Have you ever noticed how often “rejoice” is used ironically? I looked at some headlines from the last week and saw several examples:
“Carb lovers rejoice!”
“Bitcoin Bulls, rejoice!”
“Rejoice! The iconic Ponce Krisy Kreme Returns.”
Interestingly, these ironic calls to joy center around money and food. Our society doesn’t speak seriously about joy; when we do, it’s about simple pleasures and the gifts of God in nature, but even then, with either a half-serious wink or a melancholy sigh, that joy is all too fleeting. We know it won’t last, so we laugh.
I lived close to a Krispy Kreme donut shop in North Carolina and sometimes took my boys for breakfast on their birthdays. This shop had a window in the dining area to see into the kitchen, and you could watch the donuts come down the conveyor and get doused with glaze. It sure made us happy, but not lasting joy. I love the memory, but I miss those days. Donuts are a good gift from God (1 Timothy 4:1-5). So are children (Psalm 127:3-5). There is joy in the things of life (Psalm 65:11-12; 104:15; Jeremiah 33:11; Proverbs 23:24-25) because God is good, and everything was good when He created the world. But this world is cursed because sin entered, and death by sin. Joy in the natural, cursed world is often fleeting and sometimes hard to come by. That’s why the secular mind doesn’t take joy seriously.
How, then, can Paul tell us always to be rejoicing? Christian joy does not come from a feeling within ourselves nor our present circumstances (2 Corinthians 6:10). Instead, our joy comes from the person and work of Jesus Christ, resting in the promises of God. The kingdom of God is not freshly glazed donuts but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit (cf. Romans 15:17).
The call to always be rejoicing is a command of God. So many writers stress the “command” to rejoice and do so in such a way as to rob any Christian with a conscience of any joy they might have had. “Listen here, dirtbag, you are going to rejoice and you are going to LIKE IT!” Ok, it’s not that harsh, but you get the drift. They seem to be sanctified by vinegar rather than grace. You don’t find joy by pursuing joy. If rejoicing seems burdensome, it’s because you are looking for it in the wrong place or perhaps looking at the right things in the wrong way. Joy comes from the person and work of Jesus Christ, resting in the promises of God.
Jesus Christ came as the last Adam to make all things new, to save His people from their sins. He will come again — there’ll be a new heaven and Earth, and King Jesus will dwell with His people in a New Jerusalem. There’ll be no more tears, sorrow, or hurt, all the things that sin ruined, all the things that steal our joy. Hear this good news and rejoice.