Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on March 28, 1976
Philippians 4:4: “REJOICE.” Circle that word, please. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” When God repeats Himself, pay attention. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”
Have you ever wondered why the apostle Paul in the New Testament and David in the Old Testament are quoted so much and why they have had such an enduring impact on Christianity? Of all men, they seem to have lived the Christian life where we have to live it.
David, the writer of the Psalms in the Old Testament, knew joy but he also knew defeat and sorrow. He knew victory and he knew isolation; he knew rejection and he knew success. He just about had it all in the way of experience. So he can write to us about what God means in the kind of life that we have to live. You can always find him talking right to the point. When you read David’s Psalms, you don’t have to feel that there is some esoteric, far-out spiritual phraseology that cannot reach you. He speaks to you right where you are.
Paul does the same. Two-thirds of the New Testament Epistles are from his pen. He lived life in the arena. In order that he might give the gospel without charge, he made tents; he worked like other men. When Paul tells you something, you can always know that he is not preaching down to you, mouthing words. When he says it, inexcusable is the man who says, “He just doesn’t understand what I’m going through or he wouldn’t say that.”
Do you know where Paul was when he said, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice?” He was in prison, and not a pleasant one, either. Do you know to whom he was writing? To people who 11 years earlier had been born into the Kingdom out of a deliverance from prison.
Paul had set out to go to Bithynia, with a burden to take the Word of God into all Asia. But the Holy Spirit constrained him, though he doesn’t tell us how (Acts 16:6). And God did not even tell him where else to go; He just said, “Don’t go to Asia.” Some of us always want the second step when God is telling us the first step. God only gave Paul a half-step. He said, “Don’t go,” and did not say where else to go. Stopped in his path en route to Asia, he obeys the Spirit and goes back to Troas. Then an angel appeared to him in the night and said, “Come over to Macedonia.”
Paul landed in Macedonia under orders from the angel of the Lord. He walked from the little seacoast village into Philippi and all he did in Philippi was preach the Word. They beat him up and cast him into prison. He was in the inner prison, the darkest hole of the prison surrounded by the rest of the prison; literally, “in the timbers,” with his feet or part of his body in the timbers (Acts 16:24). He is sitting there in darkness, bound in stocks with blood running down his back, for preaching! Are any of you in worse shape today?
“About midnight,” the Scripture says, literally, “he hymned praises to God.” God shook the jail apart with an earthquake. Now, all kinds of people ever since then have been singing at odd times with the hopes of getting an earthquake to deliver them. Paul sang before any earthquake was on the horizon. His faith wrote the history; he sang around midnight with no assurance of an earthquake. They hymned praises to God; God sent the earthquake.
The jailer, supposing the prisoners had fled, was going to kill himself. Paul said, “Stay your hand; we are all here.” The jailer said, “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul said. They baptized the jailer and all his house. When God got hold of that cruel, callous jailer, who had thrown Paul and Silas in the inner prison with blood running down their backs, he washed their wounds; he became a changed person. And the church at Philippi was born.
Eleven years later, Paul is in jail again in another place. You would think these Philippians would write to him and say, “Hey, Paul, remember what happened in Philippi? Rejoice!” These Philippians are still down in the mouth. Thank God, God’s got a few like Paul. Paul, in jail, has to write to them. This Philippian letter was written from a prison cell 11 years later to the people who had been born into the Kingdom from Paul’s deliverance out of that jail in Philippi. And if you think there is repetition in verse 4, take this whole letter and circle all the references to joy and rejoice.
In Philippians 1:4, the last word is joy. In verse 18: “I therein do rejoice.” Circle it again. “Yea, and will rejoice.” Circle it again. Verse 25 ends with the “joy of faith.” Verse 26 references his hope that their “rejoicing may be more abundant.”
In Philippians 2:2, “Fulfill ye my joy.” In verse 17, “I joy, and rejoice.” Verse 18 says, “ye joy, and rejoice with me.” In verse 28, he is concerned, speaking to them that “ye may rejoice.” In verse 29, Paul says, “with all gladness,” an attitude in receiving someone that he prays for.
