Philippians 4:4 we’re told to ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ In the midst of the storm, we have to be reminded to ‘rejoice always in the Lord’, not in our circumstances. They will always change, but God will not. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can rejoice in who He is—not in what we think He is doing. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 also tells us, ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ Hard times definitely helps us to pray without ceasing, but are we seriously going to look at rejoicing always and in everything give thanks? God makes it clear this is His will for us—to rejoice, pray and give thanks in all circumstances. What a call! How can we do this?
Romans 8:28 holds a precious key to victory for us found in Jesus. It’s a favorite of many, but is often misused. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Is Eliza’s illness really for our good? Illness isn’t good, so this e.coli must not be according to His purposes, right? What does this verse mean by good and purposes? If I want a car, do I get it because I think it would be good for me? And surely I could use it for God’s purposes by carpooling others to church, right? It’s easy to interpret this verse through our own lens, picking and choosing what we deem as ‘good’ and ‘God’s purposes’, but in order to really understand verse 28 we must keep reading verse 29, “. . . to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
God promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, which is to be conformed to the image of Jesus!! He hasn’t promised any particular outcome other than conforming us to the image of His Son, our Savior and Brother! BUT, we can rejoice always, knowing that God is working all things for our good eternally, to make us look more like Him. Regardless of the final outcome of any given circumstance, God’s purpose is to make us look like Him. Once I get this truth from my head into my heart then I can start to see that I can rejoice always. No matter what, I’m the winner in the end. We can say a hardy amen with James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Jesus doesn’t want us to lack anything, which is why I can sing, “Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, I am pressured but not crushed, Persecuted not abandoned, Struck down but not destroyed, I am blessed beyond the curse, For His promise will endure, That His joy’s going to be my strength.
I have been greatly challenged by Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom’s example in their shared story, The Hiding Place written about their Holocaust experience during World War II.
The move to permanent quarters came the second week in October. We were marched, ten abreast, along the wide cinder avenue…Several times the column halted while numbers were read out–names were never used at Ravensbruck. At last Betsie’s and mine were called…We stepped out of line with a dozen or so others and stared at the long gray front of Barracks 28. “Fleas!” I cried. “Betsie, the place is swarming with them!” We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light. “Here! And here another one!” I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’ “Show us. Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie. “Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!” I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. “It was in First Thessalonians,” I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen. In the feeble light I turned the pages. “Here it is: Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck. “Go on,” said Betsie. “That wasn’t all.” “Oh yes:…Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” “That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances! That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!” I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room. “Such as?” I said. “Such as being assigned here together.” I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!” “Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” I looked down at the Bible. “Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.” “Yes,” said Betsie, “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!” She looked at me expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded. “Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.” “Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for–” The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.” “Give thanks in all circumstances”, she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong……
Corrie later realized the truth in their confession of thanks as the fleas were the catalyst to keeping the Nazi officers out of their barracks, protecting them from further abuse. God had provided a place of rest and safety in the midst of horror. He had used the fleas for their good whether they saw it at first or not—they had reason to be thankful! The Lord was working for their good!
There’s great warning in Romans 1:20-22 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. . . (italics mine).”
We are all without excuse before the Lord concerning His nature and eternal power. There are those who know God, but choose to neither glorify nor give Him thanks—in all circumstances. When things don’t go their way, they scream and cuss out God—blaming Him for their pain. As we continue to read in Romans 1, this mindset leads to backsliding in the life of a believer, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” This depraved mind can continue to slide into all kinds of evil as the chapter continues. Where did this start? By choosing to not glorify God or give Him thanks—in all things. Which alter are we worshiping at—the Lord’s or our own? Lord, help me to rejoice in your love and presence always. Help me to be thankful for these ‘fleas’ in my life. They may be annoying and painful today, but will serve a purpose in the long run—I will choose to rest in that.