“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.”
When someone tries to encourage you through a difficult circumstance by saying, “Take joy in Jesus,” it does not always come across very helpful. This is usually the case because we think, “no one could possibly understand what I am going through.” But what if someone did? What if someone actually did know what you were going through? What if there was someone who could say, “Been there, done that. It was crazy hard, and I had moments in which it seemed as if there was no end in sight.”
Paul’s letter to encourage the Philippians was written from prison—actually, he was under house arrest—however, the severity of Paul’s imprisonment is believed to have been seriously greater than simply being confined to his house. In addition to being imprisoned, Paul experienced significant tribulation throughout his new life in Christ. He went without food and drink for lengthy periods of time; he was shipwrecked, deprived of physical provisions; he was flogged and beaten viciously. And still, as he was sitting in prison, he writes to those on the outside: “Rejoice in the Lord.”
If I were in that situation—and I am so very thankful to God that I am not—I am not sure I would be writing those words to my friends and family. But Paul did. That’s what he said. Rejoice in the Lord!
He goes on in Philippians 3 to describe the many reasons he could have found hope in the things of the world. He was a leader of leaders and a blameless follower of the law. But listen to what he said next:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
Then Paul pens his life’s vision statement:
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings.”
Sounds ridiculous, right?
But here, Paul recognizes—not that his continuous suffering somehow brings glory, praise, and pride to himself—but that someone, namely Jesus Christ, has experienced greater suffering than he could possible encounter or imagine. Paul knew that Jesus understood what he was going through. Furthermore, Paul was aware that through his suffering, Jesus would be displayed in a glorious and attractive way to those on the outside because Jesus was living in and through him. This radiant display was evident to others through Paul’s joy in Christ. And therefore, Paul charges the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord.”
Paul knew the joy of the Lord, and he saw the power and influence of joy in a Christ-follower’s life.
Are you going through what may seem to be an insurmountable trial? Is there something in your life that is draining you and you cannot see the end? What is it?
Rejoice in the Lord! For in Christ is great power, peace, hope, and…joy.