In Philippians 3:1, “Finally, my brethren,” and that gives me great comfort. Preachers are all alike from Paul’s day until now: they say “finally” and keep on going, and this is only the third chapter! “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” In verse 3: “rejoice in Christ Jesus.”
In Philippians 4:1, “my joy and crown.” And we are at verse 4, the text: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Isn’t that something? And he was in prison!
This message is so simple today. It is a law of the Spirit, yet it is overlooked because there are lots of Christians not living up to this standard. There is a happiness cult in the land and lots of people are seeking happiness, so let me distinguish between what I am going to stipulate as the meaning for happiness and the joy that Paul is talking about.
“Happiness” is dependent on or related to circumstances. It is a sort of warm, euphoric glow that relates to the moment’s experience. “Joy” is something that paradoxically transcends the circumstance. In 2nd Corinthians 6, Paul speaks of being sorrowful, yet rejoicing. Joy is something that conquers the circumstance. It is a state of mind, an attitude, an expression of the Spirit and a state of the Spirit that is not affected by the circumstance.
How could he otherwise say, “Rejoice . . . again I say, Rejoice” in the midst of a prison cell? So I don’t want to pass on to you some sentimental nonsense that is much talked about in the present world that tells you that when you are in a problem, you are really not; or that you can think the facts away. If you are in a mess, it is a mess; it is probably as bad as you think it is. If you are imprisoned, it is probably just as tight a prison, in the reality of life, as you think it is.
But Paul was in a circumstance as bad, if not worse, and he gave an imperative command. There wasn’t anything softening the command. He said, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” without ceasing, with no change, “and again I say, Rejoice.”
Now, he does not just hit you with that and leave you there. The laws of the Spirit are practical and the laws in the spiritual world are just as operational as the laws in the natural world. All you must do is get on the wavelength. And it is so simple.
How do you reach this state commanded by Paul and exhibited by him? After the command, Paul gives us the formula. In Jewish rhetorical style, he always gave the reason for something, following the statement of that something. Having commanded and having exhibited it in his own life, Paul gives the formula. Here it is, that simple message that is overlooked. If you are not rejoicing, come on! Here is the way to get there: “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:5).
Now, that sounds rather “milk toasty,” so let’s dig behind the King James Version. That word in the Greek being translated moderation was used by Aristotle and other writers in the Greek classics; and it was always limited to a state of mind that was content with less than it’s due. It was an attitude, a spirit, a frame of mind that would take less than what it had coming to itself, in an issue where what you had coming was brought to the forefront.
Another word is also necessary to understand this law: “Let your moderation be known.” Kenneth Wuest translates this passage: “Let your reasonableness and your willingness to be content with less than your due be known.” Now, English is a funny language. If you use the word post, you are liable to think of everything from a fence post to dropping a letter in a mail box to a breakfast cereal. The English word known has many varieties of meaning, but the Greek word here is very precise. There is knowing that can come from just seeing something and having the mind to assimilate it; logically, it is consistent or it has meaning. There are other kinds of knowing. The Greek word being used here is a knowing that is the result of experiencing. It is a knowing that is strictly limited to a knowledge that occurs only when you experience something.
Paul is saying to these Philippians, and to me and you today, forever conquered by our circumstance, forever fretting, forever upset, never exhibiting joy, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” How? Let your state of mind be known, and let it so be exhibited, that your willingness to be content with less than your due will be known. Let it actually so flow out of you that you are experienced by other people as being that kind of person.
Easier to say than to do. Have you ever seen a family argument? Have you even been in one? You are dying to have it made up. But you sit there and boil and say, “You are going to apologize for every jot and title, item by item, lay them all out and make every single element right!” Or somebody has done you some damage. You would like to have peace, but “He did this to me and I’m going to have my pound of flesh. I’m going to get what I have coming!” And only then, when you’ve forced it out of them and every inch has been explained, apologized for, and paid for, will we graciously smile and “forgive.”
