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Rejoice in the Lord, ALWAYS!

Philippians 4:1-7;  John 16:28-33

Let me begin with a story about a man who was a tremendous worrier? He worried too much, and about everything. Even worse, he was worrisome — he worried other people with his worry. He couldn’t sleep at night because he worried so much.

Well, one day he came out of his house a totally different person — whistling, happy, singing at the top of his lungs. When his next-door neighbor saw this, he asked him, “What in the world has happened to you?”

“Oh,” the man said, “I don’t have to worry never again, and I am so happy!”

“But, how did you get rid of your worries?”, the neighbor asked.

The man said, “Well, I have hired a professional worrier. He does all my worrying for me.”

His neighbor said, “OK, that’s just wonderful, but how much does this professional worrier cost?”

The man said, “A thousand dollars a day.”

“A thousand dollars a day?! You don’t have that kind of money. How are you going to pay him?”

The man said, “Oh, that’s his worry!”


Could you afford that money? Neither could I. So, what can we do when we can’t stop worrying? When we worry about everything and so often that all sense of peace and joy disappears from our lives? You don’t have to be a shrink to notice that most people worry a lot, often more than what it seems reasonable.

This last word, “reasonable,” reminds us that to worry is not necessarily bad — on the contrary – as many experts point out, we worry because worrying helps us to solve problems and deal with issues on a daily basis.

In other words — worrying helps us to think constructively about the problems we face, and there is good evidence that in most people worrying is a coping style, a strong indication that they are able and willing to deal with problems, rather than to run away from them, which is never a good idea.

Now, the worry content — that what we mostly worry about — varies with age, gender, marital status, education, and wealth, jut to mention a few variables. When I was 14 or 15, I used to worry about my new place in an adult world, my changing voice, my acne, whether the girls would ever like me.

Very different worries from those long-gone years when I was raising kids –day and night worrying about them.

Now in my middle 70s, and very much like anyone here already retired and fast moving into the sunset of our “productive” lives, I worry more about being able to drive at night, keeping my knees strong and taking all my pills, remembering the few English words I learned yesterday, stretching my pension, and, above all, trying not to become a burden to my children.


Now, for many people, worrying is not a constructive thinking process, a natural coping mechanism. Rather, a daily obsession compounded by fear and anxiety as they face so many uncertainties. Some of these people will become pathological worriers –and they will suffer excruciating emotional and mental distress.

Thank God that we now have access to great doctors and therapies, powerful medications, support groups, hobbies, plenty of electronic entertainment, and sometimes even some spare change to go out on vacation and stop worrying for a few days — until we get back home.

But is that enough? Does it always work?


With all due respect to all these modern “remedies,” have you ever wondered what difference, if any, could our faith make to all our worries and our worrying?

I have no problems trying any of those goodies, yet sometimes they are not enough. So, the moment I realize that nothing in that basket can give me back a real sense of peace and joy, I don’t think twice – I immediately make an appointment with my best therapist ever.

Have your heard of Paul, the apostle, someone who always had plenty of things to worry about, yet he always kept both his worries and his worrying at arms’ length? The same man who raised from the ashes of prison and humiliations with a loud message for his church in Philippi — “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”?

What a splendid attitude to bring into worship today – friends, rejoice, you are in God’s house now.

It’s time to lay aside your worries, be done with your resentments, dry your tears, forget about your hurts, focus on the Risen Christ, and rejoice as much as possible so that you walk away from this sacred place truly empowered to deal with the worries that a new week will certainly bring with it.


“Rejoice in the Lord, always! Once again, rejoice!”

These words – don’t they sound to you like a command — these words were preached by someone who learned to put his life into perspective. Paul, very much like his own spiritual mentor, the Risen Christ, knew better than any of us that life can be difficult.

Beaten for his faith, shipwrecked, imprisoned, yet Paul knew well that Christ is greater and stronger than any foe. Here Paul rejoices because he knows what a big difference it makes to us when we prayerfully place our lives into the hands of the One who has the whole world in his hands.

Or to use the psalmist’s analogy, when we place our lives into the hands of the good shepherd who leads us beside still waters, who restores our souls, who joins our fortunes and misfortunes as we walk through the darkest valleys, who comfort us day and night.

That’s why Paul literally bursts out with joy –“Rejoice in the Lord, always!”


The words “joy” and “rejoice” occur thirteen times in his letter to the Philippians, a congregation the apostle planted in northwestern Greece (now Macedonia) during his second missionary journey, around the year 49 of the Christian Era.

Joy, here in this letter, is the dominant theme. Paul was facing significant problems with the Roman authorities, with hostile Jewish groups, and even with serious disagreements with other Christian preachers and among members of the church.

Yet he never gave up –he didn’t despair. He stood firm as a rock –he rejoiced in the Lord! Couldn’t we learn to do the same? Is that so difficult? I don’t think so.

Over the years, and congregation after congregation, I have seen many worriers break away from their shackles the moment they learned to place their lives into the One who has the power to tame our worries and our worrying.

But, how, where do we begin? Exactly in the same place where all those former worriers began – with prayer. Preacher, did you say prayer? Is that enough?


We, religious creatures, seem to know everything about “prayer,” yet do we take it seriously? How often do we pray in earnest the way Daniel did in the lions’ den? A prayer that can tame the lions in our midst, that can move mountains, that can still perfect storms, that can help us keep our unhealthy, unreasonable worries as far as possible?

Serious, intentional, on-our-knees-like prayer, a very honest conversation with God, a God we trust one hundred per cent, like that Vietnam veteran who lost a leg and after the war visited the shrine of Fatima, in Portugal, for healing? As this veteran hobbled his way, someone said, “Does he think God is going to give him back his leg?” The veteran overheard the remark and with a big smile on his face responded, “Of course I do not expect God to give me back my leg. I am going to pray to God to help me live without it!”


Friends, once you pray like this – “Dear God, my Lord and my Shepherd, all these worries here in my mind and my heart are too much for me to handle. Let me place them on your shoulders right away, like this [motioning], so that I can rejoice again.”

What a relief! What a feeling! What a blessed assurance – “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, Our Friend, and our Shepherd!

Do you know what Paul and his friends Silas did when they were thrown in jail for preaching Christ in Philippi?

They started to pray and sing hymns, to praise God, and all the prisoners were listening, and they sung so loud, a powerful tremor shook the prison and all the doors broke down and the jailer went crazy and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped, but Paul told him no to do it because he and the others were still there, and then the jailer fell trembling before the apostle and Silas and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”.


Friends, we could go on and on and on – let me stop right here, with one final story about a little boy who was given a priceless gift: his grandfather’s gold pocket watch. How he treasured that watch! But one winter day, while playing in the park, he lost the watch amid all the ice and the snow. He searched and scratched, becoming frantic –no luck.

Then he suddenly realized what to do — he stopped scurrying around and became very still. In the silence, he heard the watch ticking, and ticking . . .

Friends, God has given each of us a priceless gift of joy in Jesus – a joy that helps us face our daily worries.

How easy it is to lose our joy in the scurrying around our lives, yet it is always there to find if we just learn to pause for a moment and listen to the beautiful presence of God’s gift in our ears, our minds, our hearts.

Once again — “Rejoice in the Lord, ALWAYS!”