Truths Leading to Joy

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:18b-21)

I have enjoyed, rejoiced, with some of you this week hearing of your response to our discussion last week on this topic of joy. Paul has certainly challenged us, hasn’t he? This man Paul, rejoicing in hardship, joy in Christ in all things. In prison, in freedom, with much, with little, while enduring persecution, while enjoying faithful friends. In it all he said, “Yes, I will rejoice.” Many of you have had special opportunity to rejoice since last Sunday. Some of you may have chosen to rejoice in Christ while enduring pain, uncertainty, or even coming close to despair. 

I hope that wherever you were during the last week that you considered where you are in this matter of joy. I had some special opportunities to put into practice what we learned last week, that is, to live in joy in circumstances where I might normally fail to rejoice. Letting difficulties in life take me closer to my Savior and coming closer to my Savior in meditation, in prayer, in His Word, begin to rejoice in Him, in who He is, in what He does, in my soon entering into His presence. I am thankful for Paul’s teaching and his example for us. So again, I hope you too are learning to rejoice in all things.

In Romans 5 Paul gives us more on joy and rejoicing. Listen to the reasons why he rejoices and notice that what is driving his ability to have joy are those things that will always be, those things that will never be taken from him, notice how circumstances cannot change what he is rejoicing in…

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

“into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Do you, do we realize that we can say this anytime? We can rejoice in the glory of God in any situation? We don’t have to wait until we get the outcome we dream of or all the issues in our lives are resolved. We don’t have to wait until everyone is behaving and believing how we want them to or until all our tasks are done! We can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God even when things are really tight and when we are really confused about future things. 

When Paul says rejoice always, I think he means…rejoice ALWAYS! That means in all things rejoice. Last week we talked about some ways that we can do that and even how we can rejoice while we may be grieving or when we are sorrowful. Paul was our example in doing that, and we can learn to do that as well.

Today I want us to continue with this theme of joy by seeing how Paul came to a place of full joy in hard times and for us to see what he sets his mind on as he traveled down his difficult road. We know His circumstances, a prisoner of Rome, attacks from fellow Christians, with his freedom gone, so went his public ministry and travels, his life is in the balance, he may live, he may die, a soon trial coming up and the pressures associated with that. So all alone, in chains, facing difficult things on every front, that is where he is and this is how he chooses to think.

And this is so good, so practical and relevant for us. I’m excited about this personally, I really like having things, practical ways to respond in my mind with truth that propels my faith and brings my thoughts back in line with what is real. And how that reality then gives me focus, and with right focus, right thinking, comes joy. The real thing. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on joy, what joy is, because we did that last week, but let me define it like we did last week in case you weren’t here. 

Joy, godly biblical joy can be defined as – and I love this, you have to love this – joy is, joy can be defined as a “state of delight and well being that results from knowing and serving God.”

So that is what we are talking about, this is what Paul had, this is what God has for us. We can have this always! Do you ever feel like you are trapped? Nowhere to go? Up against a wall and you start to get that feeling of dread? You feel like the Israelites who were trapped – the Red Sea in front of them, the Egyptian army behind them, sitting ducks, so to speak, nowhere to go? Or like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego you are standing right in front of the furnace door, you can feel the heat, you are about to go in to that inferno, the one that no one survives? Or Daniel as he was going into the lion’s den? He could see the lions, there was no way out, he was going in. Or Stephen in Acts, a faithful man preaching the word and the angry crowd begins to pick up stones to stone him, the first one is thrown, the stoning has begun, nothing he can do? Or Jesus, the nails go in the hands, when someone is going to be crucified int the first century by Romans, when the nails go in the hands that’s it, no one comes down from a cross, the pain has begun or continues, death is eminent. 

Do you ever, have you ever felt like there is no way out of what you are experiencing, how you feel? A dark cloud is resting over you and you think this is it? A feeling of dread or despair? Paul’s life was all about meeting brick walls. Like, “How did I get here and what in the world is going to happen now?” This is where he is so what is he going to do? He is going to, he says, “Yes, and I will rejoice.” What was he thinking?

I want to give you five things that he was thinking that led him to a state of joy even as his circumstances looked dreadful. Five truths that he chose to believe:

1. Prayer is effectual; prayer works.
2. The Spirit was his help, his strength.
3. Deliverance was certain, troubles are temporary.
4. Christ will be honored in this, no matter what happens.
5. Two outcomes associated with his circumstances, and either one is good! A no-lose situation.

I want us to look these five truths that Paul chooses to believe and for us to see how believing these things in hard times can transform our thoughts, leading us to joy.

First, Prayer is effectual: “Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,”

There were people praying for Paul and for Paul their prayers were not trivial. Paul knew that God’s sovereign plan incorporates the prayers of His people. James 5:16 says “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Paul was a man of prayer and a man who believed in prayer. He often encouraged others to pray for him.

