By Brooke Holt
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” – Philippians 1:3-5
As the Apostle Paul penned these words to the church in Philippi, he sat in prison awaiting a trial and a verdict. In preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and declaring Jesus as the true king, Paul had broken the law of Rome. In Rome, the emperor was king and anyone who challenged the emperor challenged Rome. Despite Paul’s imprisonment, Philippians is a letter characterized by joy. How could Paul have joy in prison? How could Paul have joy in a time of great uncertainty? Lastly, how could Paul experience joy when he knew that the judgment of death was likely just around the corner?
Read Paul’s words again. He thanks the Lord for the relationships and for the fellowship he has shared with the church in Philippi. These church members are the source of joy for Paul. They studied God’s word together, built the church, shared the Gospel throughout Philippi, and broke bread together. Paul shared the most precious thing in the world with the Philippians: faith in Jesus Christ.
While Paul was not able to see them at this time, he knew that their friendships were eternal. Even if he never laid eyes on them again in this world, Paul trusted that he would see them again in the kingdom of God. Paul reminded himself of this truth and of the joy of partnership which enabled Paul to give thanks and to experience joy even in difficult circumstances.
What about you? What are your greatest sources of joy in this life? Are these things eternal or are they worldly? And are you able to experience joy even in challenging circumstances? As Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. That fruit is the byproduct of a growing relationship with the Lord.
The season of Advent is ideal to consider if our lives are producing the fruit of the Spirit. Are we living in joy even though the pandemic seems far from over? Are we able to embrace joy even when finances are tight or we are separated from those we love? Like Paul, God is calling us to remember the joy we have in relationship to him and his people. Then, we also can give thanks for our many blessings and remember that the best is yet to come. Jesus has come, and Jesus will come again. Jesus is the true source of joy for this world and the world to come!
How might the Lord want to reframe your experience of joy today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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