Church columnist: Rejoice in the Lord always
We are living in violent times!
Those professing Christ are being executed in some parts of the world. The Internet is flooded with videos of those violent acts as an expression of pride on the part of those committing the atrocities.
In our own country, there is mob violence against those in authority right out in the streets. People are shooting police, police are shooting people, people are shooting people.
The violence seems to be all around us all the time. Not only the violence of lawlessness, there is the legalized violence and execution against the most innocent human life.
Unborn babies are being executed — legalized murder is called execution — at a rate of over a million a year. Now we are learning that the executioners are actually selling the body parts for profit.
It is unthinkably horrible that there are those who would execute and sell the bodies of unborn babies, but what about those looking to buy them?
Those who profess Christ are losing their businesses because they refuse to participate in things the Bible says are morally wrong. We are seeing the beginnings of churches being told what they can preach and what they cannot.
If things don’t change for the better soon there is little doubt that churches will be closed because, like those business owners, they will be forced to engage in biblically immoral activities or be forcefully shut down. We think at times, “how much worse can our society get?” And for good reason!
Being confronted with all of these things on a regular basis could make the most optimistic person clinically depressed. If we are not careful we can let such things cause us to lose hope and give up. To withdraw from society or become part of the problem instead of the solution.
When we feel like losing hope, there is no better place to go than the Bible.
Consider, for example, what was going on in Paul’s world when he wrote to the Philippians and the Thessalonians to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16). His first letter to the Thessalonians was probably written around 50 AD and Philippians around 61 AD.
At the time Paul told the Thessalonians to “rejoice always” the Jews were chasing Paul from city to city trying to turn people against him and get him killed (cf. Acts 17:5-9). Apparently, after the brethren had gotten Paul out of the city, the Jews continued their persecution of the church there (1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14; 3:3, 4). Here is a church that was being actively persecuted and yet Paul tells them to “rejoice always.”
At the time Philippians was written, the head of the government was Nero Caesar. It was during this man’s rule that some of the grossest and inhumane persecution the church has ever known took place.
He used Christians as a scapegoat to deter attention away from his own failings. He made sport out of turning the crowds against Christians and they, in turn, found great entertainment in watching Christians being burned, eaten by wild beasts and ruthlessly tortured to death in the arena.
Probably his most infamous, but not the cruelest, display of hatred for Christians was when he had his chariot races illuminated by the burning bodies of Christians. He used them as torches at a sporting event! Yet, under this man’s rule, Paul told the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always.”
How could Paul give such advice to the church then, and to the church now, in the face of such cruelty and violence? The key words of the phrase are “in the Lord.” The Thessalonians and the Philippians — and the church today — can rejoice even in the face of the cruelest atrocities because they are “in the Lord.”
Paul’s words to the Roman church show why Christians can always rejoice (Romans 8:31–39).
If you are in Christ by hearing His word (Rom. 10:17), believing what it teaches about Him and His kingdom (Acts 8:12), repenting of your sins (Acts 17:30, 31), confessing that you believe Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:35-37), and being baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins to be added to His kingdom (Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:26, 27; Acts 2:38, 41, 47; Col. 1:13), then no matter what this world throws at you, you know that you are more than a conqueror.
Keep striving to live the faithful Christian life (Col. 1:23), keep working to make positive change where you are (Matt. 5:14-16), and be faithful even in the face of death (Rev. 2:10). For you know that you will receive the crown of life!