30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, (Romans 15:30-31)

18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18-20)

Paul needed prayer and Paul knew that God hears the prayers of his saints. Paul was humble enough to ask for prayer. When you are hurting, struggling, up against that wall, confused, feeling like there is nowhere to go, are you praying, are you asking others to pray for you? Are you confident that God hears your prayers and the prayers of others on your behalf? When you tell someone that you will pray for them do you do it?When you are in a tough place, you can think: prayer is effectual.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 4:6-7)

Secondly, Paul believed, and rightly so, that the Spirit was his help, his strength: “19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,”

Jesus promised in John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

Paul believed that the Spirit was there to help him. Not just a friend, not a strong man, but the very Spirit of Christ was with Him! He was there, he was not alone in prison, he was never alone, we are never alone! What is there to fear if Christ is there, seeing all, knowing all, working in all, protecting, providing, orchestrating, regulating? We read that the Spirit as his help, this word help or provision means full, bountiful, and sufficient supply of what is needed. That is what the Spirit does. Wherever we are physically, emotionally, in our minds or out of them, He is there. And nothing or no one ever gets to us apart from His allowing it. Nothing. We know that from 1 Corinthians 10:13. And what He allows is used to make us more like Jesus Christ, Romans 8:28-29. We are protected person of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:31 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Do we forget this sometimes? The presence of the Spirit of Christ? With us?

So here is Paul so far, thinking, “Saints are praying, God works through the prayers of His children, and the Spirit of God is here with me to give me whatever help I need right now for His purposes, His glory and my good. I am covered pretty well.” Right? “Things look bad, they may feel bad but there are some realities that I need to embrace right now, here is what is really going on.”

Are you beginning to see how prison and circumstances are beginning to look different for Paul as he thinks on these profound truths? This reminds me of the time in 2 Kings when the Syrian King was going after God’s prophet Elisha. Elisha was in a city called Dothan with his servant. One morning his servant got up and here is what we read:

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17)

There was protection, provision for them that they could not see with human eyes. We cannot see the Spirit of God, we cannot see spiritual provision, but it is there. Paul reminded himself that he was not alone. God was with him.

Not only was Paul comforted by effectual prayer and the presence of the Spirit of Christ but he also knew and believed that, third, deliverance was certain – troubles are temporary: “19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,”

Paul knows that he will be delivered from his present difficult trial. Paul knows that what he is facing is temporary. We may say, that is good for Paul but how does that help me? Well, it’s the same for us, as Christians. We too will be delivered from our current trials, struggles, hardships, and pain. Paul quotes directly here from Job 13:16, “This will be my salvation,” Job knew that his terrible suffering would end, that he would be delivered from suffering and from false accusations. Paul knew the same thing. How long will we suffer where we are? Not forever! 

Some commentators believe that Paul is citing his confidence that he will be released from prison, that he is talking about being delivered from prison. Others believe that he means he will be ultimately delivered from sin into the presence of Jesus Christ. There are some good arguments either way, but I think he is talking about ultimate deliverance into the presence of Christ, partly because of the next verse where he questions whether not he will live through this ordeal. He knew His home was heaven. 

I know we struggle here, I mean thinking this way. How does it help for me to think about heaven when I am struggling here? Well, maybe that is something we need to work on. Here is where we have to believe and embrace truth over feelings. 

Do we ever take the time to meditate on the truths of eternal life in heaven, about being in the presence of Christ, about being free from the burden of current sin, about perfection and glory and freedom in heaven? Do we think on these things regularly? Are they part of our routine? Are we sure of our future with Christ? If we are not doing these things, then don’t expect that in a crisis all of the sudden these things become real to us. You know what I mean? I mean is it real or not? Is it going to happen or not? Do we believe that we will be gloriously delivered from pain and suffering here? Paul did, and so his joy could not be taken away, because his future with Christ could not be shaken!

So, confident in prayer, the presence of the Spirit of Christ with him providing for him, and the certainty of, “Yes, I’m getting out of here soon, I will soon be in the presence of Christ.”

And now fourthly, Christ will be honored in this – no matter what happens: “20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body,”

Paul was presenting his body as a living sacrifice to God in spiritual service of worship. Paul was a willing instrument for Christ. He had given all of himself to Christ. He was a slave of Christ. His life was not his, he had been bought with a price. He knew that as long as he kept the faith, served his Lord, that Christ would be honored in him, no matter what happens. Keep the faith right, finish the course, to the honor or Jesus Christ. How about that attitude, always? In trial, in suffering, in sickness, in good times, times of ease, “Keep the faith, finish the course.”

And lastly, and I love this, this is great! Two outcomes associated with his circumstances, and either one is good – a no-lose situation: “20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

To live is to do the work of my Savior, represent Him, make Him known, serve Him, that is good, to live is Christ. To die is super good, it is gain, it is the ultimate, it is to be with my Savior, that is good. 

Paul had no control over this. Who did? God did. “So here you go God, do whatever pleases you, either way all is good.” To live is Christ and to die is gain.

How do we maintain joy in hard times?

We believe what is true:

  1. Prayer is effectual; prayer works.
  2. The Spirit was his help, his strength.
  3. Deliverance was certain, troubles are temporary.
  4. Christ will be honored in this, no matter what happens.
  5. Two outcomes associated with his circumstances, and either one is good – a no-lose situation.

I want you to do this this week: when you hit a rough spot in your week, have these things with you. Sit down, meditate on, and rehearse these truths in your mind, go here instead of to your usual places of worry or fear or anger or whatever. Go here.

This is what we sometimes refer to as rehearsing the gospel, it is rehearsing, remembering, reminding ourselves of gospel truths, of what is true for us because Christ has come.