This Oil painting was inspired by a lesson from the late Rob Ross, best known for his many years on pbs television. It’s a stylized depiction of quiet woods and colorful sky, filled with imaginary bird songs and waterfall accompaniment. Spring is ‘officially’ here! Spring we can see and hear is soon to follow. I chose this piece for today’s Thought—‘Rejoice’—because that’s what we’ll do (especially this year) when we see Spring once again reopening a curtain of color and sound in our yards and neighborhoods. Rejoice!
In my reading of Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in Philippi last week, I was struck by his use of “Rejoice”. A new thought entered my mind I hadn’t had in perhaps hundreds of times I’ve read these verses. How can this be? How can something ‘new’ come to us from the familiar? It’s not because the scripture changed. I (we) have changed. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 13, “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…” I believe the Holy Spirit focuses our ‘seeing’ in keeping with his leading in our development. So, what was it that struck my attention about Paul’s use of “Rejoice” in Philippians 4:1-7? First the text:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
When I see the prefix ‘Re…’in a word I think, what does that mean? What does it mean in this context? Generally, it means to ‘do again’ or to ‘do over’ another time. When I refill the gas tank of my car, I pull to the gas pump and ‘do again’ what I did the last time. I believe the last part of Paul’s word “…joice” is ‘joy’. What is Paul communicating here? Simply put, I believe Paul is saying to the followers at Philippi: Your joy tank is low. “Rejoice” or refill your joy tank. What makes me think this is what Paul says in verse six, “Do not be anxious about anything,” I suspect ‘Anxiety’ with its worry, fear and unease is a sure sign the joy tank of delight, bliss and gladness is nearly empty. It’s time to refill—to “rejoice”—the joy tank. But, how? I know how to refill my car’s gas tank. How do I refill my own joy tank?
Paul’s answer seems to involve two simultaneous actions of my (our) will.
FIRST : Pray as Paul describes in verse 6. Talk to God about what I feel…what I don’t understand and… how I would like things to be instead of the way I feel they are. He is more willing to listen than I am to talk. I can’t keep secrets…He knows already. Sometimes I need to voice it to God, so I can hear it myself. RESULT: v. 7 “Peace”!
SECOND: Guard my thinking. What I chose to think about gets stored in my mind and heart—my joy tank. What I think about is either ‘filling’ my joy tank or ‘draining’ it. Paul offers the solution in Philippians 4:8-9. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice.
As this filling of my joy tank takes place, my anxiety, often evident to others, is replaced as Paul states it, “Let (you can’t help but allow it) your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (filling your joy tank to overflow!)”. “And (inside your heart and mind) the God of peace will be with you.” RESULT: v. 9 “Peace”!
Another way I feel Paul expressed the result of Rejoice—refilling my heart by thinking on these things—is in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit (evidence of a fuller tank) is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Now is a great time to not only enjoy the return of the Spring we can hear and see, but a perfect time—even with difficult news—to rejoice (refill) my joy tank to overflow!