Over the past many months, much of our attention has been focused on how to guard our safety, and that of those around us. Along with physical health concerns have come the mental and emotional stresses: anxiety, isolation, confusion and uncertainty. We have experienced the loss of loved ones, work, financial security, social interaction, and confidence. The world we knew has changed in fundamental ways, and the duration and nature of the changes are unknown.
We’ve had an abrupt and unwelcome lesson in how quickly what we thought was solid ground can shift dramatically. It forces us to face the extent of our vulnerability, and we don’t like it. Where we used to walk confidently, now we’re aware we need guardrails we hadn’t anticipated to keep us from going over the edge.
Into this challenging situation comes the Apostle Paul with an unexpected safeguard:
Rejoice in the Lord! . . . it is a safeguard for you. (Phil 3:1)
It’s easy to understand that rejoicing is a good thing, but how is it a safeguard? How can we rejoice in the midst of loss and worry? First, Paul says, we have to look at our ideas about gains and losses.
. . . whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. . . .I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. (vs.7-8)
Paul doesn’t mean that anything apart from knowing Jesus is garbage. God has given us countless good gifts for which to be thankful. What Paul is saying is that the best of everything we can have, when compared with knowing Jesus, would look like trash alongside treasure. Their value simply can’t be compared. So whatever we have lost, as valuable as it is, we can rejoice that no one and nothing can take away our relationship with Jesus. This is the ultimate source of our joy — a joy that will become permanent when we leave this transitory home and go where we really belong.
Rejoicing in the Lord safeguards us because it encourages us to keep the main thing the main thing.
It reminds us that this earthly life isn’t all there is — far from it. It gives us hope. That hope isn’t based on wishful thinking or a delightful fantasy. It’s based on the real person of Jesus, his real death and real resurrection. It’s a hope based in truth, a hope that is sure. We’re residents of this planet, but citizens of heaven. The government is on HIS shoulders, not ours.
It reminds us that God is with us. If God is for us, who can be against us?
It cues us to make our worries into prayers.
It keeps us thankful.
It gives us peace that is beyond our understanding, but not beyond our grasp.
It’s the secret of contentment.
So let’s rejoice in the Lord. He is our safeguard.