A hallmark of Christianity is joy. We believe that salvation
was won by Christ's death and resurrection. Our sins have
been forgiven and hope has been restored. This belief, however,
isn't always expressed in our lives.
The skeptic will ask, "Why should I be joyful? Our nation
was terrorized last September. The economy is uncertain. People
have died of anthrax. America is at war. Crime and violence
still exist. Give me a reason for rejoicing!"
I suggest Philippians 4:4-7.
Peace That Surpasses Understanding
St. Paul sets before the Philippians two great qualities of the Christian life.
The first is joy. Imagine: This great evangelist could conjure
up thoughts of joy while lying in prison facing possible death.
Paul's concern was not with his own peril but with the Christians
in Philippi. They were setting out on the Christian way and
Paul knew that dangers and persecutions lay ahead.
Nonetheless, Paul asserts (and I paraphrase), "I know what
I'm saying. I've thought of everything that can possibly happen.
And I still say, rejoice!" Christian joy is independent of
all things on earth because it has its source in the continual
presence of Christ.
Secondly, in verse five, Paul writes, "Your kindness should
be known to all." The Greek word for kindness is epieikeia.
It is difficult to translate epieikeia. The Greeks
explained it as "justice and something better than justice."
Epieikeia basically means that a person knows when
not to apply the strict letter of the law, to introduce mercy.
Christians, as Paul sees it, know that there is something
beyond justice. They know that something is God's mercy. We
rejoice because justice demands what we truly deserve, but
epieikeia looks beyond to meet us in our need.
For the Philippians, life was bound to be a "worrying" thing.
Besides life's normal cares, they also worried about the threat
of death because they were now Christians. Paul tells them
that the result of believing prayer is that "the peace of
God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus."
This peace is so precious that the mind, with all its skill,
can never produce it. It's only of God's giving.
Rejoice Before the Blessing Comes
Rather than rejoicing after we have received a blessing, we are called to confidence
that we shall be blessed! The result of such joy is victory
over the oppressive situations we face as we enter into the
Victorious and abundant life is the blessing we get from
rejoicing. The primal purpose is recreated. We return to where
we were created to be, where Adam and Eve were before the
Fall, where Jesus was after the Resurrection.
When God has intervened in our lives, we cannot explain what
has happened. All we know is that the space we thought was
cluttered with debris and rubble has been cleared.
Be sure that nothing you face in life is too hard for God.
Be free of your worry and doubt. We are renewed, revived and
ready to rejoice!