Today’s Reading: Philippians 1:1-26
We live in a time which is severely deficient in its joy. All our technology and intelligence haven’t produced it. Owen Hanson contends that we haven’t produced civilization either: “After thousands of years, western civilization has advanced to where we bolt our doors and windows at night while jungle natives sleep in open huts.”
Paul knew such conditions. His cell was a reward for faithful service to another prisoner who’d been crucified some years before. It was dark, definitely cold in the winter and sweltering in the summer. Disease and rats were close companions. Food was scarce, and there were no bathrooms. Survival was the everyday issue. Given the same conditions, the modern-day prisoner would file a lawsuit for violation of his rights. However, it isn’t Paul’s conditions that make us marvel, it is his state of mind UNDER the conditions. How could Paul maintain such a joyful attitude in the midst of so horrid a living arrangement?
How can we have the kind of genuine and lasting joy that allows us to really be joyful in all circumstances? Doesn’t that take a special kind of power? Paul’s answer is really a personal testimony.
Paul’s close relationship with Jesus gave birth to a close relationship with the ones Jesus loves. In fact, Paul said that the feelings he had for the folks at Philippi were directly from Jesus. The English word “affection” is translated from a word that is the route-source of our word “spleen”. This indicates a visceral affection, a heartfelt love. William Barclay has it, “So Paul is saying: ’I yearn for you with the very compassion of Jesus Christ himself. I love you as Jesus loves you.’” Paul loved the church folks genuinely, but he couldn’t claim originality, it was Jesus who gave him this affection.
Christian joy is connected to genuine love. You can tell when there’s a sense of belonging to each other in a group because there is joy there. Pastor Stephen Brown expresses it, “Everybody that belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody that belongs to Jesus.”
Paul’s joy (and ours) is demonstrated in his prayer that the people of God remember how great the river of living water is, and to drink deeply. As you nurture a young plant or tree through the tender years, until it is able to bear fruit, so Paul prayed for the young Philippian church to mature in the things of God to bear spiritual fruit. Praying for others has a two-fold blessing: it births and demonstrates our joy.