Paul penned four letters from Rome, including the Epistle to the Philippians.
Chained to a Roman thug, restricted to his tiny quarters, dependent upon others for every resource, Paul wrote the Epistle of Joy. In four short chapters, one-hundred-four verses, Paul uses the words joy, rejoice and glad a total of sixteen times.
It becomes clear that, for Paul, joy was not the absence of pain, troubles, or difficulties, but the absence of bitterness and confusion. Paul agreed with Nehemiah... “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Paul’s opening lines are clearly heart-felt. “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3–5).
Apparently, the Philippian Church had sent a generous care-package, carried by a Epaphroditus, and delivered it to Paul in Rome (Philippians 4:18). While his friend visited, he fell deathly ill. With his health and strength restored, Paul joyfully sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi. “I considered it necessary to send you Epaphroditus—my brother, coworker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need—since he has been longing for all of you and was distressed because you heard that he was sick. Indeed, he was so sick that he nearly died. However, God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. For this reason, I am very eager to send him so that you may rejoice again when you see him and I may be less anxious. Therefore, welcome him in the Lord with great joy and hold people like him in honor, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up what was lacking in your ministry to me” (Philippians 2:25–30).
Though it was possible that Paul’s life could soon end with a bloody execution, Paul rejoiced, and he encouraged his friends in Philippi to follow his example. “Even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:17–18).
Paul’s admonition to the Philippians is profitable to every Christian today. While it’s easy to focus on our troubles, to ring our hands in anxiety and worry, to consider the darkness, depravity, destruction and difficulty, it’s necessary to be reminded of God’s great grace and mercy. God’s not worried. He’s All-Mighty, All-Knowing, Unchanging, and Ever-Present. We can trust Him.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7).