Well, that is why you have no joy. You are all tied up in knots. You have got to have what is coming to you. It is the way it is. Well, Paul says to let your willingness to have less be known. Now how can you attain this? God’s book anticipated displacement psychology 1900 years before it began to be articulated. The first attempt of the devil to defeat Christians is to keep them from even seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, or the door through which they can walk out of their problem. And if he can’t stop you from the first step he will stop you from the second one then. He just changes his tactics.
Jesus comes along and says to someone, “Be not anxious.” As soon as you hear it, the devil climbs on your shoulder and you have a nervous breakdown trying to keep from being nervous. Do you understand that? So the moment you hear the law of the Spirit that the way to start on the path of rejoicing is to let your attitude of being content with less than your due be
known to all men, you stop right there and start beating your non-content state to death and trying by willpower to demonstrate that you are going to be content with less than your due. And the devil defeats you in the effort. This law of the Spirit has only been half-stated.
How can you achieve this state of mind of letting your moderation be known? The next phrase declares it: displace that focus on “what you have coming” and put in its place the next phrase, “The Lord is at hand.” Maranatha is the word in the original. It is a declaration of instant expectancy: “The Lord is at hand.” Now, that which you are boiling about and festering in your spirit that someone owes to you, how important would it be if the Lord came 30 seconds from now? Let it settle in! That feeling of being abused and the determination to have it made right with you, how important would that really be if you knew the Lord would come before we got out of this house? “Well, he owes me.” Well, he will either be left, or he will go in the rapture. And if he goes, the Lord is the Judge of the universe, and He does it knowing a lot more than you will ever know about it. I am not just uttering words today. Paul in his day lived with instant expectancy of the Lord’s appearing.
Lots of people run around hanging their carelessness on a misunderstanding of Jesus’ statements about the signs of the times, when He rebukes in the gospels those who can read the signs of the weather but cannot read the signs of His coming (Matthew 16:2-3). He unfolds the signs of the end; He says such and such will happen, but the time is not yet. He says no man knoweth the time, so that knocks off the date-setters in one fell swoop (Matthew 24:36). Nobody knows when He will come, but He says you can know when it is even at the door. Many careless Christians hang their lives on the belief that they are going to get some kind of advanced warning. All the signs of the Lord’s appearing must be fulfilled before the end occurs. Nowhere in Scripture is there justification for believing the signs will give us any momentary notice before the appearing. All we know, somewhere between here and the end will be the “catching away” (1st Thessalonians 4:17) and to those “that look for Him will He appear the second time” (Hebrews 9:28). As the end gets closer how much closer must be the appearing? That is why Paul could expect the appearing at any moment, knowing that God with His great hand could then wrap up the rest and put the end at the door.
You let it get tough, you let yourself get in such persecution that nobody even listens to your demands or mine, take away all of our right to even make demands, and the Lord’s appearing would be anxiously anticipated. But when things start going well with us, while we don’t confess it (and we are good at articulating the creed), a lot of us don’t really care that much if He wait’s a day or two. We are getting along well enough; in fact, if He wait’s a day or two, “I’ll get that pound of flesh.”
I think this is so simple it almost insults the intelligence to tear it apart this way. But the world needs to see some rejoicers like Paul. He didn’t care: throw him in prison, he would hymn praises at midnight because the Lord was at hand. He wanted to be singing when he went, even if he went out of a prison cell in the middle of the night. If we would refocus our expectancy on the realization that now, after 1900 years, the signs of the time have brought us to the point that we can say for the first time even the end is at the door, how much closer must be the appearing. If we live in that expectancy, I repeat it: to those “that look for Him will He appear the second time.” If you really think He is coming, you are not as concerned about some things down here: you can rejoice!
