The apostle Paul calls us to “rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). But how are we to do that? “Have no anxiety about anything,” or as the King James Version puts it, “Be careful for nothing.” That is the negative side of rejoicing. The positive side is “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” And the result? “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6, 7).
Paul instructed us on how we can always rejoice, and his first word of counsel was to be “full of care” for nothing. Jesus, of course, gave the same advice when He said, “Do
not be anxious about your ilfe, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on” (Mt. 6:25). In both instances the same word is used which we translate “anxious” or “careful.” Christians are called to be free of care, but we find such a way foreign to us. We have been trained since we were two years old to be full of care. We shout to our children as they run to the school bus, “Be careful,” i.e., be full of care.
The spirit of celebration will not be in us until we have learned to be “careful for nothing.” And we will never have a carefree indifference to things until we totally trust God. . . .
When we trust God we are free to rely entirely upon Him to get what we need: “By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Prayer is the means by which we move the arm of God. Hence we can live in a spirit of carefree celebration.
Paul, however, did not end the matter there. He proceeded to tell us to set our minds on all things in life that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious. God has established a created order full of excellent and good things, and it follows naturally that if we think on those things we will be happy. That is God’s appointed way to joy. If we think we will have joy only by praying and singing psalms we will be disillusioned. But if we fill our lives with simple good things and constantly thank God for them, we will know joy. And what about our problems? When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, our lives will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our problems.
The decision to set the mind on the higher things of life is an act of the will. That is why celebration is a Discipline. It is not something that falls on our head. It is the result of a consciously chosen way of thinking and living. As we choose that way, the healing and redemption in Christ will break into the inner recesses of our lives and relationship and the inevitable result will be joy.