Are you familiar with the story of Pollyanna? It is a book by Eleanor H. Porter about a girl who has every reason to be unhappy: she’s poor, she’s orphaned, she’s unwanted, etc. But she is full of joy and gladness because her father taught her the glad game: find something to be glad about in everything. Her father taught her about the rejoicing texts (800+ verses in the Bible that tell us to be glad in the Lord, rejoice greatly, shout for joy, rejoice & be glad, etc. Pollyanna's dad figured that being told 800 times in the Bible to be glad & rejoice must mean that God wants us to listen.
I encourage you to look at these verses, write down the main summary point of each verse, and then find a common theme of each group.
Group 1: Glad Group
Psalm 5:11…But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Psalm 9:2…I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
Psalm 31:7…I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
Psalm 32:11…Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
Psalm 40:16…But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!”
Psalm 100:2…Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Philippians 2:18…So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
Group 2: Joy Group
Psalm 33:1…Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Psalm 47:1…Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
Psalm 66:1…Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
Psalm 68:3…But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
Psalm 92:4…For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
Isaiah 55:12…You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Galatians 5:22-23…22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Group 3: Rejoice Group
Psalm 33:21…In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
Psalm 64:10…The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him!
Psalm 97:12… Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.
Psalm 104:34…May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.
Philippians 4:4…Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18…16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Revelation 19:7…Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Now you may be asking yourselves, what about when things go wrong? What about when things aren’t going well or when businesses fail, jobs are lost, disasters or persecution occur? I’d like to highlight 3 short passages (1 OT, 2 NT) that address this question.
Habakkuk 3:17-19…17Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
If you permit me to paraphrase this passage, even if drought & famine strike my land, I will still rejoice in God and be joyful in who He is. God is my strength. This is a beautiful passage.
Matthew 5:11-12…11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Luke 6:22-23…22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 3 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
Even persecution is not a thing to bemoan, for Jesus has called the persecuted blessed and there will be a reward in heaven for those persecuted, therefore rejoice.
This passages don’t say to show a sarcastic joy or be fake. But rather, we are to take our strength from God and look to Him, not our circumstances, as the source of our joy. Remember that God knows (and predicted) persecution and the end result (i.e. reward in heaven) can be our comfort and joy amidst persecution.
My concluding prayer for all of you is this: Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”