Joy - A Study Through Philippians


By Mark Regis, Associate Priest
Listen Online

Posted on May 26, 2016

The short biblical letter of Philippians, written by the Apostle Paul around the year 60 CE was set in what most people agree was a horrific circumstance. Writing from prison, Paul had been unjustly arrested and convicted, chained into the inner darkness of a disease-ridden dungeon, under persecution we would not want to begin to imagine. You might think a reasonable tone of someone writing from a place like this could range from woeful lament, or despair, or maybe on a good day a stoic manifesto of how to keep your chin up and press on despite the odds.  
 
You won’t find any of these in this incredible letter. In these gracious and even tender words to a church he loves, what you will find over and over again is Joy. A humble, thankful, rejoicing that cannot be extinguished by any present circumstance. There’s something at work in Paul that supersedes and overwhelms the weight of trials that surround him by an even greater weight of good. In a paradoxical way joy becomes even more evident while he suffers. 
 
How can this be? Common sense dictates if we are suffering or sad, then joy cannot exist or at least it is put on hold until our circumstances get better. But in stark contrast to the logic of our world, the Bible never says the opposite of joy is sadness or suffering. What you find in many testimonies and biographies within Scripture is joy coexisting with and overcoming the suffering and sadness that happens in every human life.
 
That kind of joy, rooted in the transformative work of Jesus begins, and ends with hope. It gives us a confident trust that no matter what happens, God’s good plans are at work and will prevail in our lives today and especially in the future. In his letter from prison, Paul encourages us by saying: 
 
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.” (Philippians 4:4-5)
 
Our God is a God who loves and delights in his people, and longs for us to be united to him in his eternal joy. For the next four weeks, join with us as we learn in our very real lives what it means to follow a God like this, who is the source of joy, who gives the gift of joy, and calls followers of Jesus to live a life of joy, both now and eternally.