Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! …The Lord is near.
Paul wrote these words from jail. He’d been put there for preaching Christ. Did Paul’s prison food taste good? Did they give him a room with a view? Not likely. But Paul didn’t ask for pity. He didn’t complain. He wrote to his Christian friends and said, “Rejoice!”
Rejoice?! With very little effort, you and I can think of reasons to complain about our life. There’s so much pain, anger, and trouble in our world. Even our loved ones hurt us sometimes. And when you try to stand firm, when you try to be a wall against the hurricane effects of sin swirling in your direction, you rediscover the horrible truth that the weakness, the sin, is swirling around in you, too.
Paul says, “The Lord is near.” In other words, Jesus is coming soon. If Jesus who knows our every thought and every intention were to suddenly return visibly today and we were to stand in his presence, would we be encouraged? Or would we instead become suddenly aware of how selfishly and how meaninglessly we’ve so often lived our lives? The Lord is near?! Our sin makes those words sound like a warning siren!
But Paul doesn’t see it that way at all. He links the Lord’s return with rejoicing. Why? Because Paul knows who the Lord is, and he knows what the Lord has done. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, has taken the punishment and guilt of all sin and carried it to the cross. By his death and resurrection he has established peace between us and God, now and forever. He has taken your sin away, too! Peace is yours.
If you try to find joy in the circumstances of your life, you’ll always come up short. The key to real joy and contentment is found in Jesus Christ alone. Whether you are rich or poor, sick or healthy, young or old, you can rejoice because the Lord is near and because “the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Dear Savior Jesus, give me true joy as I wait for your return in glory. Amen.