Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.…
I. WHAT DOES THIS PRECEPT MEAN?
1. Joy, like every other simple emotion, cannot be defined; it must be felt to be known. The text enforces that form of joy which we should call habitual cheerfulness as —
(1) Opposed to gloom and dejection. These are natural to some, fostered by the circumstances of many, but forbidden to a Christian. Though gloom be in harmony with my constitution or temperament, that cannot justify me in cherishing it. I may have a natural propensity to steal, but I am to fight against it; and so with a tendency to dejection. The Christian is not like Cain, a fugitive and without a friend; but like Abraham, whose resources for everything were in the sufficiency of God. What Habbakuk did ("although the fig tree," etc.) St. Paul tells all Christians to do, "Count it all joy when you fall into divers trials."(2) As distinguished from levity and mirth. Mirth is an act, cheerfulness a habit. Mirth is like a meteor; cheerfulness like a star. Mirth is like crackling thorns; cheerfulness like a fire. Mirth is like a freshet formed by a sudden overflow; cheerfulness like a river fed by deep springs and numerous brooks.
(3) As distinguished from indifference and insensibility. It is a positive state; a very distinct and vivid consciousness. A man may be very far from miserable; but it does not follow that he is cheerful. He may be stolid and callous of soul.
2. The text requires that cheerfulness should be habitual.
(1) It is required of us in working. We are to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow or brain joyfully, not counting work a hardship.
(2) There should be cheerfulness in giving, which God loves.
(3) In Christian communion.
(4) In general social intercourse.
(5) In suffering.
(6) In worship.
3. The precept directs us to derive our habitual cheerfulness from the Lord. No creature was ever happy in itself separated from God. You must not, therefore, try to get it from yourself.
(1) You will never get it from increase of wealth. That brings increase of care.
(2) Nor from the Church;
(3) but from Christ; His character, advent, death, righteousness, exaltation.This is the lesson continually put before us in the Bible. "My people have committed two evils." "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord."
II. BY WHAT MAY THIS PRECEPT BE ENFORCED?
1. Habitual religious cheerfulness is a personal advantage.
(1) It benefits the body and the spirit. "A merry heart doeth good like medicine." There are many persons who seriously impair their health by nursing gloom. Many nervous diseases may be traced to a state of mind cherished.
(2) A man works with great power who cherishes this spirit: "Neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Soldiers after a long day's march would hardly walk as nimbly as they do if they did not march to music. Get a cheerful heart and the yoke is easy and the burden light.
2. It is a strong qualification for rendering service to others. It is of little use trying to instruct, especially in religion, even a child, unless you are cheerful. And certainly a man is no use in the sick chamber, or in the house of bereavement, unless he has a cheerful heart.
3. If a Christian cannot rejoice always no man can.
(1) The infidel cannot.
(2) Nor the worldly.
4. For this the Christian has the largest possible provision. He has been born again, is a son of God and joint heir with Christ. It is quite true that Christians are soldiers and that the fight is hard, but victory is sure; they are racers and the running is exhausting, but the crown is sure; they are pilgrims and the journey is wearisome, but the arrival at home is sure; so that the soldier, racer, pilgrim, may rejoice alway.
5. The precept is enforced by Divine authority, by the example and word of Christ.Conclusion:
1. When you are inclined to despondency, investigate the cause. "Why art thou cast down?"
2. When in circumstances that are grievous call before you all that is joyous and hopeful. How strange it is that people who have never had a real trouble are always grumbling.
3. Never lose sight of the fountain of gladness.
4. Avoid vain and foolish anticipations of evil.
Parallel VersesKJV: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.