Pastor Jim Jackson
Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church
That headline quote is from Paul written while he was in prison. My question: How in the world could he say that? After all, he’s in prison facing a trial for his life.
And that’s not all; he was in prison more than once. You will remember that he and Silas were once prisoners in Philippi for preaching the gospel But one evening about mid-night they were praying and singing praises unto God (Acts 16:25). You see where I’m coming from? Jail is not a happy place. The view is bad, the food is terrible, the smell isn’t pleasant and fellow “guests” aren’t very reputable.
Those facts sent me wondering. Was Paul in denial and coping by singing in the dark? After all, Festus once said to Paul: “thou art beside thyself ” (Acts 26:24). When he and Silas were praying and praising God, we read: “and the prisoners heard them.”
Can you imagine what those prisoners thought when Paul and Silas prayed, sang, and praised God? So Paul, something of a jail bird, worshiped God while held against his will in prison.
You might think that prison was enough to keep Paul from writing to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say Rejoice.” Yet prison wasn’t the only difficulty with which Paul was living. This very letter enumerates several things; say nothing of his “thorn in the flesh.” This church which he and Silas had founded and one which supported their ministry financially and in prayer actually had numerous issues. There were insincere preachers who preached “of envy and strife”. And they did that to diminish Paul’s witness for Christ. There were two members, Euodias and Syntyche. who were engaged in a damaging church fuss. Then Paul also mentioned dogs, and he was talking about the two-legged kind. They were demanding that gentile believers observe all their religious rituals in order to be real believers. Yet in spite of all his troubles, Paul urged the Philippian believers: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say Rejoice.”
How was Paul always rejoicing and urging others to do the same. He gives the secret in 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” And it was because Christ was his Lord that he could speak of his troubles and imprisonment: “I would you understand brethren that the things which happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (1:13). Fellow believers, rejoice! Yes, even in these troubled times, I say: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”