It is a great thing to rejoice always. It is important to consider the apostle's own history in connection with these epistles. When he was writing this, he was in prison at Rome. He had been cut short in his ministry, and as he looked on, he had to say, "All they which are in Asia, be turned away from me," and "All seek their own," etc.; and yet he had something which lifted his heart above it all; not that he was insensible to it, but he knew a superior power. It was as looking at Christ he could rejoice, not in these circumstances. In one chapter in Galatians he says, "I stand in doubt of you"; in the next, he says, "I have confidence in you through the Lord."
The Lord's own path was the same, meeting with disappointments and distresses, on every hand, and yet He prays that the disciples may have His joy fulfilled in themselves. It is living in a power superior to evil; and if I am not living in that power, I should be depressed and cast down by the stream of evil within and around me, instead of rejoicing always. To do this, it requires that the heart should be with Him who has already overcome and sat down.
The first mark of power is patience. Nothing troubled the peace of the apostle's soul, so that he is free enough to think of individuals - Euodias, etc. (v. 2) - or to write about a runaway slave. He was passing through the valley of Baca, making it a well. It is a more blessed thing to make trials causes for thanksgiving than our own mercies. "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be continually in my mouth." In all his many trying circumstances, he was finding that the Lord was sufficient. He possessed that eternal happiness which enabled him to say, when before Festus, "I would to God" that you were "altogether such as I am."
Are you so happy in your soul that you can say that? The young Christian rejoices in what he has got - his salvation, joy, peace, and so on. The old Christian rejoices more in Christ. The young Christian says, I have got this, I have got that; but the old Christian says, Christ is this, and Christ is that. Not that this is wrong in a young Christian: in that sense a young Christian cannot be an old one; but if they walk with God, they will soon ripen. So in 1 John 2:12-14, "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning"; and while he goes into detail about the young men and babes, he repeats this of the old men.
242 There is the continual conflict with Amalek, but in the confidence that he has already been overcome. Read John 16:33: "In the world ye shall have tribulation; be of good cheer: I have overcome the world." Run the race "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith; who . . . is set down," etc. Do not let any evil or any circumstances prevent your rejoicing in the Lord always; but for this you must be with Him.
"Let your moderation," etc. Naturally I like to assert my rights in the world, and if I see injustice done, I like to resent it. Moderation is putting a check upon our own will, for the present content to be put upon this - "The Lord is at hand." When the Lord set His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem, the Samaritans would not receive Him, and the disciples wanted to draw down fire upon them. If you set your face like a flint to go to Jerusalem, you will not be received by those who are half-hearted. "The Lord is at hand."
Do you believe that? The character of my whole life will be governed by this, if I believe it. You may say, I have troubles in my family; the saints are going wrong, etc. Well, "Be careful for nothing; but in everything," etc. What do you want? Go and ask God about it. Instead of harassing your own mind about it, carry it to Him: and it is not said He will give you just what you ask, because this might not be for your good; but He gives you His peace. You put your cares into His heart, and He will put His peace into yours. Do all the things that trouble you disturb the peace of God? "With thanksgiving," etc. When I put my affairs in persons' hands, and ask them to see to it for me, they undertake it, and I say, Thank you, although as yet they have done nothing in it; In this state of soul the heart is free to enjoy what I see in others. There is such a tendency in us to get living in the things of the world, where we could not have the heart of Christ with us.
Verse 9. You walk in the path you have learned of me, and the God of peace Himself shall be with you. Joy is an up and down thing, but peace is something constant and undisturbed. God is never called the God of joy, but the God of peace.
While Christ was with His disciples, during His ministry He never said to them, "Peace be unto you": it was rather, "Fear not." But when He arose, He said, "Peace be unto you." Christ has made peace by the blood of His cross in such a way, that if God rises up in every attribute He possesses, He sees nothing to disturb His peace. I am in the light as He is in the light; and if I have conflict with the world, the flesh, and Satan, I have peace with God.
243The test of the true condition of a person's soul is seen in his everyday life. "I have learned," etc. Paul had learnt it; it is not merely saying it. It is a much greater snare to abound than to be abased; but Christ was enough. I get not only peace in the circumstances, but also moral power over them.
"My God," etc. That is as much as to say, I know Him well, and I will answer for it that He will supply all your need according to the riches of His glory. What a reality there is in the life of faith! He may put us through trials, because this is good for us, but He will be with us in them all.