The apostle Paul desired to die—to depart from this life to be with Christ (Philippians 1:21-23). From prison, he wrote to the Christians at Philippi to tell them the remaining time he had would be used as a benefit to them, his fellow Christians: “And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again” (Philippians 1:25-26). If Paul would be released and see the Philippians again the result would be glorious rejoicing.
What is the first thing that comes to our minds when we think about the church? Does the phrase in verse 25, “joy of faith” come to our minds? Or do our fears about what will happen to the church come to the forefront? Do our stresses and obligations for what we should do in church work eclipse our joy? Mutual joy in the faith is tie that binds us together as Christians.
The Gospel means good news. Good news produces joy. Christian joy is not found in outward circumstances, but in the in unchanging good news of God’s love for us. In chapter 4 of this epistle to the Philippians Paul wrote, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (vv. 11-13). Paul’s joy did not come from his physical states of being full instead of hungry or having much instead of being in need. The joy of Christians is based in the faith of Jesus Christ. That God loves us so much to send His Son to die for us is the basis of joy. God wants us to be in heaven with Him so much that there is nothing He would not spare, not even His own Son, to bring us to Him (Romans 8:32). The fact that death is a doorway to great gain for the Christian helps in maintaining joy at times when we are most aware of how fleeting earthly life is (Philippians 1:21). This is why Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Our lives today are so comfortable in many ways that we can forget the source of our joy is in the Lord. Physical suffering helps us to be reminded of this source. When we cannot pacify ourselves with outward comforts, we turn to the great spiritual truths of the faith. The faith brings joy. Can we, like Paul, learn to find joy in the Lord? Most of us are full and abound. Are we content in the Lord in our states of abundance? Let’s make sure that we try to inspire more abundant joy in one another as Christians when we come together to focus on the faith.