Throughout the book of Philippians, Paul often encourages the church of Philippi to rejoice and maintain their joy. Here are a few samplings of his call to joy:
- “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…” -1:18
- “…I am glad and rejoice with all of you” -2:17
- “…rejoice in the Lord…” -3:1
- “…I will say it again: Rejoice!” -4:4
- “…I rejoice greatly in the Lord…” -4:10
Remember, Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians from a prison cell and at the beginning of chapter 3 reminds them, again, to rejoice. This quote from the Bible Knowledge Commentary fully drives home the context in which Paul speaks about joy, “It is significant too that a Roman prisoner would beseech people who were free to be joyful in their Savior. It seems that it should be the other way around.”
Paul was still able to maintain his joy even though his circumstances weren’t good. In the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, I think we can all relate to hard and sorrowful circumstances. But why was Paul so joyful in the midst of hard circumstances and how can we do the same?
The answer lies in Philippians 3:7-8.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.”
Did you catch that?
Paul had so much joy in the midst of sorrow because he knew Christ. Knowing Christ was greater than any other thing in Paul’s world.
Though sorrow may grip us or circumstances feel hopeless, there is always hope and joy to be found in our Savior.
You may be in a place where it’s hard to see the light or remember what hope is to be found in Jesus. Let me remind you, sweet friend.
He will never forsake you.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. -Deuteronomy 31:8
He cares about you.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:7
He provides strength.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. -Isaiah 40:29
He is a refuge and safe place for you.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” -Psalm 91:4
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. -Psalm 147:3
He loves you and saved you.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The cross should always be our landing place. If you can’t find anything to rejoice in, you can always go back to the cross. Jesus paid the price for our sin that we truly deserved. Because of Jesus we are saved from an eternity separated from God. That, my friend, is a reason to rejoice!
When you turn your thoughts toward Jesus, who He is, and what He does for us, it changes your perspective in difficult circumstances. And this is exactly the remedy Paul understood: Jesus is the reason we can maintain joy in the midst of sorrow.