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, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
It is that time of year again. One year is ending and new year is beginning. People begin to reflect on the last year and how they want it to change for the next year. So they make new year resolutions. Why? Because they want things to be better. Maybe they want to be skinnier, or smarter, or richer, or faster. Whatever it is, everyone is looking for something that will make them happier.
What is happiness? Happiness is an attitude of either satisfaction or delight based on a circumstance. It is related to happenings. The word happiness is related to happenstance. It is related to hap, which is a word that basically conveys the idea of chance. Happiness is that which we can’t really plan or program; it may happen, it may not happen, and it seems very elusive. Happiness is delight or satisfaction that is tied to an occasional happening, a chance circumstance.
On the other hand, when we talk about joy, we’re not talking about something that’s related to chance at all. It is a deep down confidence that all is well, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the difficulty, no matter what the problem.
Christ followers are joyful people
The Philippian church had sent Paul a gift to help him out and he writes this letter to thank them. They were among the poor in Macedonia and yet they gave out of their deep poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). This brought happiness to Paul, but ultimately this isn’t where Paul’s joy came from. Christ followers are and should be naturally joyful people. He models it and he commands it.
So, let’s begin by looking back at all the different places that joy occurs in this letter. Paul begins by telling the Philippians that he makes his prayer in joy, because of their partnership in the gospel (1:4-5). He goes on to say that he rejoices that Christ is being proclaimed, even if it is out of rivalry and to make him look bad (1:18-19). In verse 2 of chapter 2 he asks them to complete his joy by being in unity. He calls them his joy and crown (4:1). And he speaks of how he has rejoiced in the Lord greatly because of their concern for him (4:10). All of this joy written by Paul is expressing his joy, modeling it for those who read it.
However, he goes on to command the reader as well. He tells them in chapter 2, verses 17 and 18 that he is glad and rejoices with them. Likewise, they should rejoice. He also tells them he will continue with them for their progress and joy in the faith (1:25). He is sending Epaphroditus (who brought the gift from them to him) back so they will receive him in the Lord with all joy (2:28-29). He goes on to command them toward the end of the letter to rejoice in the Lord (3:1) and repeats that command in 4:4, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.
Paul lives this joy in all circumstances, and commands us to follow his example. It is plain to see that Christ followers are a joyful people. Not because of how things are going, or how well we are doing on our resolutions, but because of Jesus and what He has accomplished for you. You have been called son or daughter, your sins have been forgiven, and you are free in Him. That is the reason to be joyful in all circumstances.
Joyful even when we suffer
We go on to see that we are to be joyful even when we suffer. Paul is in prison, hoping and waiting for support to arrive to continue to help to support him, sustain him. He has a guard overseeing this house arrest. He knows his time is limited. Yet, here he is where he had always wanted to be, in Rome. He had yearned to get to Rome to proclaim the gospel. Now his original plan probably wasn’t under these circumstances, and yet his plans weren’t God’s plans.
Joyful in Christ
As we read earlier, he says to rejoice in the Lord and he does just that. He knows he can only continue through the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ and through their prayers. The power to continue, the hope to which he holds, comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. The encouragement he feels through knowing they are praying for him is because he recognizes he would not have this joy without it being supernaturally gifted to him. Nothing about his situation says joy. Nothing about his outlook instills joy. Yet, he will rejoice. The gospel is being preached, the people are praying and giving, and the Holy Spirit is helping him.
Joyful whatever the outcome
He is full of courage that Christ will be honored whatever happens. One would think that he could sense where this was headed. One could assume that he is writing this letter knowing it could be his last. In spite of all this, he doesn’t complain. He celebrates what God is doing in them and how he is seeing it worked out. He is joyful in his partnership and their progress. He encourages them to keep at it, to come together, and to accomplish what God has for them. And he reminds them that no matter what, to rejoice.
You might be sitting here thinking how difficult the last year has been. Maybe you lost a loved one. Maybe your job isn’t going the way you would like it to be going. It could be that people have made choices that have hurt you or brought you pain and suffering. Whatever you are going through, whatever circumstance is bringing unhappiness, you can still be joyful because of who Jesus is and what He has done in your life. You can have the confidence that Jesus has called you His own, is working on your behalf, and will continue until your salvation is complete. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.
May We Be a Joyful People
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?