by Robert Fraire
In this letter the Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Philippi that is undergoing real suffering for their faith. In addition they have to deal with the bad news that Paul has been arrested and may be executed. Also they have the knowledge that their beloved friend Epaphroditus had been sick to the point of death.
On top of these things there are false teachers in the church that are causing arguments and apparently trying to gain prominence at the expense of Paul. And finally two godly women in the church (Euodia and Syntyche) were at odds with each other.
So what is Paul's message to this church beset by persecution from outside and turmoil from within? He commands them to rejoice in the Lord! Is Paul advocating the power of positive thinking? NO! Was he telling them that if they had enough faith God would bring them prosperity and a life of ease? NO!
Then on what basis could Paul approach these people with a message of joy and rejoicing? And how can we face the trials and tribulations of life while continuing to rejoice? Paul's answer is both simple and profound. It is lofty and it is completely practical: Philippians 1:29 tells us,
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for His sake.
To make this perfectly clear: Paul's message of rejoicing in the Lord in times of trial (as well as time of ease) is based on the fact that we are exactly at the place where the only wise God granted for us to be. He caused it. God is the one that orchestrated your circumstances.
Is this a foreign concept to you? It is not to the Bible. Remember that Job was a godly man whom God used to demonstrate His power and glory. And how did God bring that about? By letting Satan wreak havoc on the life and family of Job. Killing his children and destroying his property in order to demonstrate the glory of God.
Remember Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by his master's wife, forgotten by the cup bearer then finally raised to an exalted position in Egypt. Why did this happen to him? Random chance? NO! Did God just try to make the best of a bad situation? NO! Genesis 50:20 tells us:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about the present result, to preserve many people alive.
God meant it for good... God had a purpose for Joseph and He brought about the pain and mistreatment that Joseph faced in order to preserve many people alive.
Jesus was born as a man for a purpose. He lived a life of obedience to the father with complete sinless perfection for a purpose, He gave his life on the cross and rose from the dead for a purpose! But what about Herod, and the Jews and Pilate, they were essential parts of this history. Was it their desire to assist Jesus in fulfilling his purpose? NO! But Acts 4:27-28 tells us they gathered against Jesus, but acted EXACTLY how God had predestined them to act.
Now maybe you are thinking that God did these things only to those select people but that your life is different. You are the victim of random acts and your purposeful actions. If you thought that you are wrong. God declares the end from the beginning and all things pass through him and his purpose is always accomplished. So what can you make of the pain in your life?
James 1:2-4 tells us that as believers we can know that every trial that comes into our lives is from God for the purpose of our spiritual growth. Therefore it only makes sense to face it with JOY! This is an opportunity for spiritual growth, designed by God himself for you. Rejoice!
Going back to the opening passage Philippians 3:1, Paul describes his call for the Philippians to rejoice as being a safeguard for them. When we face trials with the truth that they are from the hand of God it safeguards us from the sin of anger towards God or the sin of doubting God's goodness. When we think correctly about God we can walk in faith in Him. Really, would you want to walk any differently?
Therefore I say to you, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all the Lord is near.