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MINISTER'S MESSAGE > MARCH 2009
Paul's Keys to Joy - Part Two
We live in difficult times. As noted last month, it is difficult for Christians to look at the world around us without becoming discouraged. But time and again God's children are told to be happy. The apostle Paul was one who had many opportunities to be discouraged, but instead worked through his problems while encouraging others more fortunate than himself.
Paul's keys to joy are seen in the book of Philippians. The words "joy" and "rejoice" appear 18 times in this marvelous little book. In our last article, we noted how the first nine verses of chapter 4 contain several imperatives by which the Philippian brethren could find and maintain genuine biblical joy. Specifically, verse 1 Paul shows that steadfastness of faith produces joy. Verse 2 identifies unity of mind with our brethren as a source of joy. And verse 3 reveals the joy that comes through a knowledge that our name is in the book of Life. In this installment we continue our study of Philippians 4:1-9 and "Paul’s Keys to Joy."
Verse 4 admonishes Christians to be joyful in every circumstance. Such is the very essence of true Christianity. Paul suffered many things for his faith in Jesus and labor in the kingdom. He lists just a few of these in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. In Philippians 1:12-18 Paul expressed his ability to rejoice even when Christ was preached with devilish intentions, even when such meant greater discomfort for himself!
Verse 5 says we should be joyful knowing the proximity of the Lord. There is (at least) a two-fold blessing in the nearness of the Lord. In the great shepherd Psalm, David said "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me" (Psalm 23:4 KJV). The Hebrew writer quoting Moses (Deut 31:8) and David (Ps 27:1) penned, "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'" (Heb 13:5-6). What a blessing it is to know the Lord is with us at all times!
Yet there is another side to this blessing of the Lord's presence. When we understand the Lord is near us, we also believe He sees all things and will repay accordingly. He will repay good to those who do well. Paul assured the Thessalonians that the Lord would give rest to the troubled (2 Thes 1:7). "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Heb 6:10-11 NKJV). On the other hand, the Lord will also repay those who trouble His people, "seeing it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you" (2 Thes 1:6). The martyred saints understood this as well, crying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Rev 6:10). This is the very reason Christians need not worry themselves with vengeance (Rom 12:17-19).
Verse 6 gives the assurance of joy knowing the Lord hears our prayers. This allows us to live above the devastating consequences of worry. The etymology of the English word "worry" means "to strangle," literally as a wolf would take a sheep by the throat. In like fashion, worry will squeeze the very life from our bodies. Knowing that I can take every care to my Lord with the full assurance he will hear my pleas is a most liberating blessing. I can take every care to my Lord, no matter how large or small, "Casting all your cares upon him, for he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
More next time. TC
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January 2009 - Divine Encouragement For the New Year
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