Note: This is Post # 13 in the series titled “The Transformed Life” based on Romans 12. Please click here for previous posts: POST # 1, POST # 2, POST # 3, POST # 4, POST # 5, POST # 6, POST # 7, POST # 8, POST # 9, POST # 10, POST # 11, POST # 12.
As we continue in the series of the transformed life, this post deals with the first part of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice.”
We are to rejoice with those who rejoice—that’s the command. This means we are to honestly feel the joy of those believers who are experiencing God’s blessing in their lives as if we ourselves were experiencing those blessings. Not just faking it on the outside, but truly feel this joy from the depth of our hearts. That’s what it means to live a shared life, a life of true fellowship.
While on the surface level, it may seem easy to rejoice with those who rejoice, it’s often difficult for many to practice it consistently. In fact, it is easier at times to weep with those who weep rather than to rejoice with those who rejoice. What is the reason? One major reason is envy or jealousy. Envy hits people in all spheres, and even among fellow-Christians, envy is a major reason for failure to obey this command.
Often, we can’t rejoice with others because they get what we don’t have or what we would like to have or they do get what we have, and that makes us somehow feel ordinary. Many Christians are like that person who, one day, looked extremely sad. One who knew him well said, “Either something bad has happened to him, or something good has happened to someone close to him.”
While outwardly, one can put a smile, inwardly there are feelings of envy. And this prohibits from truly rejoicing with others. Envy shows itself in so many different ways.
- It could be a single person who is unable to genuinely rejoice when others around them are getting married. As one single person who was getting older said, “I’m tired of attending weddings of my friends and at times even being the bridesmaid. I cannot stand one more wedding unless it’s mine!”
- It could be a wife who is barren and unable to conceive. She as a result feels the inability to rejoice over another woman’s pregnancy or childbirth.
- It could be a father or mother as they compare their kids with other kids. Why’s my kid not so smart as other kids? How can I rejoice when other kids succeed when mine are just ordinary?
- It could be someone else who keeps succeeding in their workplace or business where you feel stagnant. “I work hard. I am very sincere. Yet, I’m not recognized. In fact, the promotion that I thought was coming to me is now gone to someone under me. How can I rejoice?” is how you feel.
- It could be related to the size of someone’s home. “I’m still in a pigeon hole whereas others have bigger homes. How can I rejoice for their blessing?”
- It could be the inability to rejoice when a teammate gets all the glory when nobody even seems to notice your performance!
- It could even be the size of someone’s church. You may find it hard to believe, but even those in ministry have a problem in rejoicing when other ministries prosper. “How can I rejoice when some other church seems to grow when mine is not only not growing, but actually shrinking?” Erwin Lutzer, the pastor of Moody Church aptly captured this feeling through these words, “It always seems that God is putting his hand of blessing upon the wrong leader!”
The list could go on. You see, envy is a real problem and a real joy killer. And those feelings sooner or later will surface outwardly in actions. We will find it harder and harder to love the other person who seems to have what we don’t. That will lead to a sense of resentment toward them—even leading to attack them—verbally or physically!
The Bible is full of such examples. Saul unable rejoice with the successes of David, slandered him and eventually tried to kill him. The Pharisees could not rejoice when the crowds began to follow Jesus and slandered him and finally did kill him. No wonder, Proverbs 27:4 says, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” Point is that one would rather face an angry and furious person than a jealous person!
Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were direct across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.
One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?”
The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, “Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!”
That’s the power of envy! Who can stand before it? Just like Joseph who could not stand before the envy of his brothers who eventually sold him [Genesis 37:12-36].
What we also need to understand is that envy is such a powerful sin that it has the potential to go beyond hurting other people to hurting God. How so? When envy is left unchecked sooner or later, we can start expressing resentment toward God who is the One giving those blessings to others and not us! “God, I have been very faithful, and waiting much longer and yet you have forgotten me. You are not fair” can easily become the attitude. Remember the older brother in the so-called parable of the prodigal son [Lk 15:29-30]! While we may not express it verbally, we may also tend to think somehow God’s ways are not right. And that type of mentality does grieve God!
