“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
What are you full of? The writer of this New Testament letter wasn’t sipping a cocktail on the beach in Maui when he said, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” in Philippians 4:4. Who wouldn’t be full of joy there? No, he was in prison. In fact, this was one of four letters we have in our Bibles that the Apostle Paul wrote from a dark, damp, lonely prison cell in Rome. From his circumstances you would have never guessed he would be full of joy!
The word joy appears nineteen times in this letter to the church in Philippi. Some have even called it the Epistle of Joy. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find the source of his joy. While joy seems to be the recurring theme on the surface, there is another word that occurs more than any other word and that is the name of Jesus Christ. His name appears over forty times in these four little chapters. He is the One who is the very source of joy! That explains how Paul could be full of joy despite the limitations and constraints of his circumstances. I find this particularly meaningful as I try to navigate the containment of sheltering at home with so many limitations restricting my freedoms to do the things, I once took for granted. With resources dwindling and so many who have lost income, careers and worse, loved ones to this evil virus, it’s vital that we reconnect to the real source of joy.
In his thirty-day devotional book on Ephesians, another one of Paul’s prison letters, my good friend from Sweden, Kjell Axel Johanson, said, “This is why Paul dared to live in faith while he was a chained prisoner. His faith in God cleared his vision, so he could see further ahead than his present circumstances.” (Rise above Your Chains, Pg. 58)
Wow! That’s a faith that works! That’s genuine faith. It produces real joy! If all that you can see are your present circumstances, then your circumstances will determine your joy. But when you and I get to the place where we find ourselves in the center of the will of God and know we are in His will, not even the harshest of circumstances will rob us of our joy! We will see further ahead than our present circumstances because we will be focused on Jesus, “… the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God!” Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)
There is no other source of joy that can sustain you like that! In Christ we can be full of joy!