Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you (Philippians 3:1).
Philippians is one of four letters written by Paul while in Prison (Philippians 1:13). The other three are Ephesians, Philemon and Colossians. These four are therefore termed Prison epistles because they were written in prison. The prison epistles contain some of the most profound doctrines taught by Paul in Scripture.
Surprisingly, though written in Prision, the book of Philippians contains exhortations for joy, unity and encouragement to pursue Christlikeness. This is very instructive for us in that, whatever condition we find ourselves in as believers, we still have reasons to be thankful and joyful. Paul I believe offers here the antidote in dealing with life’s challenges.
1: Rejoice in the Lord
“…rejoice in the Lord”(v1a).
We must come to terms with the truth that the Christian faith is not an immunisation from the troubles of this world. In fact, being a Christian rather opens us up to the many challenges this world posses. That said, where does a believer derive hope and joy from in the face of adversity? The answer is, “in Christ”. Ours is not sheer optimism. It is faith in One who holds our future and knows beforehand all that happens to us.
The Christian has not been promised an easy life as stated earlier. In fact, Jesus explicitly taught of the adversity that lies ahead for a believer. “In the world you will have tribulation”(John 16:33a). However, Jesus didn’t end there. He continued “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (v33b). Here is the reason we can have joy even in affliction: Christ has overcome the world. He is Lord over everything that threatens our peace and joy.
Paul is in prison yet he writes such comforting words: “rejoice in the Lord”. The believer’s joy is unassailable. It is not external, it is not circumstantial. It is not based on his or her social standing or material prosperity. One of the many phrases in the Bible I have come to love is the phrase “in Him”(Acts 17:28, Colossians 2:2-15). The believer’s joy is in a person; Christ Jesus! Christ must the source of our joy. He must be the only one we derive our joy from. Peter will ask in John 6:68, “to whom shall we go?” Sadly, many believers derive their joy (which is no joy at all) from many places apart from Christ.
Paul here reminds the Philippians where to derive their joy: “in the Lord”. And it is appropriate you and I heed to the same charge: “rejoice in the Lord”.
2: Constant Reminder Of Gospel Truth
“To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you”(1b).
It seems placing emphasis on the same truth is in view here. Paul probably might have thought the recipients of this letter might be wondering why he is repeating himself on the same subject of rejoicing. In the previous chapter, he had already written about joy: “Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:18). Paul will pick up the same theme in Philippians 4:4 where he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice”.
It is crucial to note we are humans and the tendency to forget is a trait we all struggle with. So to Paul, constant reminder of the same truth is not out of place. You and I need to be constantly reminded of gospel truth. We need to be constantly reminded of our source of life. We need to be constantly reminded of what is required of us as believers. Paul says, it “is safe for you”.
True joy begins with an acknowledgment of the true source of life, joy and strength. Joy indeed is one of the characteristics of a life that has Jesus Christ as its source. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is a fruit of The Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Do you seek joy? True joy? Seek it in the Lord: “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord…”(Philippians 3:1).