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We’re going to study a book of the Bible that is often called the LETTER OF JOY. Paul uses the word JOY 20 times in the short little book of Philippians.

What makes that really impressive is that Paul wrote the letter from a prison cell. He was not only in prison; he was literally chained to a guard at all times. Not only that. Paul lived under the rule of the infamous Nero --- who was Emperor of Rome from AD 54 to 68.

If you’ve ever heard of Nero, you’ve probably heard that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” In AD64, a raging fire consumed 10 of the 14 regions of the city of Rome. Rumors that the fire was purposefully set raged as quickly as the fire spread. When the city saw Nero’s plans for rebuilding they really got suspicious --- because a BIG part of the burned center of Rome was going to become his new … and greatly expanded … Palace.

With his popularity plummeting, Nero realized he needed to blame someone for the disaster … and he had a group ready at hand. Christians were already under scrutiny because they refused to worship the emperor. Besides that, Nero had several leaders … including the apostle Paul … already under arrest. Here’s what one historian wrote about the events that followed:

"The punishment of the Christians was planned with the utmost precision and cruelty, for the entertainment of the populace. The venue was Nero’s circus near the Mons Vaticanus. Christians were exposed to wild animals and were set ablaze, smeared with pitch, to illuminate the night. The executions were so grisly that even the populace displayed sympathy for the victims. Separately, Peter was crucified upside down on the Vatican hill and Paul was beheaded along the Via Ostiensis." (Herbert W. Benario Emory University)

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