The Apostle Paul uses the word JOY (and its variants) sixteen times in this epistle of Philippians. Let’s notice Paul’s third use of this word in 1:18-19 —
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Paul is in prison! How can one rejoice — in prison?!
The key to rejoicing here, I suggest, is that Paul knew that God was in control. He had confidence that his imprisonment had not happened by accident. It was not without purpose. And he looked forward to his eventual release.
Some of you know that each year I teach a survey of Bible doctrine class to lifers at our local prison. These men have come to know Christ, many of them, while incarcerated. In the seven or eight years that I have taught my course there have been a few who were Christians before prison and made some terrible choices (one was even a pastor). Sometimes my desire to know the specifics of why these brothers are in prison — most for life — is very strong. But I don’t need to know those details. My job is to help prepare them for ministry as assistant prison chaplains (the program of study being conducted by Columbia International University).
Paul continues to rejoice, even though he is in prison. And I can imagine that his circumstances were much worse than that of the brothers I work with here. How do we rejoice in our present circumstances? Several truths help us here:
1. Scripture tells us to be thankful in all things, not for all things (I Thes. 5:18). We are not to be thankful for sin or for evil actions. But we are to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
2. Our text today gives us two truths that will help us keep our JOY in trying circumstances. The first truth is the prayers of others! Paul says, ” I know that through your prayers . . . what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” How much do you and I count on the prayers of others? Probably far too little!
3.The third truth that will help us rejoice in circumstances is also in our text: ” I know that through . . . God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” We ask God to provide us a sense of the Spirit’s presence in our lives as we live for Him.
Want to keep your JOY as you go through your various circumstances? In Philippians 4 Paul says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Recognize that God is sovereign in your life situation right now. Begin to ask for prayer from others that you will honor Christ in what you are going through. And depend on God’s Holy Spirit to comfort and guide you where you are. (to be continued)