Although it is a gift from God to every believer, joy is not always constant and full.Sinful attitudes such as dissatisfaction, bitterness, sullenness, doubt, fear, andnegativism cause joy to be forfeited.Consequently, the only way to restore lost joy is to repent and return to properworship of and obedience to God.Anything other than sin - no matter how difficult, painful, or disappointing - need nottake away the believers joy.Yet even minor things can steal our joy if we react sinfully to them.A change for the worse in health, job, finances, personal relationships, or otherimportant areas of life can easily cause us to question the Lord, His sovereign wisdom,and His gracious provision.When something bad happens, joy can be one of the first casualties. We areespecially vulnerable when such things happen suddenly, taking us off guard.Our response is often one of anger, doubt, distrust, fear, self-pity, ingratitude, orcomplaining (joy stealers). In such cases, events that are not sinful in themselves leadto sinful responses that steal joy.We are not exempt from the common problems and difficulties all people face.Gods Word makes it clear that trouble in this life is certain to come.(John 16:33)"In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world"(John 16:33).God can use even the most difficult trials for our good and for His glory."Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that thetesting of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result,that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).4“Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that throughendurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans15:4 NIVPaul was a larger-than-life model of a man of God whose joy never faltered.He resisted anything that threatened to come between him and his intimatefellowship with and trust in the Lord.Paul certainly experienced sorrow and tears, suffered grief and disappointment, andwas troubled by sinful, weak, and contentious believers.
There never seems to have been a time in his life as a believer when circumstancesdiminished his joy. In fact, it seems as if the worst affliction merely tightened his grip onsalvations joy (Phil 4:4,11-13).4“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Phil 4:411“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be contentwhatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it isto have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all thingsthrough Christ Who strengthens me.” Phil 4:11-13Philippians 1:12“my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel,”Prokope (progress) describes not merely moving ahead but doing so againstobstacles. The related verb was used of an explorer or of an army advance teamhacking a path through dense trees and underbrush, moving ahead slowly and withconsiderable effort.Resistance is therefore inherent to that sort of progress, and no one knew better thanPaul how inevitable the resistance of Satan (1 Thess 2:18 - Satan hindered us) and theworld (1 John 2:15-16) is to the progress of the Gospel.John Bunyans preaching was so popular and powerful, and so unacceptable toleaders in the seventeenth-century Church of England, that he was jailed in order tosilence him. Refusing to be silent, he began to preach in the jail courtyard.He not only had a large audience of prisoners, but also hundreds of the citizens ofBedford and the surrounding area would come to the prison daily and stand outsideto hear him expound Scripture.He was silenced verbally by being placed deep inside the jail and forbidden topreach at all. Yet in that silence, he spoke loudest of all and to more people than hecould have imagined.It was during that time that he wrote The Pilgrims Progress, the great Christian classicthat has ministered the Gospel to tens of millions throughout the world. For severalcenturies, it was the most widely read and translated book in the world after the Bible.Bunyans opponents were able to stop his preaching for a few years, but they werenot able to stop his ministry. Instead, they provided opportunity for it to be extendedfrom deep within a jail in the small town of Bedford to the ends of the earth.
OPTIMIST / PESSIMISTPaul could say to his persecutors what Joseph said to his brothers after they sold himinto slavery: "It was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me afather to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. . . .As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Gen 45:8; 50:20).Countless numbers of Gods saints have been able to echo that truth.Job could have expressed it to his "comforters,"Esther to Haman,Jeremiah to the false prophets and rulers in Judah,and the apostle John to those who exiled him to Patmos.As always, the Lord can turn efforts to thwart His kingdom into means for advancing it.By His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ conquered sin and death, defeated Satan,and provided redemption for all in every age who turn to Him in genuine saving faith.Philippians 1:13“so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughoutthe whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,”Paul next focused on two important achievements of his ministry, first on the progressof the Gospel outside the church (v. 13) and then on its progress within the church (v.14).First, he rejoiced that his imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well knownthroughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else (v13).The praetorian guard was originally composed of some 10,000 handpicked soldiers.It had been established by Caesar Augustus, emperor at the time of Jesus birth (Luke2:1).These men were dispersed strategically throughout the city of Rome to keep thegeneral peace and especially to protect the emperor.Members of the praetorian guard served for sixteen years, after which they weregranted the highest honors and privileges, including very generous severance pay.Eventually they became so powerful that they were considered "king-makers," whonot only protected but also chose the emperors.
