Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Where is real joy found? What does it look like to be truly happy and fulfilled? You might think that a guy stuck in a prison cell wouldn’t have the answer! But Paul, writing to his friends in Philippi, might yet surprise us…
Where is true joy found?
Paul wants his friends to know that there is real and lasting joy in one place: Jesus! The whole of his letter is one long encouragement to stop looking in all the wrong places for joy, and start looking to Jesus to provide what nothing else in the world can.
Living for yourself won’t do it (see especially 1:27-2:11) – Paul reminds his readers that true joy is not found in following our own interests but in looking to the interests of others, just like the Lord Jesus did. Counter-intuitively for us, we discover that putting others first actually benefits us more in the long run, as well as being good for those we serve.
Living for success won’t do it (see especially 3:1-14) – Paul says that he has lots of human reasons to boast (a good family pedigree, a good education and a good job) but none of that made him happy. What made him happy was what he least expected: turning his back on all that and looking to Jesus. In fact he says that, compared to Jesus, all the other stuff was less than worthless (3:7-9).
Living for stuff won’t do it (see especially 4:4-13) – Paul hints that living for anything other than Jesus will allow anxiety to creep in. But he has learnt the secret to being content whether he has plenty or whether he has hardly anything (4:11-13): looking to Jesus! It’s Jesus who can help us overcome our anxiety and replace it with peace (4:6-7); it’s Jesus who can be relied upon to meet our needs (4:19).
How can I stay joyful in hard times?
This joy in Jesus was really helping Paul as he wrote. He was pretty sure he would be released from prison, but there was also a chance that he would die in there, or be executed. Either way, he found a way to be happy – by making Jesus the most important thing in his life. That way he could look forward to life as a chance to serve Jesus, and he could even look forward to death as the time that he would finally be with Jesus (1:21-24). This attitude is one that can’t be taken away from us by anything that the world throws at us. It gives us purpose now, and great hope for the future. What more could you ask for?
What do you think?
Is Paul insane? Or is he onto something – something life-alteringly wonderful? Why not have a read of Philippians for yourself and decide. I have a hunch that you will find that Jesus, and the real and lasting joy He offers, is what you’ve been searching for your whole life…
Sherford Community Church
Minister: Revd Tom Brassil
Tel: 01752 547492