by Steven Chan
One the greatest blessings for the believer in Christ is that of being able to “rejoice in the Lord always”; not just when we have received certain good things, but even during challenging times. The apostle Paul wrote this encouragement to rejoice in the Lord always at a time when he was in prison. Though bodily incarcerated, he was yet able to “rejoice” in the Lord. Why was he able to rejoice in the Lord always?
- Paul rejoiced because he could see the spiritual benefit of his imprisonment (though an unsought-for situation). In Phil 1:12-18, he wrote thus: “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happenedto me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear… 18 What then? Only thatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”
Application for us today: We may face adversities and challenging circumstances but we must hold on to our faith. Can we see what impact our steadfast faith will have on the preaching of the gospel? We have seen how some souls have been won over to Christ when they see our steadfast faith demonstrated especially in adversities. When we keep on doing the work of God under all circumstances, brethren will be encouraged. May we also rejoice like Paul, that our faith is a source of encouragement to others to keep on preaching the gospel of Christ?
- Paul rejoiced because he was encouraged to hear of the faithfulness of the brethren: He wrote thus in Phil 2:2: “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind.” In Phil 2:16, Paul urged them to “hold fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” The apostle John expressed the same joy in 3 John 1:3-4: “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
Application for us today: When we serve God and labour in His kingdom, to help build up the faith of one another (as per Eph 4:11-17) then we will find joy in the love and unity prevailing among brethren. It ought not to be all about “me and my family” only. We need to look into the well-being and interests of our fellow brethren (Phil 2:4) and rejoice when they are doing well spiritually (and prospering as well – 3 John 2)
- Paul “rejoiced in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3-4) as he placed no trust in his human achievements, being willing to give up all his human achievements for the prize of the upward call of God, the resurrection from the dead and the transformation of his our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body (Phil 3:7-21).
Application for us Today: According to Rom 8:5-6: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” When we are spiritually-minded, i.e. we set our minds on the things above and not on things on the earth (Col 3:2), we can rejoice in the Lord because of the hope reserved in heaven for us (Phil 3:20; 1 Pet 1:4).
- Paul rejoiced in the Lord because he entrusted all his concerns to the Lord through prayer; so he wrote: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Application for us today: We can have the peace of God in our hearts and minds when we learn to rely on God and to cast all our cares on Him through prayer and supplication (1 Pet 5:7)
- Paul “rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again” (Phil 4:10). Paul rejoiced because he received a gift from the church at Philippi. He wrote thus in Phil 4:17-18: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”
Application for us today: Some think that we should only give to our brethren when they are in (dire) need. But according to Paul, that should not be the case. A gift, as an act of kindness and appreciation, represents “the fruit that abounds to the account of the giver” – “an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God”. In his epistle to the churches in Galatia, Paul wrote: “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
We have every reason to rejoice when we receive gifts from brethren to help us in our needs, or who have benefited from our ministering efforts as a reflection of their gratitude. As it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), let us learn to give gifts to those who labour in the Lord or have helped us in lives, even as our heavenly Father is a giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Then all will be able to rejoice.
Let us rejoice in being children of God as we have been blessed with every spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3). We have no reason to be despondent. Let us be encouraged by the positive attitude of the apostle Paul even when he was in prison.