"Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you." (Philippians 3:1)Two things strike me as important in this verse. First is that Paul finds it important, even necessary, to command us to rejoice in the lord. Secondly, that he finds it important and necessary to keep reminding us of his command. Paul relates our joy in the Lord with our safety in life and in the kingdom. What is so important about joy and why does it ensure our safety? The scriptures give us two specific reasons.
First, we are told that the "joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) The context of this verse is that the people of Israel had recently started returning from captivity. Upon their return, Ezra, the priest, ascended the platform built for him and began to read to the people from the Law. The people upon hearing what God had commanded in the Law were convicted and grieved in their heart for all the ways they had failed to keep God's commands. They began to weep and mourn, but Nehemiah and those with him encouraged the people to stop weeping and to rejoice instead. "Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.' For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, 'Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'" (Nehemiah 8:9-10) I find it interesting that, while the people were weeping in repentance, the leaders of the people told them to stop weeping. Why was this? Because, while repentance is important, we must pass through repentance on into joy for the process of repentance to bear any fruit. Repentance is not our strength, joy is. Repentance is the doorway through which we enter into joy but we must not tarry in the doorway. We must proceed onto joy. Only then will we find strength to live the life God has called us to live,
Secondly, joy is a strong motivator and enabler for us to endure and bear under times of trials and tribulations. It is said of Jesus that, "for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame." (Hebrews 12:2) Here, the joy the writer is speaking of was the joy Jesus saw when, as a result of His sufferings, there would be many who would come into salvation and would become, with Him, sons and daughters of God. Jesus knew the agony that awaited Him, yet He was willing to endure it for the joy that was to be His on the other side. Life is not always easy and there is bound to be trials and difficulties along the way. In those times, it is our joy in the Lord that will become our strength to see us through. It is our joy that helps us not to lose heart and to endure in doing good. The joy of knowing that "in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary" (Galatians 6:9)
Joy is essential for our Christian life. It is one of the three hallmarks of the Kingdom of God. Paul wrote, "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17) We must never forget to rejoice in the Lord, to remain cheerful and joyful, for it is our strength, endurance, and safety.