Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.…
I. REJOICE IN THE LORD. At the outset —
1. Don't think this means —
(1) a seventh-heaven rapture. Nothing is easier, more common, or disheartening than the way we exaggerate religious joy. It is not given to many of us to soar to great heights; much less to live there. We want a joy that can walk along life's dusty roads, as a good day's work, and thrive amidst bustle and home cares.
(2) The short lived offspring of a passing excitement; an April day of sunshine, and showers that end in a night of sharp frost.
(3) Nor is it the childlike merriment of good spirits.
(4) Nor a natural hopefulness that forgets the past, and doesn't trouble much about the future.
2. But it is a calm, deep, settled gladness in the Lord.
(1) It does not change life so that there are no difficulties and burdens; but it edges the clouds with brightness, and in the darkness it can always see the stars. It does not turn the desert into a garden, but it is an angel presence bidding us "fear not," and opening our eyes, it shows us "a well of water."(2) It is of much importance that we keep from exaggerations. Many young people turn from religion disappointed because they have been encouraged to look for sustained raptures and have not found them.
(3) Depend upon it this "oil of gladness" is something that commonplace, everyday people can have if they will.
II. THE INGREDIENTS OF THIS JOY. It is not distilled from rare exotics and delicate plants that grow only in hothouses and cost much to cultivate. There are three simples growing just by the gate of the King's garden, and whoever will cultivate and mix them shall have this balm.
1. The sturdy plant Confidence — the superlative degree of hope; that in the dark today sings of a bright tomorrow; that does not think or believe that a loving Father orders all things, but rests in the assurance of it.
2. Confidence must be mixed equally with a little lowly plant that grows on the bank of the river — Contentment — a rarer plant than the other. Contentment keeps its desires level with its condition. When much is taken it counts up how much is left, and turns the evil round to find a better face upon it, thinking of the worse that might have been.
3. Put in Gratitude, to enrich it and make it sparkle.
III. BUT IF IT BE THUS EASILY MADE WHY IS IT SO UNCOMMON?
1. There are timid souls who have not the courage to forget themselves.
2. There are the stern, the gloomy, the severe, possibly too selfish to forget themselves, or too exact to forget anything. Hard-natured men of narrow sympathies to whom the brighter things of the world are vanities. Music and children and flowers and holidays have no charms for them. Business, duty, absorbs them. O! it is a pitiful thing when all the child is dead in men.
3. There are those whose religion is mostly a regular observance of services, a half-hearted round of duty. The religion that rejoices in the Lord must have something intense about it. A languid, pale-faced, sickly man who gets up for an hour or two and sits by the fire can't enjoy anything; he hasn't vigour enough. Type of dead-alive Christians, whose religion is true enough, but they have not enough of it. They want more warmth and life and heart.
IV. CAN CHRISTIANS AFFORD TO LIVE WITHOUT THIS JOY IN THE LORD?
1. It is repeatedly commanded. Is he guiltless who passes by the word with light indifference?
2. It is encouraged by every promise and precept. May not the man suspect the religion that is so unlike the Scripture sample?
3. It is the natural fruit of spiritual life: and if the fruit be wanting, the tree is not worth having.
4. Surely we have no business to keep twitting the world about a peace it can neither give nor take away, if all we can tell them is a dismal tale of trials and temptations, failure and sin. This is not what the Bible holds out to us, what Christ purchased for us, and is not likely to fetch home the prodigal from the far country.
V. HOW MAY WE MAKE THIS JOY OUR OWN? Confidence, Contentment, Gratitude, where can we find them? only in the King's garden.
1. We must go out of ourselves for everything worth having. He who sees self will never see anything but what he may weep over. He who sees the Lord may live always triumphing.
2. The opposite to this joy is not sorrow. The Man of Sorrows was "anointed with the oil of joy above His fellows."(1) The real killjoy is worry. Hundreds of religious people trust the Lord to save their souls; but to feed and clothe the body, train the children, etc., all that they must fret over as if their loving Father did not sit on the throne.
(2) The wasp nest of ill temper. This too may be conquered. "I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me."
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.