Philippians 1:18-21 (ESV) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
The text came in long after I was sleeping from our daughter at summer camp. She shared her experience and all the enthusiasm that I have come to expect from the “mountaintop” times hidden away with God and a bunch of young people. I cannot imagine a place in time without cellphones but they don’t need them there. I am getting only bits and pieces of what is happening in this gathering. Did you ever go to church camp as a kid? Our family moved from Georgia to Florida when I was a teenager. My mom reconnected with some church friends and decided that I was going to camp that summer. Pulling up to the church, I had never seen so many young people in my life. It was a large congregation of more than 25,000 so you can only imagine the number of children. My mom stopped the car and I immediately protested. I didn’t know any of the kids. I was an outsider looking in. She quickly found her friend who was a youth leader and deposited me along with my suitcase before heading off. My only expectation for that week was to survive, but God had other plans. It was my first journey to the mountaintop experience. Like when Moses entered the Presence of God, he came out all aglow. Then life and all the Israelites became the crushing reality that surrounded him. When kids come back they are pumped up, ready to live every moment for Jesus Christ, and fully immersed in the Presence and Power of God for days. Kids come back with full intentions to walk with the Lord. Then life happens all over again.
I prayed for our girls before they left and have continued to do so. However, after reading her text, I began evaluating her experience. As much as I hate to admit it, I became a bit cynical. Cynicism is not my natural inclination. I am more skeptical over their spiritual diet then what they feed their natural body. I want to know that every word invested to them is God’s Word straight from His Throne. This is the place from which my cross examination and close scrutiny arises. The Holy Spirit immediately rushed in with a simple request, “Rejoice with her.” She is on the mountain. I am in reality. How can I evaluate a work so far removed? Trust me. I do not doubt that our kids are encountering the Lord in a whole new way. However, sometimes when we are living in reality it is easy to over evaluate what God is doing. As her parent, I want this to change her from the inside out and empower her to live a holy and righteous life that continues long after she returns. She is on the mountain surrounded by the Glory of God and my desire for success in her spiritual life tries to build a net at the bottom of her mountain top experience rather than rejoicing with her there.
“Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
It was not hard to pick a topic for my Bible Study today. I must learn to rejoice always. Philippians 1 leads us to a new understanding of what it means to rejoice. To rejoice, whether in pretense or in truth, that Christ is proclaimed. The word “pretense” means pretending, feigning, make believe or a false showing of something. How could this even be written in God’s Word? We rejoice in the Truth right? I Corinthians 13:4-7 describes love and all its best qualities. “Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing (sin) but rejoices in the Truth (God’s Love is greater). Truth is that sin overtook us but His Grace overwhelms us. In Christ, I am more than a conqueror because He loves me and gives me victory. The proclamation of Jesus Christ is to tell of His Great Love, His Gift and His Power. When the Name of Jesus is spoken it evokes all of these qualities. Full understanding is not required. His Ways are higher and so are His Thoughts. The Lord is doing more than we can think, ask or imagine. Therefore, it is not up to me to fully evaluate His Work but rejoice in the fact His Name is proclaimed.
To proclaim the Name of Jesus. Not fancy preaching or intellectual teaching, but to cry out, call out, and confess His Name. It is simple. It doesn’t have to be backed by human wisdom or theological dialogue. To say the Name of Jesus releases Power into the atmosphere. It promotes change in the present. When a person comes to the altar whispers His Name it doesn’t matter what the intention of their heart is in that moment, there is an opening or a crack in which Christ fits.
Romans 12:8-16 (ESV) Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice.”
When everything is going wrong, and nothing is going right – it is tough to rejoice with others. When you get passed over for the promotion, but someone seemingly undeserving gets it. Or your child is still sick while another one healed. To pilfer through life while others prosper. The enemy wants us to compare our life with other people. His goal is to make us all the prodigal’s brother comparing and contrasting our blessings, promises and purpose with another. God has no favorites. He doesn’t have step-children but fully adopted sons and daughters. We are of the same bloodline through Christ. Our inheritance is secure. To desire another’s belongings and destiny in life is to forfeit our own. We seek that which our heart desires. It takes confidence in Christ’s Love for me to rejoice in the blessing and good fortune of another. It is the shield that keeps envy and bitterness from building barriers between us and a rich, satisfying life.
To celebrate with another creates unity in the Body of Christ. Let love be genuine. If my child is promoted in their job, I celebrate their accomplishment. We are not in competition. It should be the same with other people as well. If God’s Plan for me is for me and no one else, it cannot be compromised or claimed by another. I have nothing to worry about so I am free to rejoice with those who rejoice. To put all of our energy and effort into love and harmony with Jesus and other people creates a bond that the enemy cannot break. A body of fully moving parts who do their own work together.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
The hope that I have found in Jesus Christ never ever leads to disappointment. God is not a man therefore He cannot lie or change His Mind. Once the commandment to bless you is released, His Word cannot return to Him void. It must do what God released it to do. This means there will be days when happiness seems elusive so it is inexpressible joy of knowing Jesus must be what is clung to. Trials and tribulation are inevitable. Patience is a fruit from His Spirit that keeps us company in the waiting. Constant prayer is nothing more than maintaining confident, constant, and conscious conversation with the Lord. Intimacy with Jesus Christ comes when we stop looking for Him in other people and find Him in us.
I Thessalonians 5:16-19 (ESV) Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
Is it even possible? Saul met Jesus just going about normal life. He was a religious man. He thought he was upholding his belief in God by persecuting the Christians. Saul was not evil. His intentions were not bad. He just didn’t know the Lord. Jesus made a formal introduction that day. Saul became Paul when his eyes were dimmed to this world and focused on Christ. One experienced changed his heart forever. I wonder sometimes if we become like Saul unknowingly and certainly unwillingly. Persecuting verbally the Work of God in others because our eyes are set on this life and not Jesus Christ. A lack of understanding is enough to evoke doubt from even the most believing and unsuspecting heart. I believe that in that moment when everything becomes clear to us in the Presence of Jesus it will bring us some dismay to find out God didn’t do it all our way. The way we worship, choose to serve, or interpret the Word of God may be different than what it really is. I am human and so are you. We do not know everything even though our pride might argue the point. It is cloudy at best. Challenged to love beyond self and serve outside of comfort – the struggle is real. When we are in the valley or just immersed in reality, it is easy to question, speculate or over analyze what is happening on the mountains in the Presence of God. We must learn to rejoice in every move of God until it reaches us.
Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
God is a Good Father. He doesn’t leave us without options. If we learn to pray without ceasing, be thankful in all circumstances, and stop quenching the flow of His Spirit in us, through us and among us – we will accomplish His Will for us. He has prescribed a plan and purpose for us with a future and hope individually that is not dependent or any way impacted by what He is doing in others. God calls us His Masterpiece. He is molding and shaping our life into something unique and wonderful. Focus on Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith and access point to all that is within God’s Presence with our name on it. God loves you. Jesus died for you. His Spirit lives in you. His Desire is for you. It is all individually secure but corporately enhanced when we learn to rejoice with others. Don’t overanalyze what God is doing. Outside of faith found in His Word nothing will ever be completely logical. It takes the impossible to release the supernatural. It is a choice to rejoice in all things by faith in Jesus Christ and confident hope that He knows exactly what He is doing. Confidence in Christ causes us to rejoice. It is a reason to shout and give Him praise rather than worrying about every little doctrine and theology. Lord, help us get love, faith, and hope right so we can rejoice in all things. It is all about you Jesus nothing more and nothing less.
Lord, thank you for moving in and through our young people at camp. Thank you Jesus for reaching down and touching our daughters. You are an awesome God. Prepare me to receive them when they come home. Lord, to keep the passionate ember you are kindling in them burning brightly. May it spread like wildfire everywhere they go and in every word they speak. Lord, teach me to rejoice with all who rejoice…always. I ask your Spirit to quench any cynicism that rises up and fill it with confident hope. Thank you for Your Presence always open and available to me even in the valley. Thank you for joy and the ability to rejoice always. Amen.
Psalm 70:4 (ESV) May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”