Summary: To live by worry is to live against reality.
Philippians 4:4-7 reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Blessed be the reading of God’s Word this morning.
In AD 61 Paul, the author of this letter was sitting in a Roman prison where he was chained to a guard. He wound up in jail eventually because he refused to listen to the warnings of his church brother and sisters. He felt compelled to go back to Jerusalem and preach the Word despite their warnings of possible prison time. He went and preached in the Jewish Temple and some Jews from Asia Minor had started to hassle him. They accused him of speaking against Jewish people and the law. He also got in trouble for bringing Greeks into the temple itself and making it unclean. There was a disturbance, a small riot then the Roman commander came in and arrested Paul, putting him in prison.
Yet, in spite of these difficulties, he writes tot eh church in Philippi. “I thank God that you’re the type of people up there in Philippi who have been supporting me with prayers and finances. And I want to send a thank you note with Epaphroditus, thanking you for backing me. Thank you for your lives and for being a constant source of encouragement.” And that’s how he begins this letter to the Philippians.
So what is really happening here? What is the cause of such a positive outlook and attitude? The key was that Paul was able to look far beyond the immediate confining circumstances. Through the Spirit of God, he was able to interpret beyond the immediate. He could see that because he was in prison he could see that many more things were happening. The Gospel was moving forward. And he said, “Rejoice! I want you to rejoice. Good things are happening.”
I understand that many of us at times are weary, like Paul, and we get lonely at times and we don’t realize what’s going on, that there are things that happen to us that we are confused about. And yet despite all of these things – the shipwreck, the prison, the trumped up false charges, all these things laid on Paul’s back, he is able to say, “Listen, it’s all right, it’s okay. All is well.”
The source and secret to Paul’s attitude comes in four ways. In chapter 1 Paul says, “Jesus Christ is my life.” In Chapter 2 Paul says, “Jesus Christ is my example.” Chapter 3, he says, “Jesus Christ is my confidence.” And in this chapter four, in his thank-you note he writes, “Jesus Christ is my strength.”
You see Jesus Christ was Paul’s very life and he realizes that he’s in prison so that he can spread the message of Jesus Christ to Europe and many who don’t know the Way to Salvation. That’s why he has the thrill of saying, “Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord, not in my strength or my positive attitude, not in my cleverness, but rejoice in Jesus Christ. Realize who He is! Realize who you are! Put the two together and you’ll come out saying, “Well, praise the Lord! Rejoice!”
You see joy in the Christian life is as vital as oxygen is to breathing. We need to be called again and again and again to it as believers. If you do not rejoice in Jesus Christ, I would dare to say you need to repent of a joyless life. Being genuinely happy because of who Jesus is in your life is a mark of a real Christian. This authentic joy is not slap-happy silliness, not warm-fuzzy feelings. This happiness and joy comes from understanding, as Paul did, that Jesus is what you truly live for the rest of your life.
The attitude of being happy, because of Jesus, is what will produce that gentleness that Paul talks about in the next verse. If people cannot sense your gentleness and rejoicing in Jesus then you need to listen to this revealed secret:
“As a third-century man was nearing death, he wrote these last words to a friend: It’s a bad world, and incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and peaceful people. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are rejected and despised, unpopular and persecuted, but they don’t care. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians—and I am one of them.”