Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Don’t worry about anything.
Well, that may be easy for Paul to say.
But what about us? What about us who live in a world where nations are either threatening each other with war? Or are already at war?
Just last night I was at a vigil for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting rampage. I cannot count the number of times the past couple years I’ve said, “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of ___________________.”
At first glance Paul seems to possess an unrealistic attitude toward life that doesn’t admit these harsh realities.
Paul does know about human suffering. He wrote this letter to the Philippian church from a prison in Rome.
He’s well aware that life is fragile. That there is injustice.
Nevertheless, he says, “Rejoice in the Lord; again I will say, Rejoice! Don’t worry about anything.”
Paul’s someone who doesn’t ignore human suffering, but someone who looks it straight in the eye, and then continues working.
He chooses faith over fear. And he invites the church at Philippi—and us—to do the same. He invites us to choose joy in the midst of uncertainty.
He tells them not to let a disagreement get in the way of the wonderful thing God is doing in and through them.
He tells them struggles are not an excuse to stop trusting in God, or to stop caring for one another.
As he waits to see if he will live or die, he talks about joy.
He does this for two reasons, which are still relevant for us today:
First, Paul found a source of true joy that will never fail. He knows that whether he lives or dies, whether he has much or little, whether people treat him as a friend or as an enemy, he is never alone.
Second, he knows that how we think determines to a great extent, how we live. He knows that our thinking shapes our life.
Your perceptions, your thoughts, your mental habits, determine to a great extent, your reality. The more good stuff we stick in our bodies, the better.
Our thoughts are kind of like a rudder that steers our ship. Be mindful that we are thinking thoughts that will take us where we want to go!
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Think about the things that will fill you with light and joy. That’s the way to stay on course through life.