Summary: Paul always looked for the hidden blessing in every trial. Have you been complaining about your situation? Grumbling short-circuits faith, but joy revives it.
Are you trapped in a prison of despair, doubt or anxiety? Learn to release the power of praise. The apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the Bible’s most unique books. Some scholars call it "the epistle of joy" because the word "joy" or "rejoice" appear in it 16 times. Yet what is amazing is that this letter about Christian joy was written from a prison cell!
While Paul was under the watchful eye of Roman guards, bound in chains, he wrote some of the most uplifting spiritual words ever penned. In the letter’s four short chapters the author continually exhorts us to praise God no matter how dark our circumstances are. He writes: "I will rejoice" (1: 18, NASB), "I rejoice and share my joy with you all" (2: 17), "I urge you, rejoice in the same way" (2: 18), "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord" (3: 1) and "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (4: 4).
"Paul always looked for the hidden blessing in every trial. Have you been complaining about your situation? Grumbling short-circuits faith, but joy revives it."
Like a broken record, Paul hammers the same theme over and over and over. REJOICE! The word "rejoice" actually means "to re-joy." It’s like a reset button on a computer. When any type of electronic equipment goes out of whack, a reset button will get it back online. That is what happens when we rejoice: The joy we’ve lost is restored and our feeble faith rises again.
Perhaps Paul wrote this message to the Philippians because he remembered his first visit there. It was in Philippi that Paul and Silas were arrested and thrown into jail by the city’s magistrates. Yet while the two men sat with their feet fastened in stocks, they began to pray and sing hymns. Long before the invention of subwoofers, this Holy Ghost jam session triggered an earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison and shattered everyone’s chains (see Acts 16:25-26).
Do you feel bound by your circumstances? I know I do. Sometimes I feel literally trapped in a tiny prison of limitation and delay. And because of today’s weak economy, many people who have enjoyed a carefree life in the past are facing job loss, financial uncertainty, debt and a dismal lack of opportunity. Yet when I pray about my own situation I always am led back to the ancient words of Paul to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord!"
What does Praise Shatter?
Perhaps right now, in this difficult season, you need to put Paul’s message on your iPod and play it over and over. The supernatural joy that is released in praise will do many things:
1. Praise shatters despair. You think your situation is hopeless? Paul was under house arrest, and he couldn’t leave his cell to preach the gospel. Yet he wrote: "Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that [my imprisonment] will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1: 18b-19). Know that God is working behind the scenes. The clouds over your head may be dark, but praise will lift you above them so you can see the sun again.
Illustration: An unknown confederate soldier wrote:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey
I asked for health that I might do greater things
I was given infirmity that I might do better things
I asked for riches that I might be happy
I was given poverty that I might be wise
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life
I was given life that I might enjoy all things
I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered
I am among all men most richly blessed.
2. Praise shatters negativity. Have you been complaining about your situation? Stop talking trash. Remember that Paul was in chains when he wrote: "Do all things without grumbling or disputing" (Phil. 2: 14). He knew the children of Israel were barred from the Promised Land because they grumbled against the Lord (1 Cor. 10: 10). Grumbling short-circuits faith, but joy revives it. Paul always looked for the hidden blessing in every trial, to the point that he thanked God even in the midst of shipwrecks, beatings, riots, death threats and starvation.
Illustration: People come to me and tell me about a lot of stuff things, good, bad and ugly. Some are negative and some positive. Some tell me about stuff that seems to be a great deal to them which apparently in the eyes of others it isn’t. We are called to be sensitive and loving to everyone and be kind to others. Sometimes when I understand the issues they are talking about is not actually a great deal but their focus is them and it’s about themselves that is why they are being negative and calling everything a big deal! Just try to focus on others and you will see that your problems are not actually a problem because others have greater problems than us. That is the time we must understand and praise God for the situation we are in. Can God be wrong in putting us in the situation we are in? Sometimes we are where we are because of our own choice and God has allowed it because he wants us to learn from those circumstances. Yet, Praise Him for His mercies that we are alive. Paul said, ‘Rejoice and again I say, Rejoice.’