Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4
When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned, first in Caesarea and later in Rome, one would have thought his days of evangelism were over. However, on the contrary, Paul’s imprisonment provided new opportunities for him to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for the expansion of his ministry. In his own words Paul confessed that “…Everything that has happened to me here has been a great boost in getting out the Good News concerning Christ”. Philippians 1:12 TLB
While in prison, Paul wrote what are referred to as the “Prison Epistles”. These we now have in our bibles as Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.
This period in his life was one of extreme hardship and suffering, however, Paul did not lose sight of why he was imprisoned, and as we see in his epistle to the Philippians, he was rejoicing.
Unlike his other letters, filled with corrections and rebukes, Paul’s letter to the Philippians was an expression of joy and the wonders of the Christian life. In fact, the word “rejoice” and “joy” appear over 16 times in the book of Philippians, and Paul’s joy was expressed throughout.
For example, he was thankful and full of joy because of the dedication of the Philippians who, in partnership with Paul, willing shared the gospel of Jesus Christ . Philippians 1:4-5 TLB When I pray for you, my heart is full of joy because of all your wonderful help in making known the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.
Additionally, because of Paul’s imprisonment, many other believers “seem to have lost their fear” and were sharing the gospel with boldness. However, there were also those who preached out of jealousy and rivalry, intending to add to Paul’s suffering. Philippians 1:14-15. Paul’s attitude however, was one of rejoicing because the gospel was being preached. His focus was on the results, and not on his circumstances.
Interestingly, the realization that, whether he lived or he died Christ is glorified, gave the Apostle Paul great joy. Philippians 1:18-26. In both his living and his dying he was bringing glory to God.
Paul also rejoiced that the Philippians were able to contribute to his needs, because it provided an opportunity for them to be blessed. Phil 4:17
In his final remarks to the Philippians, Paul encouraged his readers to be anxious about nothing, but to bring their requests to God through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. He further asked them to focus on things that were true, honest, just, pure, and lovely and of good report; “if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”.
It is important to recognize that although there was a level of unity regarding the spreading of the gospel, there was still division among the believers, especially in relation to Paul. Additionally, there was disunity even among those who supported him Philippians 4: 2. This, coupled with his incarceration must have caused Paul great distress, however, he continued to rejoice, and as he puts it: “No matter what, I will continue to hope and passionately cling to Christ”…, Philippians 1:20 TPT
Paul was able to rejoice in the face of adversity because of his faith and his hope. I am going to keep on being glad, for I know that as you pray for me, and as the Holy Spirit helps me, this is all going to turn out for my good. 20 For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that will cause me to be ashamed of myself but that I will always be ready to speak out boldly for Christ while I am going through all these trials here, just as I have in the past; and that I will always be an honor to Christ, whether I live or whether I must die. Philippians 1:19-20 TLB
As we go through our own struggles, let us take a page out of the life of the Apostle Paul, and push ahead, focusing on the good, and looking to Christ the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Prayer: Father, as we face each day and the struggles that sometimes come with it, I pray that You give us the grace to stand firm in the knowledge of you and to rejoice as we focus on You and the work You have given to us. Amen