Pauls "chains" were somewhat longer than a modern handcuff, about eighteeninches long.The chain was not removed from the prisoner as long as he was in custody, makingboth escape and privacy impossible.Although the apostle was allowed to live in private quarters (Acts 28:30), he waschained in that manner to a series of soldiers for a period of two years.Over those years, it is possible that several dozen different soldiers were assigned toguard Paul, each one becoming his captive audience.If they were not already aware of it, those soldiers soon came to realize that thisamazing man was not imprisoned for committing a crime but for preaching theGospel.His faithfulness in the cause of Christ soon became well known throughout the wholepraetorian guard and to everyone else.The faithful believers in the church at Rome had no doubt long prayed that the Lordwould open a way to witness to the elite and influential praetorian guard.In His sovereign wisdom, God answered that prayer by making members of thatguard captive to Paul for 24 months.In addition to hearing his preaching and teaching, the soldiers also experiencedfirsthand his graciousness, his remarkable patience and perseverance in greataffliction, his wisdom, his deep convictions, his genuineness, his humility, and hisgenuine love and concern for them.They were aware of the false accusations made against him in Caesarea and thepersonal risk he had taken by appealing to Caesar.Both his message and his character had a profound impact on those elite, hardened,and influential soldiers.How many of the praetorian guard became Christians is unknown, but those who didbecame evangelists. It was through those men that members of Caesars ownhousehold got converted(4:22).F. B. Meyer comments:“At times the hired room would be thronged with people, to whom the Apostle spokewords of life; and after they withdrew the sentry would sit beside him, filled with manyquestionings as to the meaning of the words which this strange prisoner spoke.
At other times, when all had gone, and especially at night, when the moonlightshone on the distant mountain slopes, soldier and Apostle would be left to talk, and inthose dark, lonely hours the Apostle would tell soldier after soldier the story of his ownproud career in early life, of his opposition to Christ, and his ultimate conversion, andwould make it clear that he was there as a prisoner, not for any crime, not becausehe had raised rebellion or revolt, but because he believed that Him Whom theRoman soldiers had crucified, under Pilate, was the Son of God and the Savior ofmen.As these tidings spread, and the soldiers talked them over with one another, thewhole guard would become influenced in sympathy with the meek and gentleApostle, who always showed himself so kindly to the men as they shared, howeverinvoluntarily, his imprisonment.How absolutely consistent the Apostle must have been! If there had been the leastdivergence, day or night, from the high standard which he upheld, his soldier-companion would have caught it, and passed it on to others.The fact that so many became earnest Christians, and that the Word of Jesus wasknown far and wide throughout the praetorian guard, indicates how absolutelyconsistent the Apostles life was.” (The Epistle to the Philippians [Grand Rapids: Baker,1952], 36-37)Philippians 1:14“and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment,have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.”Pauls faithful perseverance not only was winning converts outside the church but alsowas strengthening and encouraging believers within the church.The apostles courage and faithfulness during his confinement caused most of hisfellow brethren, both in Rome and beyond, to be more trusting in the Lord becauseof his imprisonment and to have far more courage to speak the word of God withoutfear.His influence was pervasive and far-reaching. It was not merely some believers, butmost of the brethren, who were encouraged by his imprisonment.The implication is that, before Paul’s imprisonment, believers were afraid, or at leastreluctant, to openly share their faith. Hostility to this new sect of Judaism was growing.Not only were Jewish leaders intensifying their opposition and persecution, butpagans also began to see Christianity as a threat both to their religion and to theirlivelihood (Acts 19:23-41).
Pauls example gave his brethren . . . far more courage to speak the word of Godwithout fear.As they saw how God protected him and blessed his ministry, despite persecutionand imprisonment, their courage was renewed and their boldness and zealintensified.His strength became their strength, as his example touched them. Through the HolySpirit, the impact of that one faithful life revolutionized and energized the entirechurch.The apostles fellow saints discovered that, like the cowardice they onceexperienced, courage is contagious.Freedom to proclaim the Gospel is understandably cherished today by Christians inthe so-called free world. But many, if not most, of the great expansions of the faithand spiritual revivals within the church have come during times of opposition andpersecution.Christianity was long outlawed in communist China and even today in much of thatnation public expression of Christianity is still severely restricted. Yet by manyresponsible estimates, there are millions of Bible-believing Christians in that greatcountry.By contrast, in most of the "free" Western world the influence, if not the size, of theevangelical church has been continually eroding.Pauls circumstances were beyond most peoples ability to comprehend. Yet he wasa model of joy, contentment, and peace.Those inner qualities obviously were not based on his physical comfort, his possessions,his freedom, his self-satisfaction, or his reputation and prestige.physical comfort – the day is coming that God has prepared a place for us where ourphysical comfort is provided for. But we are presently in His kingdom that is at war –and our comfort is not the primary concern right now.