How Can I Rejoice and Be Glad?
4th Sunday after the Epiphany
How Can I Rejoice and Be Glad?
Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Rejoice and be glad. It’s all over your service folder today. In Jesus’ words. In the Clip art. The hymn we just sang. It’s the theme for our service today. Rejoice and be glad. But How Can I Rejoice and Be Glad?
How can I rejoice when I am poor in spirit? How can I be glad when I have a broken heart? When I know I have failed my holy God, when I know I have disobeyed his commands?
How can I rejoice when I mourn? How can I be glad when my loved one has passed away? When my family member is on death’s door right now? When my hopes and dreams are continually crushed?
How can I rejoice in a meek and mild life? How can I be glad when the rich and famous trample all over the meek and mild? When I know that nothing good will come my way unless I start pushing others out of the way?
How can I rejoice when I know I need righteousness? How can I be glad when I know that my relationship with God is strained? When I know I am in serious need of a spiritual heart transplant? When I don’t even deserve to be near God’s presence?
How can I rejoice in being merciful? How can I be glad when so many others get the sweet taste of revenge, but I will never get justice? When I know that I might forgive like Jesus teaches, only to be taken advantage of yet again?
How can I rejoice in being pure in heart? How can I be glad in having clean thoughts when it is near impossible to live in this world with your eyes open without being blasted with a barrage of impure sights? When everything from books to magazines to music to Super Bowl ads are filled with the most impure things you could imagine?
How can I rejoice in being peaceful? How can I be glad in turning the other cheek when everyone else in this world is on the attack? When the big dogs of the world run over us little dogs? When nuclear bombs and biological weapons are everywhere these days? When terrorists could attack at any minute?
How can I rejoice when I’m being persecuted? How can I be glad when I’m being made fun of for my faith? When I’m falsely accused and blamed for things? When people say hateful things and call me bigoted or biased?
Rejoice and be glad. That’s what Jesus says. That’s what we just sang. In fact, as you read down the list from the opening of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he even says that if you experience these things you are blessed. So here’s the problem: Why don’t I feel joyful and glad?
Such is the problem with sinners in a sinful world. Life is so very overwhelming at times. Oh the sadness of dealing with cancer and high cholesterol and tumors and cysts and failing eyesight and sore backs and arthritic hands. Oh the pain of broken hearts and strained relationships and failed relationships and strained marriages and failed marriages and struggling families. Oh the anguish of carrying guilt and shame and embarrassment for so many, many sins committed. Oh the hurt of being called names and being laughed at and being made fun of for having faith in a God most don’t believe in.
Most days I don’t feeling like rejoicing or being glad. I’d rather curl up in a corner in the fetal position and ignore everyone and avoid the world and wallow in my sorrows and pain feeling bad for myself. There aren’t many other ways to make the pain and hurt go away.
Why do we do this? And why do we feel this way? To start with, we must remember that a perfect paradise in this world was lost long, long ago. When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, all the hopes of a sunshine and cupcakes life vanished. Living in a world of sin will bring the consequences of sin like sadness, pain, and trouble.
Secondly, I must realize that I am a sinner. Some of these problems I bring on myself. Other times I simply don’t know how to deal with things because I’m imperfect myself. And worst of all, my sinful heart looks at the world around me and it instantly wants to rejoice and be glad in sports cars and mansions and huge 401Ks and lots of TVs and cool As Seen On TV products from the Home Shopping Network. So not only do I sin and strain my relationship with God and with others on my own, but then I’m chasing after the wind trying to find happiness in things that don’t really bring happiness!
Jesus’ disciples today—you and I—are not any different than Jesus’ disciples 2,000 years ago. They had the same pains and problems and persecutions that you and I experience today. They also had as much trouble dealing with these things as you and I do today.
So one day he gathered his disciples to him. There were many crowds of people that had been following him around. This message was for everyone, but it was especially intended for his disciples—not only the 12 disciples, but all of those who believed in him. Sitting down on the mountainside, he had a special message for his dear disciples who were struggling through life. That special message is meant for his dear disciples today, too—us.
