Most of us accept Philippians 4:4 in our heads but find it hard to apply it in our daily lives. It’s easy to rejoice in good times but not in bad times. Perhaps we do not know what it means to be “rejoicing in the Lord”. It is not just happiness derived from pleasant circumstances, like birthdays, weddings, the arrival of a baby, job promotion, etc. Rejoicing is more than happiness. It is the joy we have when we have God — “His essence (attributes) is our joy, His presence is our joy, His will and purpose is our joy, His pleasure and smile is our joy”. Let me share with you a few testimonies on how I learned to rejoice in the Lord in unpleasant times.
I rejoiced in the Lord when I was ill
About three years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At first, I was afraid and worried. Pain and death crossed my mind. I turned to the Lord and asked Him for His grace to help me go through whatever medical treatments that were needed. As I learned to accept my illness and put my life in God’s hands, the Lord helped me to focus on Him and not on my illness.
As I focused on God, I experienced His presence and peace daily. I enjoyed being in His presence – worshipping Him, thanking Him, listening to Him, seeing things from His perspective. I had peace because I knew that nothing could separate me from God and His promise of eternal life. He also sent His ambassadors to pray and minister to me in my hour of need.
I rejoiced in Him when tested or molded
Whenever I or my loved ones encountered pain, trials or other unpleasant situations, I often asked God, “Why me?” or “Why us?” He gently chided me and showed me that those unpleasant experiences that He had allowed to come into our lives had a purpose. They were to draw us closer to Him, build up our character, train and prepare us for His greater use, discipline us because we are His beloved children. When I realized this, I thanked and rejoiced in Him.
I rejoiced in Him when disciplined or chastised
Because we are still “work-in-progress” in God’s hands, we do stumble and fall in our discipleship journey. Many times, I have failed to love God and people, please Him, submit to His will and obey Him. God has to discipline or chastise me to teach me and bring me close to Him again. Below are a few examples.
One year, I procrastinated in sending my cheque to CNEC under the “Sponsor-A-Child” programme. One morning, in my prayer time, God chastised me for my care-less attitude. I repented and immediately sent the cheque that day. Thereafter, I send my cheque in December the year before so that CNEC has the funds in January.
One day, while going about helping people in the streets, a young man in his late 30’s, came up to me to ask for money. He looked strong and healthy so I asked him why he didn’t try and get a job. He said he tried but was not successful but I didn’t believe him and walked away. The Holy Spirit stopped me and chastised me for being judgmental without finding out the facts. He asked me to give the man some money. I went back and told the man that Jesus had asked me to give him some of His money. He thanked Jesus and told me that he had just lost his job and had been looking for one but without success. As we chatted, I found out that he used to attend church, but had stopped because of his vices. I told Him that if we were heading in the wrong direction, God allowed U-turns [Based on a quote from God’s Little Instruction Book II]. I encouraged him to return to Jesus and the fellowship of God’s people. How wrong I was in judging him. I thanked and rejoiced in the Lord for teaching me a lesson.
Once, a motorist suddenly cut into my lane without signalling. I was very angry and unholy thoughts came to my mind – hoping he would be fined by the police, that someone would overtake him in the same manner. The Holy Spirit chastised me for being vengeful and unforgiving. I repented and asked God to help me to be kind, patient, considerate and forgiving on the road. I thanked and rejoiced in the Lord for helping me see my folly.
I would like to end with another quote from God’s Little Instruction Book II:
“Happiness is the result of circumstances, but joy endures in spite of circumstances” [Ps 16:11]. “Hence, let us rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.” [1 Thess 5:16-18]. After all, we are joyful exiles!
By Mr Lim Han Soon (YCKC Bulletin 24&25 September 2016)