DID GOD REALLY MEAN THAT?
Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.” Have you ever read something in the Bible and thought, “Did God really mean that?” What are some passages that come to mind when that thought runs through your mind? I think about Genesis 19:17 when the messengers of the Lord told Lot and his family to leave Sodom and Gomorrah and to not look back, or Genesis 22 when God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. A New Testament scripture is Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14:26 that we should hate our family in order to follow Him, or that we should be a living sacrifice, dying to self in Romans 12:1–2. The harsh reality is that there are some “double-take” scriptures in the Bible that make us say, “Did God really mean that?”
While the meaning and resulting consequences might be literal or metaphorical, the reality is the same, God means what He says. The same is true in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always…” Always?… That is difficult. As we continue our journey to reclaim joy, pause as you discuss these questions.
Time Out #1:
- Do you find God’s teaching through Paul in Philippians 4:4 to be difficult? Why or Why not?
- What is easier to do in the world? Complain or rejoice? Why?
- Share an experience you or your family has had that was particularly difficult to rejoice in.
As we have already established, God meant what He said. Rejoice always. This includes the difficult times (Read James 1:2) and the good times (Read James 5:13). So how do we begin our journey of joy? (This would be a great time to pause and review your family’s working definition of Joy from lesson one. You can check out lesson 1, “Reclaiming Joy” here!)
R – Reflect on Reality
REFLECT ON REALITY
If we want to be faithful to scripture and rejoice always, reclaiming our joy begins with reflecting on the current reality we find ourselves in. The reality for your family is not the same reality for your neighbors, nor your twice removed cousin. Each person brings a unique set of experiences, perspective, and outlook into the make-up of his or her “reality” or what actually exist. In order to begin understanding our reality, we must admit that our particular situation in life can affect how we see what actually is. This does not diminish or de-value each one’s unique feelings, but it does allow us to push beyond the emotional state to observe the reality at hand.
So, what is your current reality? Have you experienced growth in this season of life? Are you anticipating great news? Has this been a difficult year? Is your family falling apart? Has sin claimed the life of someone you love? Has grief rendered your family unrecognizable? Have financial difficulties brought emotional and relational stress to your life? When you step back and remove your emotional being from the situation, where is your family? Where are you personally?
Time Out #2:
- What is your current reality?
- How do our emotions and unique perspective sometimes prohibit us from seeing our current reality?
GOD IS IN CONTROL
Here’s the conclusion of the matter, Paul says that our rejoicing should be “in the Lord.” The God we serve is in every current reality, and He is in control! Review the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac (Genesis 22). How was God in control of that reality? We could do this for every single Bible character in the pages of scripture. Joseph? Moses? David? Paul? It is pretty neat to think about God’s presence and power in our reality, even when our reality isn’t pretty. Read 1 Peter 1:3–9. In realities of suffering and realities of joy, our faith is being renewed, strengthened, and purified. We are being saved. We are being guarded by the power of God. We will be rewarded. It is the simple reality that “in the Lord,” no matter our reality, we have a reason to rejoice! If we want to reclaim our joy, start by reflecting on reality!
- What Bible story gives you encouragement and confidence to know that God is in control? Why?
- Looking back on your life, what events, seasons, or years can you see God’s faithfulness? How? Does this give you confidence in God to see you through your current reality?
- How does reflecting on our reality help us reclaim joy?