As you know, this course is titled, "Philippians: A Prison Letter of Joy." The word "joy" (Greek, chara) is found 5 times in this short letter. Philippians 1:4, 25; 2:2, 29; 4:1. "Gladness" in Philippians 2:29 should be translated "joy" instead, because the original Greek word there is "chara." The word "rejoice" or "rejoicing" is used 10 times. Philippians 1:18 (2x), 26; 2:16-18; 3:1, 3; 4:4 (2x).
Paul wasn't rejoicing because he was persecuted and imprisoned. He looked forward to his "deliverance" from prison. Philippians 1:19. However, he could rejoice in that he was counted worthy to suffer for Christ. Other apostles felt the same way. See Acts 5:40, 41; 1 Peter 3:12-16.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. What a wonderful verse! What was the reason for his rejoicing? He rejoiced in the Lord.
THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD
"The Lord is at hand." Philippians 4:5. "Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand." James 5:8. Jesus is coming again. Nothing nor no one can keep believers back from the upward call. This is the imminent hope of every child of God.
It is also true that regardless of dispensations or covenants one truth permeates throughout the holy Scriptures. "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, who call upon Him in truth." Psalm 145:18. What a comforting promise!
Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy during his second Roman imprisonment. He was on the Roman equivalent of death row, awaiting execution. At that time he found himself forsaken, and left alone. Read 2 Timothy 4:9-16. Jews who survived the holocaust said that the feeling of abandonment was the most difficult hardship to endure. Now see 2 Timothy 4:17. "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me...." Also consider Acts 18:9, 10; 22:11. Paul rejoiced because he lived in the presence of the Lord, who promised, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5. Jesus is always present to care for His own.
THE PEACE OF GOD
At a time when the Jewish people were being carried away captive to Babylon Jeremiah wrote, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11. Jeremiah used the word "evil" more than any other prophet. It is found in 81 verses in the book that bears his name. This wailing prophet lived in extremely evil days, and yet God had thoughts of peace toward the captives.
Paul, the prisoner, knew the Lord as "the God of peace." Philippians 4:9. The God of peace is the gracious source of the peace of God. Paul experienced this peace and wrote, "Be anxious for nothing (or don't worry about anything), but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ." Philippians 4:6, 7.
This is a unique promised peace. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27. He is the "Prince of peace." Isaiah 9:6. He made peace through the blood of His cross, and we find our peace in Him.
THE POWER OF CHRIST
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13. Secular humanists boast that man can do all things, but they lack the power.
The apostle Paul wasn't testifying about his ability to lift weights. He probably was a man small in stature. His physical appearance wasn't impressive. To the church at Corinth he wrote, "I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling." His speech and preaching wasn't exactly elegant either. But he did speak "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." 1 Corinthians 2:3, 4.
Some people like to show of their toughness by losing their temper and blowing off steam. They take pleasure in acting like a bully. All that they reveal is a lack of character. See Proverbs 16:32; 25:28; James 1:20.
The Lord strengthens believers in the inner man. He works on the inside. Paul had prayed for the Christians at Colosse that they would be "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering." Colossians 1:11. Underline the last five words in that verse. Believers are empowered to be patient. Christ's power is an enduring power. James wrote, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." James 1:2, 3. God works in us to work through us. "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." Ephesians 3:20. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." Ephesians 6:10. Combining some of these verses together we find that "the power of His might" is "the power that works in us" to the end that Christians might display "patience and longsuffering (or endurance)."
Dear Christian, do you realize that He is the source of your strength. He wants you to live an empowered life in the center of His will. Rejoice in the Lord, and in the might and power that He provides.
THE PROVISION OF GOD
Paul was sent out to be a missionary to the Gentiles by the local church at Antioch. He was accompanied by Barnabas and Mark at the beginning of his first missionary journey. Acts 13:1-5. Missionary organizations as we know them today were nonexistent. Even though the church was the sending agency, regular channels for financial support for missionaries were not available. Paul supported himself by working as a tentmaker, which was his trade. Acts 18:3; 20:34, 35; 1 Thessalonians 2:4.
Money was never an issue with the apostle Paul. He would be appalled at some of the prosperity preaching of today. "If you want to get, you gotta give. Give to get!" Compare the words of the apostle Paul. "Not that I speak in regard to need (no solicitation for support), for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased (or live humbly), and I know how to abound (or live in prosperity). Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." Philippians 4:11, 12.
Later when Paul left Philippi of Macedonia, the church at Philippi was the only church that helped support him financially. When he was in nearby Thessalonica they sent aid once and again for his necessities. Philippians 4:16, 17. It also appears that Paul received financial help from them when he ministered at Corinth. He certainly did not receive any help from the carnal Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 11:9.
During Paul's imprisonment Epaphroditus brought him another gift from the church at Philippi. They were a generous fellowship of believers who were committed to the furtherance of the gospel. Paul looked upon their gift as "a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, wellpleasing to God." You might test your giving by that statement. Is your giving sweet-smelling or does it stink to high heaven? Would you consider it a sacrifice, acceptable to God? Is God pleased with your generosity? A true test of giving isn't how much you give, but how much you have left, that you have kept for yourself. That's the lesson of the widow's mite. Consider Mark 12:41-44.
Paul was not a seeker of gifts. He had no interest in developing a missionary money machine. He was more interested in the giver than the gift. "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account." Philippians 4:17.
It is no secret that God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7. The Lord not only looks at the gift, but also at the motivation behind the gift. Was the giving of the gift motivated by selfish ambition? Was the gift truly a gift of love?
God provides for those who provide for others. The promise: "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19. If you are a cheerful giver, who gives neither grudgingly nor out of obligation, God promises to "supply all your need." God isn't stingy. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32.
In this fourth chapter alone we have seen four reasons for rejoicing: (1) the presence of the Lord, (2) the peace of God, (3) the power of Christ, and (4) the provision of God. "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice."