The Biblical Command We Ignore

Philippians_BibleConsider this question for a moment:

What biblical command is so difficult that we don’t merely disobey it, but we also routinely ignore it? 

It’s probably not what you think.

After all, we Christians try to steer clear of sins like sexual lust, gluttony, and drunkenness. When we fail in those areas, we usually acknowledge our sins and ask God for the strength to do better.

Most of us try to avoid dishonesty, gossip, and outbursts of anger. We understand how damaging those sins can be, so we try to avoid them also.

But there’s one biblical command that is so tough that we regularly ignore it, and we sometimes even question whether it’s possible to obey at all. Yet every time we disobey it, we’re committing a sin just as real and damaging as the ones I’ve listed above.

What’s the command I’m talking about?

Rejoice. 

Take a moment to read the verses below:

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, oh righteous! And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” – Psalm 32:11

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, ‘Rejoice!’” – Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice always.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Those are just a sampling of the many, many verses in the Bible that call us to rejoice. Not just to rejoice sometimes, but to rejoice always.

It’s a direct command from Scripture. It sounds like a fun command, actually. Maybe that’s why we tend to view it as a suggestion rather than as a command. After all, who doesn’t want to rejoice? Nobody would choose to lack joy, right? And if we don’t feel like rejoicing, it must mean we have some good reason to be grumpy or whiny, right?

Actually, wrong. The command specifically tells us to rejoice always. Even when we think we don’t have a good reason to rejoice.

“But how?” you ask. “How can I rejoice when I have so many good reasons not to?”

That’s a real quandary. There’s no way to side-step the reality that life can be quite hard. Our relationships don’t meet our expectations, our bodies don’t work like we want them to, our jobs disappoint us, and so on.

Joy seems like a luxury reserved for those who have easy lives. Something for people who don’t have real problems to worry about, people whose lives are all sunshine and roses.

It would be easy to convince ourselves of that, if only it wasn’t the apostle Paul who told us to rejoice. Paul, the guy who was beaten, shipwrecked, ostracized, starved half to death, and imprisoned for sharing the gospel.

How did he do it? How could he possibly rejoice in the midst of all of that? And how can we, even in the midst of all of our problems?

The secret is found in the little phrase that Paul attached to the word “rejoice” in Philippians 3:1 and 4:4.

“Rejoice in the Lord,” Paul wrote. 

Rejoice that God is good. Rejoice because Jesus is alive. Rejoice in the truth that He loves you. Rejoice that you know Him. Rejoice in the fact that He’s coming again to undo sin and death forever.

Even in the middle of your worst day, you can rejoice. There is always, always, always, a reason to rejoice. That’s why Paul says to rejoice always.

Joy is not the same as pretending your problems don’t exist. “Rejoice” is not code for, “Suck it up and paste a smile on that face.” Biblical joy acknowledges the pain of living in a fallen world, but then looks beyond that pain to the hope found in Jesus.

For too many of us, we read the command to rejoice and simply ignore it or disobey it because we find it unrealistic. Maybe we even find it offensive.

“I’m just complaining about my kids because parenting is hard. Don’t tell me I need to rejoice.”

“My job is terrible. My spouse is a jerk. My air conditioner is broken. My cat hates me. How dare you tell me to rejoice?”

But we miss the point when we respond that way. Paul tells us to rejoice precisely because our lives are hard. He tells us to rejoice as a way of reminding us that nothing is more powerful that God. When we rejoice in the Lord, we learn to trust Him. We deepen our faith in His promises and our appreciation for His character. And we encourage others to do the same.

Yes, it’s hard to do. Yes, we don’t always feel like it.

And yes, that’s why we really need to obey anyway. The God who raised Jesus from the dead can gives us the power to do the impossible.

Rejoice. In the Lord. Always.

Shall I say it again?

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Are We Building a Road or Just Scraping Dirt?

IMG_0970(This is a guest post by Brian Fisher, senior pastor of Grace Bible Church.)

Today a friend said to me, “Brian, you should wash your truck.”

My response: “What’s the point?”

I admit that my truck is a mess. But here’s the rub – our city is currently rebuilding a long stretch of road that leads to my house, and all the dirt I wash off my vehicle will just be restored hours later. So, as I reasoned when I was a child, Why bathe if I will get dirty again so soon?

Homeowners near and far cheered when the process began and the earth below our lunar-like pathway was laid bare. For years the road across this fairly flat stretch of earth has driven like a roller coaster, with alternating patterns of yawning caverns waiting to swallow smart cars and their not so smart drivers. We were happy at first, but now we have grown sad and impatient. So far all we have seen is a small crew scraping dirt, then adding dirt, then scraping dirt, then adding dirt. So much activity, but so little progress. Do they really know how to build a road, or do they just know how to scrape the dirt? As we sit in long lines with dust swirling around us, we wonder if perhaps someone, somewhere has lost sight of the big idea. “Your mission, O road-building crew, is to build roads, not just to scrape the dirt! Build! Build! Fulfill your mission!” 

What about us, Church? Do we know how to build roads or just scrape the dirt? Do we remember our mission? Our road to build is called the Great Commission. We are the only crew. We are the only hope the world has to discover and travel the road to life with God.

Jesus’ final words are famous words…and easily forgotten words. We drift toward producing great amounts of activity, while making little progress toward fulfilling our mission from Jesus. He said, “…as you are going, make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” His exhortation assumed that we would get going and keep moving. His exhortation assumed that we would pursue the lost around us. His exhortation assumed that we would learn, from the Spirit and from one another, what to do and how to get it done.

So challenge yourself. Do you know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you know how to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples? Do you know how to invest your life in another life, so that together you learn to more deeply love Jesus and serve His kingdom?

Church, let’s get moving! Here are a few resources written to point you in the right direction, to fan the flames of your passion and to grow the skill in you to fulfill your mission in life:

The Lost Art of Disciple-Making by Leroy Eims

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

The Great Omission by Robertson McQuilkin

To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot