Charles Wesley found the inspiration to write this hymn in Paul’s admonition to the church at Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
Paul was an unlikely candidate for rejoicing, because his life as a Christian was difficult. As he went about spreading the gospel, people did all sorts of things to try to stop him. They beat him. On five occasions he suffered the forty lashes that had the potential to kill a man. People stoned him and left him for dead. He was in a shipwreck (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). But he knew what Jesus had to offer people, and he felt happy that God had chosen him to tell others about Jesus. Paul was a joyful Christian, and he encouraged other Christians to be joyful too.
Charles Wesley and his brother, John, were also unlikely candidates for rejoicing. Their lives were hard, too. As they went about spreading the gospel they encountered violent opposition too. On one occasion, a mob nearly destroyed the house where they were staying and drove their horses into a pond. The people whom they converted were often harassed and persecuted. But they found great joy in serving Christ and called other Christians to do the same. Charles Wesley wrote these joyful words, “Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore”—words that came out of his joyful life.
There will be times when we, too, will be unlikely candidates for rejoicing. Most of us at some time will experience hardships—that’s just part of life. But we can decide whether we want to be crabby Christians or joyful Christians—we have that choice. If we choose to be joyful in spite of our problems, we will find that joy is its own blessing—that we can be happy in spite of difficulties. We will also find that our joy is a blessing to others as well, because genuine joy spreads joy.
An old Sunday school song said, “Brighten the corner where you are!” If we choose to be joyful Christians, we will do that—we will brighten the corner where we are. Then we will not only live in the light, but we will also find ourselves bringing light to the lives of other people as well.
— Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan