“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” is a series of church worker wellness devotions. Visit lcms.org/wellness for more resources.
By Mark Matzke, pastor
The art of rejoicing in the Lord
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” (Phil. 4:4-5)
As church workers, we are intensely aware of all that plagues the human mind. We may even know something of different therapeutic approaches to healing.
Counseling and medication can be quite valuable in bringing order to human thought. We are complex creatures, and our path to intellectual wellness may reflect that complexity.
What must never be discounted though, in that process, is the truth of God’s Word.
God Himself gives us plenty of Spirit-led avenues to encourage a healthy mind.
Philippians chapter 4 is a good place to start in our daily walk of sanctification.
Paul begins by saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again: Rejoice!”
When Paul says “rejoice,” he is using what a grammar student would call an imperative. That means he is commanding us to “Rejoice in the Lord!”
This really isn’t an invitation. To our ears that seems a little aggressive.
But the Gospel is that by the power of the Spirit, rejoicing is something you can intentionally do. That’s important, because there will be times when you don’t feel like doing it. We have all been there.
Paul is choosing his words very carefully.
He does not say: Rejoice in your happy circumstances or rejoice in your nice possessions or rejoice in your good health.
Nor does he say, rejoice in your unhappy circumstances or rejoice in the loss of your possessions or rejoice in your frightening diagnosis.
He says, “rejoice in the Lord!”
The rejoicing is focused on the Lord Jesus. The Lord turns our hearts and lives to focus on Jesus Christ. That means we utilize the gift of our mind to look in His Word and review the story of Jesus, our Savior, for others, but for our own selves also.
We consciously recall His birth and teaching ministry; His temptation and passion; His precious death and burial; His resurrection and ascension; and we remember it was all for us.
The personal nature of Jesus’ sacrifice and victory over death and what it earns for you is the source of Christian joy.
We are to rejoice in Jesus always — to always take our thoughts and move them back to the Lord of heaven and earth, who became one of us.
The challenge is, of course, that all manner of things are going to try to move you off that solid base. Through the Spirit, rejoicing in the Lord becomes, “Yes, but.”
Try it. Insert “Yes, but …” into your thinking:
• I’m facing something really scary.
Yes, but a living Lord who conquered death and the grave goes with me.
• I feel unlovable.
Yes, but it was the strongest love of all time that moved Jesus to take my place in death and new life.
In a sense, rejoicing in the Lord is the art of preaching the Gospel to yourself; of rehearsing it; of drawing your joy from the Lord and not circumstances; of figuring out how to remember that when you need it most.
It’s great when someone is there to remind us. That’s a huge part of a pastor’s calling — reminding people to rejoice in the Lord.
But there will be times when there’s no pastor around, or there’s no Christian friend by your side, and you’re going to have to be the one to preach the Gospel to yourself.
Yes, but we have a Helper who is always beside us, to point and direct us to the Word every day.
May your ‘yes, buts’ fill your hearts and minds with Christ today and each day ahead of you.
The Lord is near. (Phil. 4:4b)
Mark Matzke is senior pastor of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Chesterland, Ohio.
LCMS church workers and their families are invited to offer encouragement to other workers and families by submitting a 500-word devotion for the Synod’s worker-to-worker wellness devotion series. Email questions and submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.