The opening of this famous sermon is known as the Beatitudes. Jesus opened with eight scenarios in which his disciples are considered blessed. Listening to that list, the disciples back then must have thought what you and I do. How can I rejoice and be glad? Browse over that list again in Matthew 5: “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . Blesse are those who mourn . . . Blessed are the meek . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted.” “Yes, Jesus, those are the things I experience in life. But how am I supposed to rejoice and be glad?”
Well the key to the Beatitudes is the beautiful Savior who was preaching this sermon. If you want meek and mild, then look at Jesus who humbled himself to be born in this world and live for us. If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, then look to Jesus who was perfect and righteous every day. If you are feeling guilty and ashamed of what you have done, then look to Jesus who died for all your sins.
It is so hard to rejoice and be glad with all the troubles in this world. Actually, it is impossible to rejoice and be glad with all the pains and problems and persecutions of this world. But as the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.” When you have Jesus, every situation in life has a different outlook. Jesus tells you exactly why you are blessed in all these troubles of life. Look again at the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You may have a downcast and broken heart. You may feel awful about your spiritual life because of the sins you have done. But you are blessed because Jesus forgives all your sins and in place of punishment and death gives you life in the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” You may lose loved ones. We all will have people in our lives die and we ourselves will all die. We all will have hopes and dreams crushed in this imperfect world. But you are blessed because you have the comfort of knowing that there is no sorrow and sadness in heaven. God promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” It may seem counterintuitive to be meek and mild. It may seem like you will never get anything in this life because the big dogs will always win the fight. But you are blessed because some day you will inherit something better than promotions or raises or worldly advantages. Someday you will inherit the new heaven and new earth that Jesus will give to his people. Worldly advantages or temporal, but spiritual advantages last forever.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” You hunger, even thirst, every single day to find ways to grow closer to the Lord. You may long for your relationship with him to be stronger and more fulfilling. You may want nothing more than to live a life like Christ. But you are blessed because when you hunger for such things, Jesus says you will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” You may want to take revenge on a few people. You may want to give someone a good piece of your mind. You may want to treat people like they treat you. But you are blessed when you show mercy because the Lord is also merciful to you.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” You may not find it easy to avoid the allure of impure things in this world. It’s hard to find magazines or books or TV shows or movies to watch without having improper thoughts. It’s tough to even turn on your computer or log into your Email without crude temptations. But you are blessed when you pursue the pure, noble, good and chaste things of this world because you know this pleases God and you will soon see him in all his purity in heaven.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” You may be called foolish by others in this world for avoiding arguments and controversy. You may be called weak by others in this world for not going after those who wrong you. But you are blessed for living in peace and bringing peace because will then be called a child of God.
The eighth and final beatitude has two parts to it, verses 10-11: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” You may find it very hard to live your faith these days. You may be made fun of by friends or family or coworkers. You may find more people insulting you then encouraging you. But you are blessed when you are persecuted because you know you are doing it for Christ and one day you will live in his kingdom forever.
It is most certainly true that there is very little joy or gladness in this world. What is there to rejoice over or be glad about? There are pains and problems and persecutions and heartaches and headaches and sadness and sorrows every day of our life. There is no reason for anyone in this world to rejoice or be glad. Until . . . until you have Jesus.
When you have Jesus you are blessed in any and every situation in life. Your sin is forgiven. Your guilt is erased. You are a child of God. You have God’s love and protection and provision. Best of all, you know that the perfect kingdom of heaven is waiting for you.
So when you know Jesus as your Savior, what your Savior tells you today is most certainly true: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In any and every situation you can rejoice and be glad. This is what the prophets and believers of old did. They had problems, pains, and persecutions too. But they are now enjoying what we soon will—the kingdom of heaven.
Your life in this world will never be perfect. Anyone who tells you that is just lying to you. You are a sinner and this world is under the curse of sin. It can’t be perfect and won’t be perfect. But God’s eternal kingdom is. There you will never have pains or problems or persecution. No trials. No troubles. No tears. Life will be tough here. But you have Jesus. So, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”