So, if we are to rejoice as the bible says, we must deal with the root sin of envy which can lead to other sins. How do we do that? I want to suggest 2 things to remember continually.
1. Remember God is Sovereign.
This means God does what he does according to his own will and pleasure and in keeping with his character. His plans for one is not the same as it is for another. If he blesses someone else with a certain blessing and withholds that blessing from us, maybe it is to help us focus more on being content with him rather than that particular blessing. He is the Creator. We are the created ones! The pot can never question the Potter!
A good example is John the Baptist who did not become envious when people left him to follow Jesus, but said, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven” [John 3:27]! He rejoiced because he accepted that as being God’s plan.
So, when we remember God is sovereign, we won’t be envious when others receive blessings and can genuinely rejoice with them.
2. Remember to be thankful at all times.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we are always abounding in gratitude for what we do have, it won’t matter much as to what we don’t have. And when we have such a spirit, we will not be playing this comparison game and can genuinely rejoice when others are blessed—even with the same blessing we may desperately be seeking in our lives.
A fellow named Robert Strand in writing about the Power of Thanksgiving [Evergreen Press, 2001] says this:
“In Africa, there is a fruit called the ”taste berry.” It’s so-called because it changes a person’s taste buds in such a way that everything eaten after it tastes sweet.
Giving thanks is the ”taste berry” of Christianity. When our hearts are full of gratitude, nothing that comes our way will be unpalatable to us. Those whose lifestyle is marked by thanksgiving will enjoy a sweetness of life unparalleled by any other.”
Thankfulness kills grumbling and discontentment. If we keep counting our blessings daily and keep thanking God for those blessings which we truly don’t deserve, then we will not be so focused on what we don’t have. We will be rejoicing over what we do have. And that kind of a joyful attitude will protect us from giving into envy when others are blessed and free us to rejoice together with them!
So, 2 cures for envy: Remember that God is Sovereign and Remember to be thankful at all times.
A Word of Caution. Now, I do want to mention one thing when it comes to this rejoicing with those who rejoice command. It’s specifically regarding the use of discernment when it comes to rejoicing—meaning we cannot blindly rejoice with those who are rejoicing. We need to make sure we rejoice only over something the Bible permits and not rejoice over something the Bible prohibits.
In 1 Corinthians 13:6, we read, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” In other words, our love for others should not make us blind to the truths of Scripture. This means we cannot rejoice when someone is rejoicing over what they call as a blessing when that so-called blessing violates Scripture.
You see what we rejoice over reveals the true condition of our hearts too. If we love the Lord and his truth, we cannot and will not rejoice over anything that brings grief to him. But when something conforms to the Scriptures, then there is every reason to rejoice.
Before we conclude, let me also give you the best motivation to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. It is this: God himself is a God who rejoices with others. And that should motivate us to rejoice with others who rejoice.
If we are to become more like Christ, then we need to remember this truth: God is a God who rejoices with others! Jesus who came to explain and expose God to us tells us this truth through his 3 parables in Luke 15—the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin and the lost son. Luke 15:10 tells us “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Who is in the presence of angels? God! He rejoices along with the angels and the sinner who experiences salvation. This is the heart of God—rejoicing along with the sinner who experiences the joy of forgiveness!
God does not approve of a spirit like that of Jonah who could not rejoice with him when the Ninevites repented [Jon 4:1] because he resented them! We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice without any envy or feelings of resentment. Failure to do so is a sin!
So, let’s ask the Lord to help us put this command also in to practice as we are being transformed to be more like Christ!
And friend, if you have never experienced the joy of having your sins forgiven, then turn from your sins today. Turn to Christ who took your sins on the cross and rose again. He rejoices to forgive all who come to him—no matter how much they have messed up.
If you do so, not only will you experience joy, but God along with all the heavenly lost will rejoice with you! And other Christians who know you will also rejoice with you. So, come to Jesus!
And if you also need to obey him in any other area, like baptism, obey him without delay [Psa 119:60]. It will bring joy to your heart, and to the heart of God. And other believers will rejoice with you as well!