Philippians # 2 Joy in Suffering
The human author of Philippians was the Apostle Paul. I doubt that any Christian in the past 2000 years ever suffered for Christ anymore than Paul. His life was filled with it from the moment of his conversion until the day he was executed, no doubt by beheading, by Rome.
The Book of Acts describes much of his sufferings and he makes reference to that suffering often in his Epistles; never for sympathy, but as his reason for rejoicing. In II Corinthians 11 he lists a sampling of his sufferings for Christ. Shortly after his conversion to Christ, Saul (later named Paul) was given an inkling in Acts 9:15-16 of the sufferings that lay ahead for him.
But is wasn’t just Paul who was called to suffer for Christ. As we read through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and through the Epistles, we Christians are repeatedly reminded that suffering for the sake of Christ is the common experience of every faithful Christian. Paul shows us how to face that suffering joyfully. In fact, he says in Galatians 6:17 that he bore the scars of repeated beatings for Christ as a badge of honor.
There is no greater theme in the Epistle to the Philippians than the theme of joy and rejoicing. This theme is repeated in each of the four chapters. Joy, in fact, is the essence of Christianity. A miserable, pessimistic, defeated Christian is an oxymoron and a shame to the cause of Christ. Although I am an empathetic person by nature and know what it is to weep with those who weep; I have little patience or sympathy for pessimistic, whining Christians.
What is Christian joy?
Joy is the heart-felt emotion that wells up from the depths of our souls when we receive Christ as our Saviour from sin and surrender to Him as Lord of our lives. It’s not something we can work up. Rather, Psalm 16:11 explains that joy comes from living in the conscious presence of Christ. It’s the gift of God that is produced in us as we live surrendered to the indwelling Holy Spirit. In fact, Galatians 5:22-23 teaches that it is fruit produced in us by the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from reading and obeying God’s Word, we learn in Jeremiah 15:16 and I John 1:4.
Don’t confuse joy with happiness. Anyone, saved or unsaved, can be happy if the circumstances are going well. Joy is infinitely more wonderful than happiness.
I first experienced joy as a nine year old boy, when I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour. Joy is the combination of experiencing God’s love and peace, knowing that my heart is right with Him and I am ready for Heaven. Only one who has been born again into the family of God, can know and experience true joy. It never wavers, regardless of the worst of circumstances.
Keep in mind, that being saved and living in the joy of the Lord, does not insulate us from the trials of life and the pain and sorrow that accompanies those trials.
The Purpose of Philippians
Paul wrote this Epistle to encourage the hearts of the Philippian Christians and our hearts to live above our circumstances and to recognize Christ, not only as our Saviour, but also as our life. Philippians 1:21
I have had my share of negative, heart-breaking experiences with fellow Christians; but, to tell the truth, I need to dig into my memory to remember those negative experiences. They’re not on the surface. All of my conscious memories of Christian friends, are only joyful. I refuse to dwell on the negative memories. One day in Heaven, I will meet those Christians who have hurt me in the past, and hug them with Christ’s love. But, as far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to hug right now. I desire only God’s best for my former enemies. I refuse to be bitter. I wouldn’t touch that negative emotion with a ten foot pole. I encourage you to go to the GEM link and read the short statement by a medical doctor on the high cost of HATE.
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