Arthur Pink, 1939
"Rejoice in the Lord always—and again I say, Rejoice!"
How many there are today who make an entirely wrong use
of this Divine exhortation. Let any servant of God faithfully trace out the
inward experiences of a Christian, let him describe the painful discoveries
of "the plague of his own heart" (1 Kings 8:38), and his daily conflict with
his corruptions, and the corresponding effect this produces in the dampening
of his spirits. Let him point out how well-suited to his case is the
humiliating lament of Romans 7:24—and the light-hearted and empty-headed
religionists of the day will promptly hurl at his head these words,
"rejoice in the Lord always." Those who thus misuse our text suppose that
its happy strains condemn all sobriety in a Christian, and that it goes to
show that one who is groaning is living far below his privileges.
There is a large percentage of people in Christendom
today, who imagine the interests of Christ and His cause on earth require
that the somber side of things should be steadily kept out of
sight—that only the joyousness of Christianity should be exhibited.
They think that it is the pressing duty of saints to attract the
unregenerate, and not repel them by their heaviness of heart. But
that is a most mischievous misconception, a serious error—for it would be
but a one-sided and therefore a false representation of vital godliness. It
is an essential part of piety—to make conscience of sin and to grieve over
it. Christ never rebuked the penitent but declared, "Blessed
are you that weep now—for you shall laugh; Woe unto you that laugh now—for
you shall mourn and weep" (Luke 6:21, 25). Surely we are not to hide that
aspect of piety which God specially delights in: "To this man will I
look—even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My
Word" (Isaiah 66:2).
It is true that those of a naturally bright temperament
and happy disposition may find it easy to present an attractive face to the
world—but will it be to themselves or to Christ that they will draw the
ungodly? Let that question be seriously pondered by those who insist that a
smiling countenance is highly desirable. "Rejoice in the Lord always: and
again I say, Rejoice." What does the repetition of this exhortation argue?
Does it denote that the Christian is always happy? No indeed; the very
reverse. Is it not because the saint is so often cast down, because he finds
so much both in himself and what is going on around to sadden him, that he
is directed to look above to and rejoice in the Lord?
Study carefully the picture of the "Blessed" man which
Christ has drawn for us in Matthew 5:1-11, and it will be seen that each
feature in that portrait depicts the Christian as sorrowful so long as he is
upon earth. Is he "poor in spirit"? then assuredly will he feel pain from a
pressing sense of spiritual poverty. Does he "mourn"? then it would be
downright hypocrisy to pretend he is joyful. Is he "meek"? but such a
spiritual grace is only evidenced by his submitting to the test of grievous
afflictions. Does he "hunger and thirst after righteousness"? then he can be
no stranger to an experience of feeling weak and unworthy. "Merciful": such
a disposition cannot remain unmoved amid abounding misery in the world.
"Pure in heart" necessarily entails grief over impurity. "Peacemakers"
cannot but be saddened as they behold millions of their fellows striving
against their Maker.
On the other hand, there are not a few among the Lord's
people whose tendency is to go to an opposite extreme, being afraid to
rejoice in the Lord lest they be guilty of presumption. They who are most
painfully conscious of the sea of iniquity surging within, feel it would be
hypocrisy to joy in God and sing His praises. But let it be carefully borne
in mind that the same human instrument who cried, "O wretched man that I
am," penned this very exhortation. However low the true believer may sink in
his feelings, however cold and barren his heart, there is still abundant
cause for him to heed this injunction. He is not bidden to rejoice in his
own experiences or attainments—but "in the Lord." It is a call to the
exercise of faith, of hope, of love.
Though poor in this world's goods, though grieving the
loss of loved ones, though suffering pain of body, though harassed by sin
and Satan, though hated and persecuted by worldlings, whatever be the case
and lot of the Christian, it is both his privilege and duty to rejoice in
the Lord. He has given us abundant cause so to do: His favor, love,
faithfulness, longsuffering, granting us access to the Throne of Grace, the
privilege of communion with Himself (in our sorrows and trials!), the
promise of an eternity of bliss in His presence—all call for gladness and
praise. This exhortation to rejoice in the Lord does not mean we are bidden
to cast all sorrow out of our hearts, nor are we acting contrary to its
terms when we grieve over sin. Godly sorrow and holy joy are coinciding, and
not conflicting emotions: there is no enjoying the sweetness of the
Lamb—apart from the "bitter herbs" (Exo. 12:8).
To rejoice in the Lord is an act of faith, and therefore
it lies not within the power of the creature to put it forth whenever he is
so inclined. Do not despair, then, fellow-saint, because you are not able to
reach this sphere of joy as and when you please. We are entirely dependent
upon the Holy Spirit, here as everywhere—none but He can draw us to Christ
and enable us to rejoice in Him. Very far are we from being competent to
master ourselves and overcome all the oppositions of sin. We are not the
lords of our joy. We can no more make ourselves rejoice in God than we can
make ourselves well when suffering from a dangerous and painful disease.
Like all other exhortations, this one must be turned into earnest prayer for
Divine enablement. Finally, note the very next words are, "Let your
moderation (not hilarity) be known unto all men"!