesus.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

In this connection we must distinguish between Jesus’ lordship over the creation in general, including the ungodly, and His lordship over the church. Jesus rules absolutely and sovereignly as Lord over both the creation and the church. However, over the world God rules in His power, whereas over the church He rules in grace.

What concerns us here is the lordship of Jesus over the church and His gracious rule of her.

In the Bible times a lord was a slave owner.

Several things are noteworthy of the relation between a lord and his slaves. First, the lord owned his slaves. They were his personal property. For that reason the lord also had absolute control over the lives of his slaves. They lived and died by his word. But for that reason a lord also was responsible for the care of his slaves. It was his responsibility to feed and clothe his slaves, to care for their every need.

In much the same way Jesus is Lord in His church.

By nature we do not belong to Jesus but to another. Spiritually we are the slaves of the devil himself. This slavery is the result of our original sin in Adam. As punishment for this original sin in the garden God gave us all over to the spiritual control of the devil to be ruled by him as a lord rules his servants.

What a cruel bondage this is. For the devil leads us into the way of sin and every abomination before God. This in turn brings upon us the misery of God’s judgment. God judges our sin in this life with the misery of failed marriages, broken homes, strife, conflict; alcoholism, depression . . . . And after this life there is the agony of God’s wrath in hell.

However, Jesus has redeemed us from all horrible slavery. He has bought us with a price, the supreme price of His own life on the cross. As a result the devil’s ownership over us has been broken. Jesus is now our Lord and Master.

As our Lord, Jesus rules us absolutely and sovereignly. He sets before us the law of His heavenly Father and calls us to serve Him accordingly.

This rule over us is not grievous and harsh but glorious and beautiful. For by the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit Jesus so changes our hearts that we not only delight to do His will but also are able to do it. Through the power of grace we are so transformed that we find great joy in serving Jesus as Lord.

Besides this, Jesus as our Lord also provides us with all our needs. He provides us daily with food and drink, clothing and shelter. He also cares for our spiritual needs. From Him we receive grace to bear every burden, strength when we are weak, courage when we are afraid, peace in the most troubled times. Our every need He provides.

In fact, He makes all things work together for our eternal salvation and welfare.

This He is able to do because He is Lord over all.


In this Lord we are to rejoice.

To rejoice in the Lord means that we find our joy in the fact that Jesus is our Lord.

What a great blessing to have Jesus as our Lord! What a privilege to be called into the service of His name! What a comfort to know that, as our Lord, Jesus provides for our every need!

We rejoice in the Lord when Jesus’ lordship over us is the source of great joy in our lives. We rejoice in the Lord when Jesus’ lordship over us is the joy of our life.

We are called not only to rejoice in the Lord but to do so always, i.e., in every circumstance of life.

We are to rejoice in the Lord, for example, when we prosper and the horn of plenty is full. Is there food and drink on our table? Do we have clothing and shelter? Are we healthy and well? Is there peace and prosperity in our homes? Rejoice in the Lord. For all these things are the blessing of the Lord Jesus to us, who daily provides for all our needs.

But we must also rejoice in the Lord when there is want. Sometimes the lot of the saints is that of sickness, death, poverty, hunger, discord. Even then we must rejoice in the Lord. For in the midst of all these sufferings Jesus is still Lord and He will certainly care for us. As Lord He will provide for our every need. In fact, as Lord He will make all these things work together for our good and salvation.

Rejoice in the Lord always!

And again I say, Rejoice.

The apostle Paul repeats the admonition to rejoice in the Lord because of our tendency not to rejoice in Him always.

We often lose sight of the fact that Jesus is our Lord.

We do this, for example, in the face of adversity and suffering. Very quickly we forget that Jesus is our Lord, who cares for us and will make our present sufferings work for our eternal welfare. When that happens, we quickly fall into despair and have no joy at all.

But perhaps more often we forget that Jesus is our Lord in the midst of prosperity. In that case we rejoice in the plenty we have. But our rejoicing is not a rejoicing in the Lord. When this happens we inevitably use our plenty in a way that is different from what is the purpose of our Lord who gave it to us. Instead of using it in the service of His name, we use it sinfully, for the sake of our own pleasure and selfish ends.

And so it is that Paul repeats himself.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

If we will rejoice in the Lord always we must busy ourselves with the Word and by much prayer. For the Word of God speaks to us of our Lord, the great benefits we enjoy in His service and His wonderful care for us. Through prayer we learn to rely upon Jesus as our Lord and receive from Him all the riches of grace. Without this it is impossible to rejoice in the Lord.


If we will give thanks to God, we must know how to rejoice in the Lord always.

Even as we are called to rejoice in the Lord always, we are also called to give thanks to God in everything (I Thess. 5:18).

This means that we are to give thanks to God whether we find ourselves in riches or poverty, health or sickness, war or peace, life or death. No matter what the circumstance, we are to give thanks to God.

Quite obviously this is possible only when we rejoice in the Lord always. For only those who have joy can be thankful. The despondent, who have no joy, have nothing for which they can be thankful.

But more importantly, only those who rejoice in the Lord can truly be thankful to God. They are thankful to God in the midst of prosperity, for they understand that all their abundance comes ultimately from the hand of God, their heavenly Father, and is designed as a blessing of His grace.

But they also have something to be thankful for in the midst of suffering and poverty. Jesus is their Lord. And as their Lord He will care for them, provide for their every need, and make all things work together for their good. For this they are very thankful to their God.

In everything give thanks.

To this end, rejoice in the Lord.

And again I say, Rejoice.


THANKSGIVING

I thank the Lord for countless blessings daily sent;

For, circumstances notwithstanding, making me content.

For gifts of health, but also gifts of death and pain,

For pleasant sunny days, but also icy wind and rain.

For warmth and shelter, clothing, and for food in vast supply;

For mountain, lake, the flow’ring tree, the butterfly.

For loving family, with joyful celebrations

Who also share my griefs with me and tribulations.

For scores of friends, who in my need were glad to give;

For opportunities to serve when others too need help to live.

Yet most of all, I thank my Heav’nly Father for His love

In sending One, His own begotten Son, from heav’n above

To suffer and to die to make me free from every sin

And give me peace and joy, and knowledge that within

The trials sent, His love for me is ever shining through.

His everlasting arms around me strengthen and renew,

And when I give Him thanks, He shows to me by grace divine

That He has placed Thanksgiving in my heart – ’tis His, not mine!

-Thelma Westra