The book of Philippians is probably the last of the four epistles that Paul wrote while he was in prison. That means it was written close to his execution by the Roman authorities.
Paul ministered at Philippi during his second missionary journey, spending about three months in the city. This letter was written to the church in Philippi to thank them for the financial support that they have been giving to Paul. It is frequently called the epistle about joy because the joy of Paul exudes from this letter even though Paul went through tremendous hardship. Paul tells us that we can rejoice because:
Everything works together for good
Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Paul had earlier written in Rom 8:28 that everything works together for good. To Paul, even the ultimate “bad thing” – death – is not a bad thing at all because that allows him to immediately be with the Jesus that he serves.
If we have faith in God, we need to be able to interpret everything as being part of God’s plans and allowed by God for our good. Therefore, it is not only the open doors that are good for us but also the closed doors that God has permitted so that we do not walk in paths that are not in accordance with His will.
We have God’s help
Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
Phil 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
We can rejoice because we do not need to go through life’s problems alone. We have a God that we could present our requests to. And when we do, God promises that He will give us peace of mind so that we would not be troubled by the situation.
Phil 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to 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.
Many people are rob of joy because they are never content. Even an extremely rich person may not be joyful if he is not content with the vast riches he has. However, if a person has learnt to be content, he can be joyful even when he is poor.
How can we learn to be content? By counting our blessings and being mindful of many people who are less fortunate than us. If we constantly compare with others who have more than us we will never be content so why not do the opposite? If we can afford to eat three meals a day, we are already the top 15% richest people in the world because a large part of the world are starving.
We can look forward to rewards in heaven
Phil 4:15 As you well know, when I first brought the Gospel to you and then went on my way, leaving Macedonia, only you Philippians became my partners in giving and receiving. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was over in Thessalonica you sent help twice. 17 But though I appreciate your gifts, what makes me happiest is the well-earned reward you will have because of your kindness. (Living Bible)
God has built eternity into the hearts of man. No matter how much achievements we have in this life, it will not satisfy us if we think that when we die we will take nothing with us. The only things in this life that will last is that which is done for God. When we get to heaven, God is going to reward us accordingly. That brings joy to us because whatever we accomplish in this life for Him is permanent.
Focus on the positives
Phil 4:8 And now, brothers, as I close this letter, let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. (Living Bible)
We can become depressed if we focus only on the problems in life. The secret to joy is to be able to look for the positives in every situation. Remember God works all things for good (Rom 8:28) so even “negative” events and close doors in our lives are meant to work for good even though we may not understand it fully at the moment. Nevertheless we could think of the good in every situation and praise God for them. Rather than focus on what you don’t have, think about the good things that God has already blessed you with.