Rejoice evermore

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Rejoice evermore. 1 Thess. 5:16

It isn't hard to be told to rejoice when things are going well for us. But this is a command, and the modifier "evermore" alerts us to the fact that it is God's will for us to rejoice even when the lines have not fallen for us in goodly places. And this can be hard.

Now it is important to balance this with other Biblical data. For example, we are also told to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). There is a time to laugh and a time to be sad (Eccl. 3:4). The Bible does not command us to always have a smile on our face or to pretend away the sadness that tugs at our hearts. There is a place for grief in the life of the Christian. Our religion sanctifies but does not take away our humanity, and surely those who find no place for mourning are neither Christian nor human. As our Lord himself put it, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt. 5:4).

But if we are commanded to rejoice evermore and always, and if this is a command that is especially relevant for us when we don't particularly feel like it - then how do we rejoice when we are sad? How do we put this command alongside others that commend godly grief (cf. 2 Cor. 7:9-11)?

I think the solution is surely that sorrow and joy do not necessarily have to cancel each other out. In the apostle's own experience, he could say, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair" (2 Cor. 4:8). In other words, we are not to allow our grief to cancel out the hope that we have in God. Our grief is rooted in present circumstances that will surely change, but our joy is rooted in God who doesn't. Like the Lord, let us for the joy set before us endure whatever cross we are called to bear (Heb. 12:2).

In other words, the key to obeying this command is the hope that we have in Christ. It is a hope that is anchored in God's unchanging character and in his unbreakable promise. "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Tit. 1:2). It is the reason why the apostle would command the Thessalonian believers to sorrow not as others who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). He wasn't commanding them not to sorrow at all, but not to sorrow without hope. And it is our hope that secures our joy. It is our hope that enables us to obey the command: "Rejoice evermore."

Today, whatever your circumstances, remember the hope that you have in Christ. It is a hope, sure and steadfast, entering into the heavens where our Lord, our forerunner, has gone before us (Heb. 6:19-20). Believer, rejoice evermore!

By: Jeremiah Bass