Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I Will Rejoice

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice, 

for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  Philippians 1:18-21 (NASB)

Paul rejoiced. In prison. Yes, in prison. It couldn’t have been easy, so why did he rejoice? How can anyone express delight when their circumstances are less than perfect, even horrible? 

The Sunday School answer is God and/or Jesus. Usually when a question is asked at church, children answer with the names of God or Jesus. Seems simple, right? And yet so pure. Jesus pointed to children as good examples of God’s kingdom. Maybe a look at children can show us how to find joy in difficult situations. 

One day as Jesus traveled through Judea, some parents brought their children to Him for a blessing. The disciples scolded them for bothering Jesus. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” (see Matthew 19:13-15)

Another time after traveling into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus entered the temple. He performed many miracles and created quite a stir among the religious elites. The children shouted praises to Him, while the chief priests and scribes reprimanded Him. He responded, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” (If you haven’t already, take time to read this exciting account of Jesus’ life in the twenty-first chapter of Matthew.)

How do these stories of children relate to Paul’s delight? Youngsters live with a sense of freedom and utter expressions of compelling innocence. Jesus said His Kingdom is comprised of people like them. The same fearless honor that poured from the lips of children gushed from Paul’s heart, even while in prison. But why? How? 

Paul rejoiced because Jesus had transformed his life on the road to Damascus—he had been set free. As Saul, he intended to kill believers of The Way, to stop this growing belief in a Savior named Jesus Christ (see Acts 9). On his journey, Saul met the risen Jesus. His belief system changed. God chose him and he chose to follow God. Murderous Saul became missionary Paul as he set out to change the world. 

Paul’s journeys took him to many ports. He shared the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with all those he came in contact with. And he encountered numerous obstacles, one being imprisonment in a jail in Philippi. Yet nothing could stop him, not imprisonment, not even the risk of death. He had one vision, one mission, one purpose—to serve his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

From jail, Paul sent an encouraging letter to the Philippians. The joy spilling onto paper from his heart through his pen strengthened his followers. Because they trusted God, a multitude of believers began to proclaim the word of God without fear. Surprisingly, some people even preached Christ out of jealousy for the spiritual power filling the hearts of followers. It didn’t matter to Paul because either way, Christ’s name was preached. The Savior proclaimed. Many heard and believed. And Paul rejoiced. 

Can I rejoice in a bad situation? Will I choose joy in difficult circumstances? Choosing joy in the hardships of life is hard. Yet as believers our attitudes can proclaim or defame Jesus. Will I allow conflict to prevent me from speaking His Name? If it requires some push back and risk of injury, will I run away? Can I rejoice in the good news of Jesus and His love in the middle of pain?

Paul’s life was dramatically changed when he encountered the risen Christ. Afterwards he had but one desire—to serve Christ Jesus wholeheartedly so that others might be saved. Paul knew Jesus died for him. Paul offered his life to Jesus. 

Christ died for you and me. Will we offer our lives to Him? Will we rejoice in suffering for Him, no matter the pain and sadness? In the midst of everyday trials, can we choose joy? 

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