Joy has never been a characteristic of my life. I have joked for years that my spiritual gift or expertise could be found in the fine art of whining. A close second would be worrying. This week in my women's Bible study, There is a Season by Laurie Cole, the lesson was on rejoicing and I was stunned to find some of the reasons for rejoicing that are listed in the Bible; so much so that Saturday night I sat down and started typing up a list. And that's what I want to share today - not necessarily for someone else's benefit but for my own - this list is something that needs to be ingrained on my heart and mind every day.
According to Luke10:20, I can rejoice in the fact that my name is written in Heaven - in other words, my reservation there is secure. I thought about how antsy I was before our trip to Israel, trying to confirm my reservation before the computer would let me, clutching my passports and tickets through airport lines both going and coming, checking my itinerary frequently to make sure everything was a go. But somehow, it has never occurred to me to rejoice over the fact that my name is written in Heaven, which surely is a more important list than any passport office generates.
According to I Peter 1:1-8, I have a lot of other things to rejoice about.
1) I have a living hope. Because Christ has been raised from the dead, I know I will be also.
2) I have an inheritance waiting for me, one that can never perish, fade away or be corrupted. (And Matthew 6:19-21 says that this inheritance can't be stolen either.) Some day I'm going to inherit riches that are beyond the fluctuation of the stock-market, the job market, the crime market, you name it... This is no small thing.
3). Peter even writes about a joy that is so great, it can't even be fully expressed here on earth - an amazing rush of joy that comes just because we know and love Christ. Paul echoes this sentiment in Philippians where he urges us to rejoice in the Lord always! There is deep joy in knowing that we love someone; how much more joy when that someone is the Lord Jesus Christ?
According to Romans 12:12,15, I can also rejoice, not only in the hope that I have in Christ, but I am set free by His grace to rejoice with those who are rejoicing - something that sounds easy but isn't always. Maybe you got the car, the house, the vacation trip that I've always really wanted. In Christ, I can be content with my circumstances and joyful over yours.
According to James 1:2-4, I can also consider trials as a reason to rejoice. Ummmm.. that's a hard one. But James goes on to say that trials produce endurance. And so, as near as I can tell, James is saying that trials are like pumping iron.. spiritually.. They build us up in our faith and knowing that, even though trials are not pleasant, we can still rejoice in them.
According to Matt. 5:11-12, I can rejoice, not inspite of, but because of... people insulting me, persecuting me, and even telling vicious lies about me... However, there's a catch: this is only true if these things come my way because I am serving Christ, if they are happening for His sake. Does that mean that I need to go out and try to get people to insult me for my Christian faith? Hardly... Does it mean that these things are good in and of themselves? I don't think so. The rest of the verse goes on to say that we can rejoice in these things because it means that we will receive rewards in Heaven... Does this mean I want you to insult me? Ummm, no... But it does mean that even in something as negative as the things listed above, I can find reason to rejoice.
And then according to I Peter 4:13, we can rejoice to the degree that we share in Christ's sufferings and again, the idea is that when Christ returns there will be a commensurate reward in Heaven for us.
Why are so many negative things listed as reasons for rejoicing?
Maybe because no one has to tell us to rejoice over positives?
Maybe to take away our excuses for being grumpy and unhappy?
I don't know. What I do know is that when I first started compiling this list in my workbook, I was filled with hope. My mindset of a thousand years - I can't rejoice unless circumstances are just so - that mindset slipped a little as it dawned on me that if I can rejoice when being insulted or even persecuted, then...
the bottom line is -
being an ordinary person
surrounded by fairly nice people,
I can rejoice!