Always Rejoicing

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. – 2 Corinthians 6:4-10.

Rejoice Always. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16.

(This may all sound very negative but please bear with me because there is a devotional thought here.) The summer of 2003 has so far been a difficult summer for us. My father-in-law, who was like a father to me, passed away at the first of June after being bedfast for many weeks requiring more and more care. My mother has had a hip replacement surgery (She was already homebound.) and stayed in a hospital in Oklahoma City for a week and a half before being moved to a nursing home about an hour away from where I live. She will have been there for about two and a half weeks this Friday. She has not participated with even 30 minutes of physical therapy twice a day and because of this will not be eligible for rehab, which requires over three hours per day of therapy. My father is 81 years old and appears to be in increasingly fragile health. Other factors and people are also complicating the situation. Raymond, a church member and deacon, was injured by a cow and has a broken pelvis and his wife, Imogene, has had several strokes which has made her homebound (Raymond is also homebound for a least 30 days.)

On July 3rd I went to my doctor for a regular checkup and renewal of prescriptions. When I arrived at the pharmacy I realized I did not have one of the prescriptions I needed but the pharmacy said they would call the doctor’s office. I called Jeanie and asked her to pick up my prescription later and left for home about 30 miles away. Jeanie called a couple of hours later and the pharmacy had advised her that they could not get through to the doctor’s office. I called the doctor’s office and they assured me they would contact the pharmacy. When Jeanie arrived at the pharmacy at a little after 5:00 pm she was told that a truck had hit a pole knocking out electricity for that part of the city and all the workers had been sent home. As a result I didn’t have one of my blood pressure medications but thought I could make it a day by taking more of another (The pharmacy was closed the next day on Independence Day, July 4th.). I was wrong. Even though I was able to start taking the medication again on Saturday I developed a severe headache. During a wedding that afternoon (Saturday) I stumbled over some of the words. Sunday morning my headache was severe and I was unable to preach. I did preach Sunday night but had difficulty with it. It was Tuesday before I was feeling better and only today back almost to normal.

To be honest I have been unhappy, sorrowful, and miserable about some of these difficulties. But with Paul I can say that even though I may be sorrowful I am also always rejoicing. Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is based on our circumstances. If I won the lottery I would be happy and if I lost I would be unhappy (Although since I have never bought a lottery ticket it will probably be difficult for me to win.). If I were promoted on a job I would be happy but if I were passed over for that promotion I would be unhappy. Joy, however, is not based on circumstances but on our faith in the eternal faithfulness of our God and His promises.

I truly believe that Romans 8:28 (One of God’s promises.) is always operative no matter how bad the situation. I had the opportunity to preach the message at my father-in-law’s funeral. As a result I was able to present to some family members and friends the plan of salvation and encourage others who had wandered away from the Lord. Even though I spent almost a week and a half with my mother in the hospital I was blessed to have that time with her, my father, and my uncle who visited us while we were there. When I returned home I discovered that I was a stronger person because I had gone through that difficult time. Because I was unable to preach Sunday morning our youth minister, Ryan Baker, preached only his second sermon on short notice. As a result two decisions were made during the invitation time and one of those decisions had been long awaited.

Yes, I have been unhappy about my difficulties but at the same time I have been rejoicing because of what God is doing in my life and in the lives of others as a result. I know that many who read this devotional have had much greater difficulties than me. I pray that in the midst of your difficulties and what may very well be misery that you will find the joy inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8). Let us be “always rejoicing” because we know that we can rejoice and give thanks to God no matter what may occur (1 Thessalonians 5:17). When those bad things happen remember that God knows – He wasn’t surprised and He will walk with you through whatever you must go through if you are His child. Not only that He will bring good out of it all just as He has promised!

(The difference between happiness and joy.)

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