The book of Philippians is perhaps the most joyful book in the entire Bible. The words “rejoice” and “joy” show up 12 times in just four chapters. That’s a whole lot of joy packed into a small letter. The most fascinating thing about the book of Philippians is that it was written by the apostle Paul from a Roman prison cell…he wrote about joy…in chains. What does a guy in prison have to say about joy? Well, quite a bit actually.
One of the things that really jumped out at me in chapter 1 of Philippians was the word “servants” in the first verse of the letter. Paul refers to himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus.” “Servant” is actually a really nice way of saying it. The Greek word is doulos and it literally means, “slave” or “bond servant.” That’s a strong word. For Paul, his commitment to Jesus, to the gospel, to the Kingdom wasn’t optional. He didn’t seem himself as a volunteer; he saw himself as a slave of Christ Jesus.
I’m not sure that there has been another person in the history of the church who has more committed or who had more drive than Paul. You can read about some of the things he went through because of his commitment to the gospel in 2 Corinthians 11-not a whole lot of prosperity gospel there.
I think Paul’s drive and commitment came out of his life changing experience with the grace of God. Paul was first known as Saul, and before his conversion experience he had devoted himself to destroying the church. Then, he had a run in with the resurrected Jesus that changed everything. You can read more about this in Acts 7-9.
But Paul had this life changing experience with the grace of God and he spent the rest of his life living in close proximity to that grace. Check out 1 Timothy 1:14-16 when you get a chance. Basically Paul is saying, “Hey look , if God can rescue me, than He can rescue anyone.”
If Philippians is a book that is all about joy, than it seems the first thing we can learn from Paul is that a life of joy is a life lived in close proximity to God’s grace; a life lived out of gratitude for what God has done for us in Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be a blessing junkie. My commitment, my drive tends to travel only as far as my next blessing. Instead of continually celebrating what God has already done for me I keep asking, “What have you done for me lately?” This of course leads to a sort of spiritual bipolar disorder. However, a life of joy, not happiness, but joy is a life lived in close proximity to God’s grace, a life that isn’t constantly waiting for God to do the next big thing, but a life lived out of gratitude for what God has already done.
So, during this season of Lent, may you live in close proximity to God’s grace, may you learn to continually celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and may you learn to be thankful first and foremost for what God has already done.