The third thing Paul tells us to do is in verse 6: “Be careful for nothing.” Literally in the Greek, “Don’t you have any anxious, worrying care about even one little thing.” Wow! Who has not, in the last seven days, had any anxious, worrying care about even one little thing? But Paul commands it, just as he said, “Rejoice,” and “Let your moderation be known.” How? Live with an expectancy of the Lord’s appearing. How many of us, as we are grabbing and fighting and pushing and demanding our due, are really convinced we expect the Lord to appear? I know we are to “occupy” till He comes (Luke 19:13). But occupy with moderation because the Lord is at hand. Well then, “Be careful for nothing,” not even one little thing. It’s a double negative in the Greek: “Don’t you be caring about not even one little thing.”
Nobody is guiltless. So since you are guilty, along with this preacher, how are you going to get over it? Don’t beat yourself to death because you are anxiously caring about that one little thing. Put something in its place: displacement. “But in everything . . .” that is: that one little thing, or those many little things you have been anxiously worrying about. For every single one of the things you have been worrying about, when the worrying pressure comes, you put something else in its place, like a legal cancellation instrument, or like the turning of a valve . . . on what? “In everything by prayer,” circle the words, “and supplication.” Circle the word “with thanksgiving.” Circle the word supplication.” Circle the word “with thanksgiving.” Circle the word “let your requests be made known unto God.” Those are four separate Greek words.
Prayer has to do with worship. It is that word where we express adoration and praise to God. In the midst of my anxious care, I am told what to do when that thought intrudes. Got a pain? “Oh Lord, its cancer!” A little indigestion? “Lord, I’m having a heart attack!” have you ever done that? The minute it comes, instead of running to someone else to spread that refuse of fear, stop! You can’t take the fear away, but you can turn the spigot on something else. And God’s Word says “sacrifice praise.” It is pretty hard to keep worrying if you just turn these lips loose and start praising God.
Well, that’s so simple nobody wants to do it. We want to find some passage in this book that says if you’ll turn around four times, posture yourself a certain direction, fast, punish yourself, fly somewhere, listen to this or that; then somewhere, something will make you rejoice. No! When the fears come, just with an act of the will start praising and worshiping. I dare you to try it. The Lord’s Prayer is the model for prayer. How does it start? “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name” (Matthew 6:9). Before we ever get around to temptations and bread, “Hallowed be thy name.” Anxious fears? Bury them in an avalanche of praise! “In everything;” worship, that is what it is saying, “and supplication.”
Supplication is a Greek word that means “spell out the need.” After you have worshiped Him, if your toe hurts, don’t pray for the world; say, “God, it’s that big toe on the left foot” and spell it out. “We have not because we ask not.” It is a law in the Spirit: you talk to God as your Father. Have you ever seen a little child run to his father with an injured hand? He does not say, “Kiss my elbow.” He specifies. Spell it out! Tell Him about your little worry, but start by praising. Get that spigot going, so you get it under control; then say, “God, this is it; this is what I have been worrying about.”
Supplicate with thanksgiving. That’s the hard task. “I have been afraid I am having a heart attack, Lord, but I praise You and it is this pain in my chest and with thanksgiving I come to You about this need.” Well, you try it!
The fourth thing we are told to do: “Let your requests.” This word is equally precise in the Greek. That allows you to even tell God, and get away with it too, what you would like Him to do with that big toe on the left foot. I am not wanting to just entertain or be humorous. We started by saying there is a law of the Spirit. Now in the last seven days if you have had anxiety, have you done this? Have you crowded the anxious fears with praise? You wake up in the middle of the night, your eyelids are stapled open. You can’t sleep. The pressure is on you. What was your first move? Did you start praising God with the sacrifice of your lips and, after you get that flowing, tell Him your need? Then with thanksgiving, thanksgiving that expresses to Him worship again and His right to do what He wants, you say, “Look, Father, this is what I would like You to do with me.” That is your request; make it known to God. Now, it is like plugging a cord into a circuit. Everything I have said thus far you can do and I can do. It is all a matter of the will. It is taking charge of myself. It is taking eyes off the circumstance. It is bringing a new fix and asking myself, “Is the Lord at hand?” and “How important is this thing grinding in my spirit that I thought I had to have exact due on?” And “is there an opportunity to live so under the presence of the imminent coming of the Lord that my moderation can be known?”
