Joy in the Lord is a lasting blessing for the year ahead
In the book of Philippians, Paul exudes joy despite the most challenging circumstances. Ordinarily, for someone to speak of their joy whilst imprisoned; it would be fair to assume that they were either venting sarcasm or blindly deluded. Not so with Paul who carefully lays out the reasons for his joy in the Lord in this tremendously uplifting letter.
Many people expectantly hope for joy over the course of the coming year. Their wish is for more joy than pain and a better year than the previous one. It is worth considering that we mark times and seasons since there is a time for everything and ultimately God has set eternity in our hearts. We use the term turning over a new leaf often without acknowledging that we are imperfect beings with the hope that doing things differently or with more resolve will secure us lasting joy.
The source and reasons for Paul’s joy cannot be found elsewhere in books about mindfulness, self- help, or smart thinking. He knew what it meant to live with humble means or prosperity. He had impeccable training and qualifications, yet he did not rely upon those criteria. Paul’s confidence was not in himself but in God and was not about discovering himself but knowing God. He was realistic about His situation because He recognised God’s sovereignty and providential action in his circumstances was for the furtherance of the gospel. His state of affairs was by no means desirable, but they were permitted by God. The gospel spread despite attempts to silence him and others had greater courage to preach the word of God without fear.
Paul prayed joyfully for those in Philippi since he was grateful for their continued participation in the gospel and was certain that since the Lord had begun a good work in them, He would complete that until the day of His return. Paul was overjoyed when Christ was proclaimed.
The one who described himself as the least of the apostles as one untimely born, had joy in shared ministry and noted the joy of the Philippians was rooted in their faith in God. Paul sent Epaphroditus to them and they would rejoice with him and receive him with joy. They enjoyed mutual confidence in each other because they both knew that God was the source of their joy and fellowship. He urged them to share their joy with him. Paul wanted this joy to be complete by maintaining unity and love in the Spirit.
Paul counselled them to rejoice in the Lord always. That was not a theoretical resolution, but an obvious reality consistently evident in his life since he had learnt to be joyful in all circumstances. Paul’s message was to take our sanctification seriously and to aim to be like our Lord Jesus by following His example in how we think, our attitude and in the way we relate to others. To have a real hope and lasting joy not just for the coming year but for that which is ongoing and timeless, requires the need to obtain our hope, faith and joy in God who is at work in the believer, both to will and work His good pleasure.
Jon Taylor 2nd January 2022