Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
I’ve come to think of the Apostle Paul as the original advice columnist. He started many churches on his missionary journeys and after he left a place, the new Christians there would send letters asking for advice. His responses would be read at worship and shared with other Christian communities, and they were meant for us, too.
Sometimes Paul would say, “Do this” or “Don’t do this.” Often his answer was, “It depends on the situation” and he’d help his readers see how the choices they were free to make might impede the growing faith of another.
In this passage from Philippians, Paul is direct: Rejoice in the Lord always. He even repeats himself. He’s serious when he says “always.” We aren’t to limit our rejoicing to Sundays. We’re to be full of the joy of the Lord Every. Single. Day.
This is where habits are helpful. When we make a spiritual practice a regular thing, it becomes ingrained in us. It dwells in us, and we miss it if we skip it. Habits always have a reward: The more we take time to connect with God and rejoice in his goodness, the more we want to experience the peace that comes from centering our lives around Him.
One of the best ways to add a spiritual practice (one at a time, please) is to tie it to an existing habit or activity – reading a daily devotion with that second cup of coffee or while waiting in the carpool line. Or reflecting on all the things, big and small, you’re grateful for today as part of your nighttime routine.
Like advice columns, Paul’s letters often end with encouragement. In this passage near the end of Philippians, Paul is saying: “Make it a habit to focus on Jesus and you’ll do fine!”
Gracious Jesus, help us to keep our eyes on you and rejoice that you love us always. Amen.
Written by Cheryl Stubbendieck
Cheryl Stubbendieck is a member of Sheridan’s Devotion Writing Team. She and her husband Jim live near Sheridan. Their family includes their son Aaron and his wife Chaitra of San Francisco, CA and their son Reed of Madison, WI. Cheryl was the public relations department head for Nebraska Farm Bureau before retiring in 2012. She spent the next four years as the volunteer manager of Barnabas Community and now helps to manage the OneSent Market.