Having taken care of that, anxious cares moved in. Did I praise, supplicate, spell it out with thanksgiving, tell God what I would like to have? If you haven’t done it, don’t try to short-circuit it because a conjunction starts verse 7, “And.” After I have done that, here is what God does: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” - Wow! - “shall keep.” Circle that word keep. In the Greek it is a warfare word: garrison. As though angels would come to do battle against the fiery darts of the enemy, when I have applied the law of the Spirit and put in motion what has just been said. The peace of God will literally garrison, and it passes understanding, but will literally garrison . . . what? Your hearts, where the emotions flow; and your minds, where the fiery darts of terrible thoughts come. Warriors of the peace of God will be garrisoned and “keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Paul then tells us, in verse 8, what things we should think about. Then he says in verse 12, “I know how to be abased, I know how to abound.” “I have been in want, I have been where there wasn’t want.” But in verse 11, he said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” How many of you have “therewith” in italics? It was added by the translators, so scratch it out: it is not in the original; the punctuation was also added by the translators. What Paul says is “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content.” If you leave the “therewith” in, you get the suggestion that you must somehow work yourself over until you learn to be content with the state of affairs. In Paul’s case he would have to fall in love with a prison cell. He would have to learn to like being in jail. That isn’t what he is saying. You don’t have to learn to like your circumstance but you can learn to be content in spite of your circumstance. And that is what Paul is saying: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content.” How? Well, “I know how to be abased, I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, to abound and to suffer need.” How? “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” May God give me the ability as a preacher to communicate to Christians what we have in Christ.
When I came back from my loss of faith and I got through the stuff of religious performance and rules and regulations and creeds and rituals, I realized that I was dealing with a Person who came to die for me. And when He left, he promised another Comforter to be with me. One evening, I read the book of Acts almost without stopping; I saw men who went through things I have never, ever experienced or endured. They didn’t have church houses like we have. They didn’t have, in many cases, a community of the saints around them. They went alone into cities. They suffered horrible persecution. But out of every page of that book of Acts you see men who are aware of a presence of Someone with them. They had an expectancy that the “earnest of their inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14), which means a “part payment,” would instantly be full one day when the Lord, who prayed that we would be with Him in the place that He is, would come and take us to be with Him. I saw people who transformed the world because they could have everything taken away from them, but Jesus was enough.
Paul could say, “Rejoice,” because God was with him in prison. He got out of that prison where he wrote to the Philippians. Years later he was in jail again; and he would not be delivered from that one. But, undaunted, he could say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2nd Timothy 1:12).
That is the law of the Spirit to you today. You can rejoice in all things. “Again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known.” Let the world know you live with the expectancy of the Lord. Do not be beaten down with even one little anxious care. In its place, release praise, supplication and thanksgiving. Tell the Lord what you want and then let His angels “garrison your hearts and your minds with the peace of God, which passeth understanding.” We can “do all things through Christ.” Do you believe it? Well then, “Let your moderation be known.” And don’t you be anxious!
Now, the laws of the Spirit involve you taking charge of yourself. We have been defining faith as more than just belief. It’s hanging your body on what you know God has said in His Word. Will you honestly confess you have been a little guilty on occasion of not being so “moderate,” as we’ve defined it? How many of us can admit we’ve done a little anxious caring recently? Would you like to put God’s law in motion? You can take hold of yourself and say, “I’m going to put God’s law in motion until my family and people around me can know my moderation and can experience the joy I find in the Lord. He is enough. Take everything else. I know whom I have believed.” Now, walk out claiming the victory.
Heavenly Father, honor the consecration of those who say,
“Lord, we believe Your Word, and we are putting it in motion.”
Let the peace of God garrison hearts and minds today, we pray.
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
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