When we gather as the church for worship, we come as sinners in need of forgiveness and grace. We respond with confession and repentance. We come in need of rescue and redemption. We respond with faith and hope in the promise of the gospel. But though we come as sinful and needy people, we always have reason for joy and praise. Worship beckons us, in the midst of our needs and struggles, to look to Christ. We rightly respond to worship when we find our joy and delight in Him.
We are called as God’s people to be glad and rejoice in Him.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name.
God is preparing us to be a people who will rejoice in Him for eternity.
For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
The call to rejoice is repeated in the New Testament. Paul tells the church at Thessalonica:
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)
He writes to the church at Philippi:
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you (Philippians 3:3).
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4).
Why do we need these exhortations to be joyful? Why the repetition and reminders? It is because we are so prone to lose sight. It is easy to become overwhelmed with circumstances. It is easy to become weighed down with trials. It is easy to lose heart, lose focus and forget what we know to be true in Christ. This is why worship is so crucial. It is one of the reasons why God designed worship and the gathering of church the way He has. Worship redirects us to Christ. It reorients us to His promises. It reminds us of the glory of His gospel and the certainty of His Word.
Paul was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Though he faced severe trials, he understood the riches that were his in Christ. He knew the reward that was his in knowing and serving Christ. Peter reminds us that in Christ is inexpressible joy.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:3-9).
We have a Savior who suffered and died, who rose again and now intercedes for us. He alone is our source of lasting joy. Even on days when all seems well, we are still great sinners in need of a Savior. And on days when the weight of our sin threatens us with despair, we can look up and find our joy, knowing we have a great Savior who is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25). No matter our circumstances, we can always look to Jesus who never changes. Trusting and resting in Him, we always have reason for joy and praise.
There sits My Righteousness
Enthroned at God’s right hand.
The perfect, spotless Lamb of God
In Him alone I stand.
No better is my stand
On days when all feels right,
No worse when days are dark and gray
For nothing dims His light.
My only hope and plea,
That Jesus came and lived and bled
And died and rose for me.
From “Unchanging Righteousness” ©2005 Ken Puls
(Scripture quotations are from the Holy BIble, English Standard Version (ESV) ©2001 by Crossway)