What It Means to “Rejoice in the Lord Always” (and 10 Ways Jesus Can Be Our Example)

Meg Bucher

Updated Jun 24, 2022
What It Means to “Rejoice in the Lord Always” (and 10 Ways Jesus Can Be Our Example)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" ~ Philippians 4:4

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

These verses have evolved in my heart like a fine wine over time. What used to be a handy Biblical version of my childhood motto, “Don’t worry, be happy,” now drifts through my tired-mom soul like the aroma of freshly-ground. Joyful takes on new meaning when I am striding through life with Jesus. The more I run with Him, the deeper into the concept of joy I go.

"Rejoice in the Lord" Philippians 4:4 Meaning

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible states that “rejoicing might be associated with praise,” and it references some of the following verses:

“I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2 (NLT)

“Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing sound praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord- rejoice in his presence!” Psalm 68:4 (NLT)

Joy is more than giddy happiness. It’s praise. Rejoicing. The Strong’s definition of the original Greek word for “rejoice” includes: “to be well, thrive; and in salutations, hail!” 

We see how to thrive, be well, and rejoice exceedingly (regardless of our circumstances) when we observe how Jesus maintained joy though He knew the cross was coming.

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happy children, rejoice in the lord always

1. Rejoice Knowing Who and Whose You Are

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” John 13:3 (NIV)

Jesus knew who He was and Whose He was. If only we carried the same confidence into life daily, how unstoppable our testimony would be! Often, my older daughter clings to me …literally. She is ten now, but frequently has days where she needs more love than usual. John 20:17 records Jesus saying, “Don’t cling to me.” He meant not here on earth, physically. My daughter won't be able to hold onto me forever either, not in physical hug form. In perfect love, though, He is always with us. ‘Don’t cling to me here,’ he said, but instead ‘embrace me for all of eternity.’ They didn’t get then what we know now through the power of salvation. Jesus knew the coming glory that would surpass His time on earth.

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praying hands, rejoice in the lord always

2. Rejoice in Trusting God's Timing

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.” John 6:15 (NIV)

Jesus trusted in His Father’s timing. Our impatience often sucks the joy out of our waiting. We miss so much if we skip over what God is doing in our lives right now. He so often submitted to the Father’s will and the Father’s timing. It’s courageous when we put dreams on pause to follow God’s will even when it makes practical sense to forge forward. Bravery symbolizes bold moves for Christ despite the odds. How do we know when to stay and when to go? By our rock-solid relationship with Christ. Through prayer, the word, working hard with the gifts He has given us, His timing will start to trump our timeline.

woman praising, rejoice in the lord always

3. Rejoice Even in the Face of Fear

“Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” John 18:4 NIV

It’s a scary thing to have to admit a mistake, especially when it comes along with a huge or painful consequence. Jesus, too, had to face fear when He accepted a fate He didn’t deserve for the sake of our salvation. We can retain our joy by walking hand in hand with Jesus through hard moments and mistakes. He understands. He died to redeem and restore us, forgive us from sins, and accomplish great things through us. Those are the promises we need to let echo in our ears when fear is threatening to stop us in our tracks.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Tom Merton

sun bursting through clouds, rejoice in the lord always

4. Rejoice in Eternal Perspective

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:13-14

Jesus took on the cross for our eternal security. As a parent, I would endure pain and death for my children. We are all His children, and He endured that great pain and death for us. He leaves the one and comes after the ninety-nine, a philosophy that overflows with love beyond survival to the fittest. He loves us so much that even in spite of (and because of) our sin, He sacrificed His humanity in the most brutal and undeserving way possible. He did it all while sustaining joy through the honor of doing His Father’s will. We can relish in the same joy that surmounts the very real pain of life. It’s this eternal perspective that pulls us through grave illness, poverty, hunger, and heartbreak. He goes through it all with us.

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Three crosses and an empty grave on Easter morning with a heart shape in the rocks, rejoice in the lord always

5. Rejoice in Uncontainable, Unconditional Love

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5

Imagine the joy Jesus feels knowing that every one of His children has the potential to blossom into something beautiful. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 The intimate relationship between a mother and newborn child is just a slice of the kind of love our Father has for us. Jesus maintained His joy, knowing what He would have to do, because of who He knew we were created to be. Despite our sinful nature, He chooses to love us and see the good in us. He died on the cross for us, and He prays for us even now. That uncontainable love fills every room at the sound of His name.

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Hands lifted in prayer with sunlight, rejoice in the lord always

6. Rejoice in Prayer

“He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” Matthew 14:23

Prayer is our lifeline to the Father. Jesus died to open up a line of communication that would literally sustain us and the Holy Spirit translates our heart’s musings. Jesus personally knew the power of prayer. It was enough to sustain His joy, and it is more than enough to sustain ours. Jesus prayed routinely, setting the perfect example for us to follow. Throughout Scripture, we see many moments recorded of Jesus praying: before He chose the apostles, in the Garden, at the Last Supper, and others. The fact that He awoke early in the morning to pray points to the importance of our daily communication with Him. Putting Him first is such an important key to sustaining joy in our lives.

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praying hands, rejoice in the lord always

7. Rejoice in Relationship with God

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus poured out the agony in His heart to God. He knew what He would have to face-- how brutal and painful it would be. Christ is fully God, and fully man, and therefore felt that pain even as He obeyed joyfully. When we doubt what we can face, we can look to Christ’s obedience to God as a blueprint of how to endure.

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:41-44 

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friend walking together, rejoice in the lord always

8. Rejoice in Loving Others

“Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” John 6:70 ESV

Jesus did not expect perfection in exchange for joy from those around Him. He was a friend to all but chose twelve to be his closest disciples. Out of that twelve, three were particularly close, and one was His best friend on this earth. I have to believe that all of His friends probably had their moments of doubt and fear, but Judas’ betrayal is harder for us to forgive than the ‘minor’ offenses of Peter’s denial or ear-cutting incident. Not so for Jesus. He was able to see human flaws as a result of a sin-soaked world, not a flawed creation. We, too, can maintain a more joyful stature if we choose to see each other in this same light.

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woman thinking, rejoice in the lord always

9. Rejoice in Dying to Self

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” Matthew 16:24-25

There was a sermon series I listened to years ago called, “Death to Selfie.” It put into words perfectly what we struggle with so innately as human beings: self. Jesus died to self, knowing it was the key to joy. He rejoiced in serving others. Christ gave His time on earth to pour Himself out for others, down to the last drop of His blood. He did it to impact the eternal life of every child of God. When we turn out in service to others instead of inward in selfish gain, we experience godly joy. It’s what we were created to do.

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10. Jesus Knew How to Love

10. Jesus Knew How to Love

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Jesus walked the earth with joy because He understood love. He knew we wouldn’t get it right, but He taught and demonstrated how it should be. So often, we let conflict and disagreement steal our joy, but there is power in seeking to love over all else. I once read that the way we love the difficult people in our lives reflects more of our soul than how we love the easy ones. It reminds me of a fitting running analogy: Running is easy when I’m not injured, but when the pain surfaces, it gets harder and more uncomfortable to push through. However, I’m always glad I did. So-- push through to love. It may hurt, but sustaining joy is worth it.

Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, https://sunnyand80.org. She is a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer, blogger, and preparing to release her first book, “Friends with Everyone.” She resides in Northern Ohio with her husband of eleven years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle.

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy-to-read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within the Scripture context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

"Pray Without Ceasing" 
"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"
"Faith Without Works is Dead"
"Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart"
"All Things Work Together for Good"
"Be Strong and Courageous" 
"Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go"
"Love Your Neighbor as Yourself"
"Take Every Thought Captive"
"Do Not Fear"
"God is Love"
"I Can Do All Things Through Christ"
"The Lord is my Shepherd"

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Originally published Wednesday, 19 January 2022.