Sound Bites: Philippians

Joy. Real, lasting joy. The kind of joy that is not dependant upon one’s circumstances. That is one of the major themes of the book of Philippians. Now, here’s the truly amazing thing to me. The man who wrote this short epistle did it while sitting in a prison cell. Certainly not the most joyous of environments if you ask me. And yet, from a place that most of us would readily identify with despair Paul tells us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Life can be hard at times. But no matter the situation there is a joy that is available to each and every one of us. Paul knew it to be true even though he was sitting in a Roman prison. My prayer is that you will also experience that wonderful truth in the midst of your own need and desperation.

1:12, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.”… I can rejoice because my circumstances are in His hands. Paul’s Roman imprisonment was subject to God’s greater purposes. The same holds true for our need. Surrendered to Him, my circumstances become the means of spreading the Gospel. For my part that means less complaining and more trusting. I may not understand it all but He has promised to use it all for His greater purposes.

2:14, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing;”… This is where the rubber meets the road. It is so easy to complain. So easy to grumble. Expressing my discontent is never difficult. I am asking God to make me mindful of every word. May the only things I speak be that which is recorded in Eph 4:29, “…ONLY such a word as is good for edification…” Besides, our obedience means nothing if it is clothed in the garments of complaining.

3:13, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,”… Such an encouraging word to me, particularly on those days when I begin to think that the best is all behind me. I do not live in the past. I can learn from it but I cannot change it nor should I abide in it. There is a need to keep the horizon ever before me, to continue moving forward in faith and service, to remember that there is still so much that Jesus in is His grace has placed before me. Forget your past. Let it go and leave it behind you. Reach forward to the future He has promised to you (Jer 29:11).

4:11, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”… Paul had “learned.” Me? I am still learning. In fact, looks like I will be taking that class again. Too often I am like a child on Christmas day. Sitting in the aftermath of opened gifts, I look up at God and ask, “Is that it?” Praying that I will not just recognize a need for contentment but that I will really walk in it… whatever my circumstances. Joy thrives in an environment of contentment and gratitude.