Tuesday, February 27, 2018
We are currently preparing to look at the subject of Joy in the book of Philippians by reviewing the founding of the church in Philippi in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts. Our understanding of joy will take on its fullness when we study it in light of the suffering that was experienced by Paul and the Philippian people. True joy is not the product of positive circumstances in our life, but rather it is the gift of God as a result of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and our trust in His unfailing love.
The example set by Paul and Silas had an obvious and lasting effect on the people of Philippi. Read about it in Acts 16:35-40.
35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
Paul and Silas had humbly withstood false accusations, an underserved beating, and unjustified imprisonment, during which they sang praises to God while in chains. When it finally came time for them to be released, Paul mentioned to the newly saved jailer that he and Silas were Roman citizens. The Philippian Christians got to see God’s justice delivered in God’s time, and their new faith was strengthened. They had seen a living example of a person who trusts God for the final outcome even though the present circumstances are painful.
I am reminded of the words of David in Psalm 35 –
26May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. 27May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.
If I had to guess, I would choose to believe that when Paul and Silas arrived at Lydia’s house after their release from prison, there was a time of shouting for joy because God had vindicated them. Paul was able to teach the Philippian Christians, by experience, that they could trust God for the strength to endure suffering and remain joyful until the day God’s justice is displayed. We know that the Christians in Philippi learned this lesson because of what we read about them in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.
1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches (Philippi being one of them). 2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
The church at Philippi is a great example to us of joy and faith in the midst of severe trials. They not only endured the trouble, but also served the Lord in the midst of it. It was their overflowing joy that turned extreme poverty into rich generosity. The joy of knowing Jesus and being in the hand of God overcomes any trial we experience in this life, because the love of God is permanent and the trials are only temporary.
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, REJOICE!