A very good morning to you my precious family and friends
Philippians 4 verse 4 says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Do you find it hard to choose joy each day? Sometimes we don’t feel like choosing joy today because of life’s circumstances. The Bible is full of people experiencing tough circumstances that accepted them and chose to display the joy of the Lord anyway. The challenge is whether we can choose joy no matter our current circumstances.
As we read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see that same attitude of choosing joy.
His situation is dire – he’s locked in prison for no crime other than preaching the Gospel, and to make it worse, his enemies are using his situation as an opportunity to get at him.
If I imagine myself in Paul’s situation, I expect that I would be downcast and complaining, yet Paul’s letter bubbles over with joy. It makes us wonder: what is his secret? How is he able to find joy even in such circumstances?
As we read his letter, a few things stand out, all of them to do with where he is choosing to focus.
Instead of focusing on himself and his own situation, Paul focuses on the Gospel and on where God is at work. He rejoices in the opportunities he has to talk about his faith with the palace guard, he delights in the boldness with which other believers are speaking out, and, as for those who are preaching with false motives – as long as they are telling people about Jesus, Paul chooses to find joy in that.
Paul also chooses to focus on eternity. There are several reminders to the Philippians that they are “citizens of heaven.” Although Paul’s current situation is less than ideal, he chooses to look beyond it to see the bigger picture. God is ultimately in control and his suffering will not last forever. Surely this too is cause for joy.
Instead of turning inwards, he chooses to focus on others. His words to the Philippians are full of encouragement, and he prays for them often. He also writes warmly of others, such as Timothy and Epaphroditus, who are helping to spread the Gospel, and he finds joy in these friendships.
He urges the Philippians to join him in choosing joy by making the decision about where to focus and he shares advice he is clearly living out.
In Philippians 4 verse 8 he says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude and our focus. We can choose, like Paul, to rejoice in the Lord – not necessarily to be joyful about our circumstances, but to find joy in God whatever our circumstances.
When we choose that attitude, like Paul, it can impact others and bring joy to them as well.
As believers we find our joy and hope in God. Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) and is important for every believer.
Paul seems especially focussed on the idea that rejoicing is to take place at all times. We often forget that Paul wrote these words while a prisoner in Rome. He had been wrongfully arrested, shipwrecked on the way there, bitten by a snake, under house arrest for two years - see Acts 27:39–28:16. He had every reason to complain, yet focussed on rejoicing. His teaching and example provide an amazing model to us. Every believer should seek to rejoice in the Lord despite difficult situations, just as Paul did.
Because the Lord is always near to us, we can rejoice and treat others with gentleness. He is near because He lives in us through His Spirit. He is near because His coming is at hand. He is near because when we gather with other believers, serve others who are in need, or share the Gospel with friends and people of other cultures, He has promised to be with us. There is nothing more infectious than a joyous and kind person. Because Jesus lives in us, works through us, and is coming for us, we can be both joyful and tender.
Every day brings us a little closer to the other side of eternity, when we will be with our beloved Jesus face-to-face. That’s our true home. Because of the certainty of the life ahead, we can have an eternal joy, no matter what life brings our way here.
Someone once said, “The difference between happiness and joy is that happiness comes from happenings and joy comes from our Lord Jesus.”
Let us pray:
Father God, thank You that I am never alone. Thank You Lord Jesus for dying for my sins. Thank You for joining me when I meet with other believers, when I serve others in Your name, and when I share the Gospel. Let Your abiding joy I feel because of Your presence be evident in the way I live and the way I serve others. In Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.
Much love from Maurice and Margaret