Summary: Being joyful at all times
This epistle was written by Paul when he was in prison, with iron fetters about his wrists; yet there is no iron in the epistle. It is full of light, life, love, and joy, blended with traces of sorrow, yet with a holy delight that rises above his grief.
—Charles Spurgeon, "Exposition of Philippians 4"
When Paul says, finally my brethren it means that including the many things that he had already mentioned, he likes to draw attention to few more in conclusion. Paul's advice to this church is to rejoice in the Lord always. This advice to rejoice or be happy or joyful in the Lord has been repeatedly conveyed in all his letters to all the churches (Corinth Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, etc.) Being joyful in the Lord is an important aspect and therefore, he stresses on it repeatedly, lest they forget. He insists that they learn and imbibe the truth because it is good and safe for them.
To be joyful in all circumstances is a perplexing question. There are no pre-defined steps or rules or a theory or a formula to be followed to remain happy at all times. There is only one Biblical principle that Paul recommends out of his experience and it is that under all circumstances, we are called to be happy.
A little background is good to understand on how Paul makes this declaration. Philippians is a province in Greece but was under the rule of the Romans. Here, Paul with boldness was proclaiming about Jesus. This angered the Pharisees and other religious heads of those times, they complained about him to the Roman authorities who in turn imprisoned him. Bound by chains, he endured shame, hunger, persecution, disappointment, and loneliness. However, all these could not bring down his spirit and joy in Christ. In the dungeon, as a captive, he repeatedly said - Be joyful and rejoice in Christ always.
LESSON FOR US
It is important to note that circumstances, property, and people cannot give happiness. It is only in Jesus that we can find a meaning to our lives and experience complete satisfaction. Without him, there can never be any joy in our lives. A sad face of a believer brings dishonor and disgrace to God's name and on the contrary, a joyful attitude is always the only identifying factor that differentiates us from the rest of the world. It reiterates the fact that we have a supreme and a sovereign God who looks over us and guides our step and because we have Christ in us and with us always, therefore we are called to be happy in all circumstances.
In this letter to Philippians, the words - joy, happy occur 16 times. He uses these phrases repeatedly in every chapter to emphasize its importance. If for a moment we are not sure, when and how we can be happy then let us be encouraged by Paul’s words to be happy in all circumstances. All implies – In health, in sickness, in richness and in poverty. Habakkuk 3:17-18
There are seven secrets that I would like to share that teach about being happy:
1) Joy in Progress - Philippians 1:9-11 – In Paul's prayer, we notice two things
We should grow in love
We should be fruitful
It is evident that there is joy in pressing forward and being fruitful. We must be vigilant to the truth that in case we are not being fruitful, then there is no joy. Traces of sadness and same prevailing condition in our lives means that there is no progress. So, growth is a vital as it signifies life and a proof that we are alive. This is applicable to a human being, animal, tree, church or an organization and no growth means decay resulting in death.
LESSON FOR US
(Matthew 5:6) The test for being progressive in our spiritual life is to have the hunger and thirst for righteousness and His kingdom. So, without hunger and thirst, there is no growth and without growth, there is no joy. A simple example to understand this truth better is, that a sure sign to check any ill health is to check the hunger pangs. Similarly, hunger for God's word, his kingdom, to be progressive, to be his witness, to grow in love, in faith and to improve on the talents that God gives signify growth in our spiritual life else, we are sick, which will eventually result in death. An honest self-introspection helps to identify the root cause for lack of hunger and desire for Godly things. Like a deer that pants for water, so must our desire be God's work, his kingdom. (Psalm 42:1-2)
2) Joy in Purity - Philippians1:10 – There is always joy in being pure. Purity brings goodness and blessings and wherever there is sin there is sadness, curse, and death. (Psalm 51:7-8) After David fell from grace, he longed for purity and the joy of salvation. He knew that because he sinned, he lost his happiness, so he prayed for forgiveness and a desire to be cleansed so that he can once again stand upright and be pure in the God's sight. To be joyful, Paul advocates a life of purity. It means to live an honest life and not a life of hypocrisy. A mismatch in our thoughts, words and deeds will not cause us any happiness. In John 1:47 Jesus testifies about Nathanael as an honest and not a sinful man. There is a difference in being sinful and dishonest. To break the law or doing what is not supposed to be done is called sin or being in a sinful state, but not acknowledging the fact that we have sinned is dishonesty. It is a state of deception where one assumes that he/she is leading a holy life. Deception is dangerous and does not benefit any. Honest and a pure life are more desirous and good for all. (1 John 1:8-9)