Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.…
There is a natural world, and there is a spiritual world. It is folly to ignore either. True wisdom lies in adequately acknowledging the claims of each, and skilfully adjusting their relations to each other. A man may be so engrossed by the natural, as to live as if there were no spiritual world, and vice versa In the one case he becomes a materialist; in the other, a mystic. We are now in this world, and have duties here which religion must help us to discharge. But there is a spiritual world, and nothing gives such elevation of character, and such power and consistency of living, as a sense of its real presence. The spiritually-minded have ever been the pioneers of human progress. Paul did not disparage the life that now is; he rather exalted it by constantly bringing upon it the power of the life to come. In the text he represents the effect of a spiritual faith on this human life. The key to the whole is, "The Lord is at hand." There are four characteristics of spiritual mindedness as thus understood.
I. It will surprise materialists that the first is Joy — the delightful enjoyment of the feelings of pleasure at good gained and actually enjoyed, or at the prospect of good which one has a reasonable hope of obtaining.
1. The natural world can give joy.
(1) There is the joy of youth, when the blood is hot, and burdens have not bowed, and disappointment have not soured the man, where there are many beautiful hopes and no bitter memories.
(2) The joy of health, when the humours are wholesome, the circulation unimpeded, the nerves unjaded, the lungs sound, and the brain clear; when food is pleasant, sleep sweet, and activity exhilarating.
(3) The joy of success, when the battle has been won, the office secured, the bride wedded, the fortune made.
(4) The joy of the affections, when the heart has loved well.
2. But the great defect in all joy that is not "in the Lord" is that it is transitory. Youth, health, success, are good while they last, but they last so short a time.
3. Our faith does not offer us a choice as between natural and spiritual joy. On the contrary, the sources of natural joy are intensified by our spiritual joys, and placed upon a more enduring basis. Would not (let conscience speak) your natural joys be trebly sweet if you did not feel that if these were swept away there would be nothing left? If you did but "rejoice in the Lord" all of earth that is sweet and beautiful would be more so. To the spiritually-minded "the Lord is at hand" to help every human joy.
II. To be spiritually-minded is to have habits of honesty in business, of candour, good temper and forgiveness, for that is the meaning of MODERATION.
1. This is a provoking world, full of things which create disagreeable feelings. The weariness and tricks of others make us shut up ourselves and become uncandid, and cynical, and hard. Life becomes a game. We must not show our hands. The wicked will take advantage of it, and we shall lose.
2. Well, if this natural life be all there is, we cannot afford to be candid and good-tempered toward all men. But a spiritually-minded man can so afford, "The Lord is at hand" to help him. Put Him away, saying that each man must care for himself only, and if you fail, no matter the failure; if you succeed, how barren the success.
3. Whether you will or not "the Lord is at hand." He sees all in the light of the spiritual world, and judges accordingly. He is at hand to help. The factory operative, the merchant, the capitalist, may all have a sense of His nearness, and if they have, then their moderation, fairness, self-control, and forgiveness will be known unto all men.
III. ELEVATION OF SOUL — a serenity of temper over which the changes of life may pass as Storms do over a mountain, loosing here and there a stone, breaking here and there a tree, shaking the whole mass and drenching it, but leaving the mountain rooted in the earth.
1. Much of our life is frittered away with carking cares and anxieties. These came from too close a look at things which are temporal. This nearness must be corrected by spiritual mindedness. To a man who has no feeling of the Lord's nearness every trouble exaggerates itself. He cannot put his full powers to any one thing, because he is troubled about many things.
2. Right spiritual-mindedness does not unfit us for the duties of life. Faith does not teach carelessness. It is the care that distracts which must be avoided. That is only avoided as a man comes to feel that the Lord stands by Him. That realized, he can attend to his multifarious duties without distraction. He has then a powerful motive to do his best, and that being done, he calmly leaves what he cannot do.
IV. DEVOUTNESS — a sense of the presence of One who takes an interest in our lives, and to whom we can speak specifically about everything that concerns us, and therefore concerns Him, and from whom we can get direction and help. In conclusion, when we are spiritually-minded God's peace —
1. Keeps our hearts steady and true when temptations and troubles and bereavements seem bearing them away.
2. Our minds. No mind loses its balance as long as it perceives the Lord at hand to help.
3. Through Jesus Christ, the connecting link.
(C. J. Deems, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.