Forgive me if this is too random or too nerdy, but I just had to share. Philippians is a letter from Paul that is filled with utter joy and rejoicing. In fact, if you look in Strong's NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon ( here ), you'll see that between those two words- originally "chairo" and "chara" - Paul mentions joy a dozen times in just four short chapters.
Chairo is actually originally defined as "to rejoice, be glad, rejoice exceedingly, to be well, hail" and is often used as a greeting. Chara is originally defined as "joy, gladness, the joy received from you, the cause or occasion of joy." We copied a verse yesterday that contained chara within it- Philippians 1:4.
Today, go and read Philippians 1:12-19. Read it through at least twice and pray over those verses. Ask God to reveal himself in them and to show you what he wants YOU to know from them.
"And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear." (Philippians 1:12-14)
By the time Paul wrote this letter, he was no longer walking around freely. He was in prison. He was in the midst of some really junky parts of his life and what does he say in this letter? "It's all good! God knows what he's doing! I am right where he wants me now. He is using me here, so don't worry. I am rejoicing in all that Christ is doing here." That's the KEERV (Kristi Expanded and Extremely Revised Version) of Paul's words. ;)
Seriously? He's rejoicing? He has joy in prison? How is that possible? And before you start picturing "prison" like we see on tv- you know, a bed with a toilet in the room, painted walls and actual floors with some iron bars or a dead-bolted door- that wasn't prison back then. They were dark, damp, and dirty. Everyone was chained and stuck in uncomfortable positions. They were often beaten or flogged before being thrown into prison. Check out the story about Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16:16-40. The two of them actually sang to God in the middle of all of that! JOY in prison.
As I prayed over these verses and read them again and again in my own quiet time this morning, all I could think about was the fact that Paul managed to find joy- the deep, unswerving joy of Jesus- in the midst of some of the worst times of his life. He didn't waste a single opportunity that came his way either. He shared Jesus and the Good News wherever he went with whoever was around! And he didn't do it because he HAD to. He did it with that amazing joy that he'd found in Jesus.
If Paul can figure out how to be joyful in prison, in a shipwreck, and in the moments leading up to his untimely death, can't I- a woman blessed beyond measure with a wonderful husband, four amazing children, and a beautiful roof over my head- figure it out here in the lap of luxury? Sometimes I wonder if all of our "stuff" makes the joy harder to see. It's buried so deep under the tv, the bursting pantry, the loads of laundry, the dirty dishes, and the shrieks of kids that I just can't see it. But it's there, I know it is!
Alternatively, I know some of us are in "prisons" of our own right now. While they probably aren't actual prisons, some of the members of our body are stuck in jobs they hate, marriages that are falling apart, watching kids make bad choices, drowning in financial stuff, struggling to make ends meet, injured, sick, depressed, and any number of other proverbial prisons. And it's tough. It's tough to find joy when you can't find a deep cleansing breath. It's tough to feel like smiling or search for good things when you feel like your whole life is on fire all around you and you just need to get those fires out to survive. I get it. I've been in the midst of some of this stuff. Leaning into Jesus is the only way through that long, dark tunnel.
Some questions for you to apply this to your own life:
1. Do you know the joy that Paul has in this letter?
2. Is it constant for you like it seemed to be for Paul or is it elusive for you sometimes like it is for me?
3. Are there some things in your life that you need to remove so that you can find that joy? Commitments that are just adding too much to your plate that you could release to someone else?
4. Are you in "prison" like Paul right now? Can you find anything to be joyful about while you're there?
5. Are you "free" like Paul used to be before he wrote this letter? Are you thanking God right where you are?
6. Is there someone in your life that is in prison (whether a proverbial one or a real one) that YOU could cover in prayer and offer encouragement to as the Philippians did for Paul?
I read "A Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp this week. There were definitely some places in the book where I was scratching my head, but all in all, it was a great book. She took on the challenge of writing out one thousand gifts that Jesus has given her. She discovered the joy that God offers us as a gift in giving thanks to God for all he has and will do in her life.
I've started my own list. It has normal things like my husband and kids, coffee, and clean sheets. But it also has some stranger things like the new crow of a young rooster and neighbor ducks that come visit each day. And while I don't feel a huge difference in myself, I do feel like I am finally seeing the good before the bad in my day. Because I'm looking for it.
And that's my challenge to you today. Start your own list. Write down all the blessings in your life, all the good things that you see, and the gifts God is giving you. Thankfulness leads to joy. Let's find our deep seated joy together.
Kneeling in prayer.
Lord, I am so incredibly thankful for this path you've placed me on and this life that I am blessed to lead. Thank you for the many gifts you send my way each and every day. Odds are, I will never know anywhere near the trouble that Paul knew in his lifetime. But he found joy no matter his circumstances. Help me to find that joy and to be thankful, to praise you whether life is going "my way" or not. Help me to step boldly forward for you and share you with others as Paul did every chance that he got.
I pray that anyone reading this post would find the same things- they'd find the inner joy that Paul describes in this letter to the Philippians. Give them boldness and strength as they go through their day today. Help them to stay close to you and to see the good before the bad. Give us discernment and eyes to see today, Lord.
We love you.