I want to apologize for missing a blog post yesterday. I have no excuse, but there is a reason. Yesterday, I performed a funeral for a 41 year old man who left this life suddenly after a heart attack. The funeral was a wonderful tribute to his life and the love he had for so many people. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to write the blog post that was scheduled for that day. I was supposed to write about rejoicing. But, because of the events of the week, I found it hard to write, "rejoice."
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 NIV)
However difficult it may have been to write about, this week's events actually served to make the exact point I was supposed to share yesterday and, since I didn't, I now get to share with you today. Joy is not just a feeling. Joy is not just an indicator of what is important in our lives. Joy is something that we are instructed to have. Joy is something we choose.
I don't know about you, but my first reaction is not to feel joy when I am preparing to attend a funeral. The closer I was to the person, the harder it is for me to say, "goodbye." Joy is not the feeling I am experiencing when I go to the funeral services.
In a similar way, I don't really experience joy when someone hates me, excludes me, insults me, or rejects me because I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Yet Jesus himself tells us to rejoice in that day - leaping for joy. That is a command that seems difficult, even impossible, to follow. Over time, though, I've learned that it is not impossible. Not only is it possible, but God gives me everything I need to experience joy in all circumstances. "Rejoice," then, is essentially saying, "choose joy."
On Sunday, I took a chorus that many of our folks know from their younger days in Sunday school class. The chorus is based on this familiar Scripture: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Clap! Clap!) (Philippians 4:4 NIV) (The "Clap! Clap!" part isn't actually in the Scripture. It's just what we were taught to do after singing those words.) I changed the words and we sang, "Choose joy in the Lord always. I will say it again: Choose joy." (They clapped after this version of the song, too.)
Joy is not just a fleeting emotion or an indicator of what is important to us. It is something we choose as well. That is why God regularly tells us to "rejoice" for various reasons throughout Scripture.
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20 NIV)
How about you? Have you ever chosen joy over sadness? Have you ever chosen joy over God's priorities rather than your own? Do you choose joy in all circumstances? Do you rejoice?