What if I told you generally speaking, that most people are as happy as they have made their minds up to be? What if I proposed to you that most of our days are what we “will” them to be? The point I am driving at is that to rejoice is a choice. All things considered you and I can choose happiness. Sullen souls and sour spirits for the most part are the result of poor choices not poor circumstances.
I say this because in Philippians 4:4 Paul commands the Philippians twice to “rejoice in the Lord.” This call to rejoice in Christ is an imperative in the Greek; meaning it is not mere good advice, but a gospel injunction. It is what is expected of the Christian; it is conduct worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27). This verse is part of a series of commands in verses four to nine that give expression to salvation worked out in life (Phil. 2:12-13). For Paul, joy was a habit of the heart, a conscious and committed treasuring of Christ. In light of this, the Christian must choose to rejoice in the Lord’s presence, provision, protection, and promises. Christian joy is not a matter of genes, it is not a quirk of temperament, it is more than a spontaneous emotion; joy is a matter of choice. Like love joy is not an involuntary action, it is a willful commitment. Paul elsewhere commands “husbands to love their wives” (Eph. 5:25). Our text in Philippians 4:4 is clear: joy comes as a result of you and I choosing to rejoice in Christ. Joy doesn’t rise in the Christian heart automatically like the sun in the morning, no, it is fire that must be kindled and it is a flame that must be stoked by a deliberate delighting in the Lord (Psalm 37:5; 118:24). Paul exemplifies what he commands by telling the Philippians that despite his trying circumstances, imprisonment by the Romans and envy on the part of brothers, he has made his mind up to rejoice (Philippians 1:12-18, esp. 18). For Paul, to rejoice was a choice. Paul did not allow his circumstances to determine his mood; rather, he created an inner climate of joy by choosing to be happy in Christ (Psalm 144:15).
George Mueller was a man who lived under the press of changing circumstances and constant commitments. He was both an evangelist and philanthropist in England. He founded an orphanage that ministered to over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime. He was also involved in offering a Christian education to 120,000 children through the auspices of 117 schools. That is a lot of children, which entails a lot of commitment, which invariably raises a lot of challenges. Yet in the midst of his incredibly busy life George Mueller pursued and protected a vibrant relationship with Christ, which was the secret to his success and strength. His success and strength according to his own words lay in this, “I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. How different each day is when the soul is refreshed and made happy early.”
Like George Mueller, every Christian must do the hard and holy work of making their soul happy in the Lord. Daybreak ought to find us delighting the Lord by savoring the Savior.
To rejoice is a choice! If we are not happy, we have ourselves to blame!