Sunday 6th September 2020

Philippians 1:12-18

And because of this, I rejoice.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church at Philippi, writes,

And because of this, I rejoice’.

Rejoice’ is a great word, it’s a Biblical word, it’s a word for God’s people – Scripture reminds us:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always, I say again rejoice!
  • This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it…
  • And because of this, I rejoice…

We are a people loved by God, saved by God, cherished by God and as such we have every reason to rejoice, but it’s not always easy is it? Things happen in this world and in our lives and at times rejoicing might be the last thing we feel like doing…And if that’s how you are feeling or you know someone else who’s feeling low, Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, this joy-filled letter, can be a great help and inspiration, can help us reflect on joy and find our joy and that’s really important, why?

  • Because it is God Himself who calls us to be joyful, to rejoice…
  • And if we’re struggling, there is a healing power in praise, there is healing to be found through rejoicing, and for us all, that is very, very good news.

So, we focus on Paul’s letter and what caused Paul to rejoice, and my prayer is that we will all find help, encouragement and joy through Paul’s God-inspired words and God-inspired life…

Let’s pause to pray:

Heavenly Father, help us as we focus upon Your word, to be conscious of Your presence with us and Your leading and guiding. Give us ears to hear all You would say to us and hearts to respond to You in joyful faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Apostle Paul, as we know, wrote many letters to many churches. We know too that Paul, once known as Saul, was a man whose life was dramatically turned around by the Risen Christ and Paul wanted everyone to know about that transforming power and love. So, he established churches and wrote to encourage those churches. His letter to the Church at Philippi is without doubt his most joy-filled letter, something all the more amazing when we consider his circumstances upon writing…

What had happened to Paul? What were those circumstances? We need to backtrack for a moment – Now, we know that Paul encountered the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus and his life was changed forever. He went in an instant, from a hater of Christ and His followers to a champion for the gospel. And through all his travels to spread the good news, there was one place above all others where he really wanted to go, more than anything else, Paul wanted to go to Rome, the very heart of the Empire. Paul had received a call to go to Rome from Christ himself; while in custody on an earlier occasion, the Risen Christ had said to Paul: ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’ Acts 23:11

With Jesus himself giving the call we might expect Paul would have a first-class trip, but no. Paul’s journey to Rome was along a road paved with danger, hunger, humiliation, loneliness, floggings, beatings, shipwreck, and pain. As Paul wrote this letter to the Church at Philippi, he was in prison probably in either Caesarea or Rome itself.

What had happened to Paul? Hardships and difficulties and now he found himself guarded round the clock by the palace guard, chained day and night. Paul was in chains, but what an impact he had! Everyone knew that he was in chains for Christ. Paul didn’t sit around and think, “I’ll wait until I get out of here, I can’t do anything at the moment, I’ll wait until I’m back among the churches…why has this happened to me Lord?”

No doubt the believers all around the Mediterranean were praying that Paul might be delivered from prison, but Paul assured them that their prayers were being answered, just not in the way they expected, but in a way that was even more amazing.

Paul was in chains – but used it as an opportunity to witness for Christ.

  • He spoke to those he was able to – he wrote letters to others.
  • And Christian brothers and sisters were encouraged and grew in confidence.
  • While in prison Paul rejoiced!

In Chapter 1:15-18, Paul tells us of another problem, and the problem was that he wasn’t the only preacher in town. Now, in a perfect world that wouldn’t be a problem, but here there were some Christian leaders who clearly didn’t like Paul and blatantly stirred up trouble for him.  Some preached Christ sincerely, wanting to see people saved, some preached insincerely, from their own selfish motives. Perhaps instead of asking, “Have you trusted in Christ?”, they were asking, “Whose side are you on – ours or Paul’s?”

But again, Paul’s attitude was amazing. I am quite sure the criticism hurt and at times sapped his energy but what does he say? Does he dwell on the criticism? Does he huff, complain, send someone to silence the rival preachers? No. What does he say? ‘But what does it matter? As long as Christ is preached.’

In verses 19-26 Paul goes on to speak about his death, perhaps he felt it was very close. But what does he write? ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ V21 Paul knows in all things, even through his death, God will work for good. And so, at the prospect of death, Paul again rejoices; he says he is spoilt for choice between the prospect of life or death! ‘I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death.’ V 20

Paul is not remotely worried about death, as long as Jesus is honoured. Paul was in chains, suffered many humiliations and hardships, even at the hands and in the words of fellow Christians, but what does he say?

“As long as:

  • The gospel is advanced
  • Christ is preached
  • I rejoice…”

Let’s pause and think of another follower of Jesus who found cause to rejoice in difficult and challenging circumstances: She was born in 1820 in Putman County New York. At just 6 weeks she became seriously ill and the doctor was called. The usual family doctor was away, and the replacement treated the baby by prescribing a hot mustard poultice to be applied to her eyes. The illness relented, but the treatment left the baby girl blind. A few months later her father died and her mother was forced to find work as a maid, working such long hours that the young girl was brought up largely by her Christian grandmother. The young girl, now blind from just age 6 weeks, showed a gift for writing and poetry and wrote a poem at just age eight that echoed her refusal to feel sorry for herself.

Oh, what a happy soul I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.

She continued to enjoy writing poetry and zealously memorised her Bible, memorising five chapters a week. She also learned to play the harp, piano, guitar, and other instruments and began writing hymns, sometimes as many as 6 or 7 a day. Her name was Fanny Crosby and she eventually wrote more than 9,000 hymns, using her own name or one of her many pen names. Here are some of the words she wrote, you will know them well:

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.

All the way my Saviour leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my guide?

Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Here by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine:
O what a foretaste of glory divine!

What had happened to Paul?

He was in chains for Christ.

  • But the gospel was advanced,
  • Christ was preached,
  • Christ was exalted,
  • And Paul rejoiced.
  • Believers everywhere were strengthened and encouraged.

What had happened to Fanny Crosby?

A little girl blinded by a tragic mistake and brought up in very difficult circumstances, but a little girl who grew up to be one of the greatest hymn writers this world has ever known, writing beloved, joy-filled hymns, and whose story and words still inspire people the world over.

What will happen to each of us this week? None of us knows. Some good things and perhaps some difficult and challenging things…But whatever happens:

  • Be encouraged by the words and life of Paul.
  • Be encouraged by the example of people like Fanny Crosby.
  • But more than anything, be encouraged, strengthened, and inspired by Jesus Christ Himself…

Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord, who is still in the business of changing lives and who works in us and through us to bring about His good purposes…We are a people loved by God, saved by God, cherished by God…be encouraged and rejoice…

Rejoice’ is a great word, it’s a Biblical word, it’s a word for God’s people…and in rejoicing, be blessed as you experience and know the healing power of praise. Scripture reminds us and encourages us:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always, I say again rejoice!
  • This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it…
  • And because of this, the work of Christ who died for you and me, we rejoice.

Amen.