Friday, February 07, 2014

Joy from a prison cell

One of the themes many commentators have highlighted from the book of Philippians is that of joy.  Over a dozen times in the four short chapters of his letter, Paul either expresses joy, or instructs the church to rejoice.  I think it is incredible that Paul would feel this way, especially considering his circumstances in a Roman prison.  Consider these verses.

Philippians 1:3–5 (ESV)  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

Philippians 1:18–19 (ESV)  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

Philippians 2:2 (ESV)  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Philippians 2:17–18 (ESV)  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:28–29 (ESV)  I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.  So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honour such men,

Philippians 3:1 (ESV)  Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Philippians 4:1 (ESV)  Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 4:4 (ESV)  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Philippians 4:10 (ESV)  I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.

So let’s summarize, Paul is joyful for the following reasons.

- for the faithful partnership in the gospel of the church in Philippi, which also includes financial support as we learn in chapter four
- that Christ is being proclaimed
- for the prayers of the Philippians and its effectual power to bring about his deliverance
- for the expectation that the Philippians will be in united in mind and love
- for the privilege of suffering and perhaps even dying for the church in Philippi
- for the Philippian people themselves
- for the concern that the church in Philippi had for him

Secondly, Paul exhorts the Philippians to  be joyful for the following reasons.

- to rejoice with Paul (or presumably any brother) in his rejoicing
- to rejoice at seeing Epaphroditus again
- rejoicing should be a trait of all Christians
- rejoicing should be independent of circumstance
- rejoicing should be a continual

So I ask myself the question, what things do I rejoice at.   Here is a short list.

- any accomplishment by my child
- recognition at work
- my country doing well at the Olympics
- unexpected blessings
- the beauty of creation
- hearing my child pray
- being told of the work of the church around the world

What I notice about my list is that they are ‘event’ driven.  I rejoice when something happens, or experience something specific.  I think what I need to work on is capturing the spirit of Philippians 4:4 and “Rejoice in the Lord always”. 

After more than a month of reading Philippians over and over again, I am beginning to understand what this means and hopefully soon, my life will begin to express this radiant joy that I can picture being true of Paul.

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