Right now I’m taking a class with Bart Ehrman, a UNC religion professor who’s really well known for scaring the crap out of young christians by showing them a lot of evidence and giving very persuasive arguments for why the bible is not true and God is not real. At the beginning of the first day of class, he had us all take a quiz on the new testament, just to see how much we really knew. One of the questions was “what is the shortest verse in the New Testament?” I, like most other people who had ever been south of the Mason Dixon line, said “John 11:35, Jesus wept.” This was wrong. The real answer was so much more awesome that I couldn’t not write about it.
The true shortest verse in the New Testament is 1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always.” The reason it’s shorter is because it is 14 letters in 2 words in the Greek, whereas “Jesus wept” is 16 letters in 3 words in the Greek. Ehrman wasn’t trying to make some profound point out of this, other than that we were all spoon fed idiots, but this blew my mind and showed me something amazing. The shortest verse in the original language of the New Testament is the number one thing that life with Jesus and all of Christianity is all about. Rejoice Always. The point of the gospel is to unite us with God, who is our only source of true satisfaction and joy. A life spent in a pursuit of happiness is a wasted life, because happiness is when it’s a sunny day, when you have a rich family, when she loves you back, when you win the lottery, when someone compliments you. Happiness is all about good luck, and that can change in an instant. It’s not a safe investment, because one thundercloud or snide remark can ruin your happiness. Rather, the only thing worth living for is the only thing that can bring you to Rejoice Always, regardless of your current happiness. That thing is Jesus. Rejoice Always is a command, a banner, a headline for life with Jesus.
I work for a church in Apex, NC. Working for a church is a really weird thing, because it’s sometimes hard to know where my spiritual life stops and my Job starts. When I’m reading the bible, is that work? Of course not, that’s part of life with God! What if I’m reading for a bible study we’re doing with our students? These things get weirdly complicated and sometimes it makes all of my walk with God feel mechanical and routine, just like going to work. So my boss, at the beginning of our weekly meeting one week, simply asked us “What’s been exciting you about Jesus lately?”
That question really threw me off guard. It wasn’t “How’s your walk with God?” or “are you doing things that Christians should do?” It was “What’s been exciting you?” It matters to God that we are excited. He doesn’t seem to care most about what we do and don’t do. He doesn’t want mindless obedience drones, even if they do what “christians are supposed to do.”
He wants us excited.
He wants us motivated.
He wants us fulfilled.
He wants us rejoicing.
So this week as you go back to work or school or whatever, ask yourself “What’s been exciting me about Jesus lately?”
Constant rejoicing comes from confident faith. Get excited about the love God has for you, the lessons he’s trying to teach you, and the purpose for which he created you.
And most importantly: rejoice always.