When in seminary, over three decades ago, I took a course on the book of Philippians. One of the requirements of the course is we had to memorize the whole book. That was quite a task, but by reading the four-chapter book at least three times a day and listening to it being read on a cassette tape at least twice a day, I was able to commit it to memory. While I had the book in my mind, I have prayed through the years the many profound truths found within Paul’s marvelous epistle would become internalized. It is a book we should turn to time and time again when faced with issues, circumstances and obstacles that seek to defeat us, drag us down or destroy us. Found within the pages of Philippians, the Apostle seeks to combine the practical with the theological.

As much of America is under “stay at home” orders, Philippians becomes a book that contains many relevant truths which are worth revisiting. Being confined at home, many are searching for ways to cope. Well, Paul being confined in a Roman prison he was definitely under “stay at home” orders. What is so amazing, one of the key words in Philippians is the word “joy,” found some seventeen times. What truths can we glean from Paul’s marvelous epistle that will help us to have joy even in the midst of our confinement?

First, Rely on Prayer to the Lord. One truth which is paramount throughout Philippians is Paul’s emphasis on prayer, constant communication with the Lord. Prayer is talking to God, being on unbroken speaking terms with Him. Prayer recognizes our dependence on the Lord in every situation life brings our way. Paul exhorts us to pray about everything, good or bad (4:7). Philippians encourages us to pray with thanksgiving for others (1:3-11), to be like Christ (2:1-8), for the sick (2:26-30), for spread of the Gospel (3:1-14), for those who labor in the Gospel fields (4:3), and in all things (4:6). One truth I have learned over the years, you cannot carry on a conversation with the Lord and have a “woe is me” attitude very long. When we talk with the Lord the focus is off of ourselves unto the One who is our help in strength in times of “confinement.”

Second, Rest in the Peace of the Lord. Paul writes, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7). Paul writes this after talking about praying about all things. Peace flows from prayer.  What a truth to rest in when fear and confusion seek to “break out” within us, divine peace stands guard over our hearts and minds to keep the “break out” from overtaking us. The word translated “keep” is the Greek word φρουρησει (phroureo froo-reh’-o),  a military term picturing soldiers standing on guard duty, the word also referred to the guarding of the city gate from within as a control on all who went out. His peace “passes all understanding.” The word “passes” refers “to that which is superior, surpasses and rises above” fear and confusion. The peace that is superior to fear and confusion is not found within ourselves but found by resting in Jesus Christ.

Third, Rejoice in our Position in the Lord. One of Paul’s favorite phrase found in all his epistles, and found multiple times in Philippians, is “in Christ” (εν χριστω, en Christo) (1:13, 26; 2:1, 5; 3:1; 4:4. 4:21). The little Greek word εν (en) is a primary preposition denoting a fixed position in place and time. What did Paul mean by “in Christ” or “in the Lord”? Being “in Christ” means we have an abiding relationship (a fixed position) with Christ that is not subject to time, place or circumstances. Paul says rejoice in that eternal truth (4:4). No matter what we are going through or what circumstances seem to confine us, our relationship with Christ is a fixed position not affected by time, place or circumstances. Our relationship in Christ transcends any earthly relationship or any adversity that may come our way. What a glorious truth to know and rejoice in!

Fourth, Realize the Power of the Lord. Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (4:13). The Greek word  translated “strengthen” (ενδυναμουντι -endunamounti) means “to empower, to give strength to, to infuse strength into someone.” The power which enabled Paul to face “all things” was not strength found in himself, but it was found outside himself, infused in him by Jesus Christ. The Greek literally reads, “I have the strength to prevail over all things because of the power that has been infused into me which comes from Christ.” We, as well, need to realize whatever we face in life, we possess a strength to triumph because of a power that has been infused into us by Jesus Christ. What a wondrous truth!!

Fifth, Recognize our Plenty in the Lord. Paul writes, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (4:19). This verse speaks of the plenteous supply found in Christ to meet our needs. “Shall supply… according to His riches in glory” (4:19). The word “supply” is the Greek word pleroo, which means to fulfill or to make full. If we have any legitimate need in our lives, God has promised to supply that need. How does He supply it? By His riches in glory. The word “riches” is the Greek word ploutos, which describes immense wealth or riches beyond imagination. It is from where we get our word plutocrat, which describes a person who possesses riches so vast that they are immeasurable. God knows no lack and has a plenteous supply to meet our every need. What a glorious truth to recognize when we lift our petitions to the Lord.

Sixth, Recall the Promise of the Lord. One hope the Christian has is the promise of His return. In 1:10 Paul speaks of the “day of the Lord” and in 4:5 he says “the Lord is at hand (near).” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see we are living in perilous times, the kind of times the Bible teaches will be manifested in the days before Christ’s return. Paul calls this hope, this promise, “our blessed hope and His glorious appearing” (Titus 2:13). It is this “blessed hope” that bolsters our spirits and instills within us an eternal hope when evil, the oppression of that which is righteous and good, and times of confusion and chaos unfold around us. During such times, let us not resign to dejection, but recall the promise of Christ that such times only indicate that His coming again is near. Hallelujah, what hope we possess!

As can be seen, Philippians is a most relevant book for our current hour which is filled with timeless truths for turbulent times….truths not only relevant through this pandemic, but in all of life’s situations and circumstances. Knowing Christ infuses us with a joy that is not dependent upon right circumstance, but is anchored in the One who defeated death, hell and the devil, and who triumphantly says to us, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And in Him we will, too!

O, what a Savior!

Dr. Dan


Is it possible have joy in a world filled with sorrow and brokenness? We come into the world crying, and leave with weeping loved ones seated by our bedside. On one hand the Bible declares that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10) and on the other hand we often feel like the Jews who found themselves in captivity, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).

The circumstances and events of life have a way of putting us in a “strange land” and our tears water the willow trees and our harps remain silent. Is it possible to have joy amidst so many tears? Is it possible for one to sing a joyful song in a “strange land?” How can one sing the Lord’s song when the warmth of His smiling face seems to be hidden behind storm clouds filled with rain? We associate the words “sorrow” and “pain” with that which is negative, and we associate the word “joy” with that which is positive. The Bible tells us that joy is the power by which we should live, which enhances love, awakens our senses, and energizes our body and spirit. Is such joy only an elusive butterfly which flutters about us but can never be captured…..and if we do it vanishes like a shooting star in the night sky.

From many years in the pastoral ministry it is the observation of this writer that too often people confuse happiness with joy. There is a huge difference between the two. The terms “happiness” and “joy” are thrown into the same blender, blurring the difference between the two. Tossing the terms around like salad in a bowl, there needs to be a clarification of the meaning of the two terms for they are not the same. One can be happy but have no joy, and one can experience joy even when they are not happy. What is the difference between the two?

You see, happiness is based on circumstances. The word “happiness” is related to the Latin “happenstance.” Broken down you have “happen” (lucky, happy) and “stance” (short for circumstance). So, happiness is associated with temporary circumstances of elation. Happiness is determined by outside stimulus. If circumstances happen to be favorable then one is happy, if circumstance are contrary then one is not happy. Happiness is associated with good fortune and is based on that which is outside one’s self. Happiness is often temporary since it depends on circumstances outside one’s inner-self.

Biblical joy is not based on circumstances. Christian joy is anchored in a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ and is an inner state of being rather than a fleeting emotion. Joy, from the Greek word chara, means “to rejoice, be glad, full of joy.” The word chara is related to charis which means “grace.” Such joy is an everlasting reality of exceeding cheerfulness or gladness anchored in the grace of the resurrected Christ. Joy resides in the inner-self of a person and is connected with the life source of Jesus. Joy is not fleeting like happiness, but is derived from one’s relationship with Christ. One can have joy even though circumstances may prove contrary. While such joy enhances ten-fold one’s encounter with happiness, it also anchors the soul when tears cloud the eyes.

It says of Jesus as He faced the cross, “For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). This verse is a enigmatic mystery, as it speaks of joy and the agony of the cross in the same sentence. The key word in the verse is “for.” The Greek word is anti, which has several meanings…one being “in exchange for” in the sense of “to obtain.” This means that Christ willingly endured the horror, agony and shame of the cross in anticipation of the joy of providing atonement for the sins of humanity. Christ endured the shame of the cross for the joy of bringing salvation to fallen humanity. In spite of enduring the worst capital punishment devised by man’s cruel mind, He did so with joy that was anchored in His fellowship with the heavenly Father and in union with heaven’s will for His life. As one can readily see, the joy Jesus experienced was not based on favorable circumstances, but was a deep-seated joy that resided inwardly from His relationship with His Father.

Yes, the universal symbol of Christianity is the cross, a symbol of horrific suffering and death, but behind the cross of Christ the shining sun of the resurrection arises. Christianity is a faith uniquely characterized by joy…joy in the celebration that Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross was perfect provision for the vilest of human sin; joy in the celebration that Christ arose from the dead, joy in the celebration that Christ has sent His Holy Spirit to abide with us and in us; joy in the celebration that Christ will never leave us or forsake us no matter how dark the night; joy in the celebration that all things, good and bad, work together for our good; and joy in the celebration that when we draw our last breath we will find ourselves dwelling in an Eternal City whose Builder Maker is the God who became flesh and dwelt among us. It is a joy that sustains us when our ship is tossed about on the raging waves of life’s fiercest storms.

It is His joy Christ desires to impart to all who will embrace Him. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, as the disciples were about to face the most difficult circumstance of their lives, the Master told them, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jh 15:11). Circumstances were about to become unfavorable, but Jesus assured His disciples that by being in union with Him, His joy could sustain them in their darkest hours.

The Apostle Paul exhibits this joy in his writings to the church at Philippi. Some seventeen times he talks about joy while writing from a dungy and dirty prison cell. His unfavorable outward circumstances were not conducive to happiness, but because of his daily, personal relationship with Christ he had an inward joy that transcended his circumstances (1:4-5, 18-19, 15, 2:2, 17-18, 28-29; 3:1; 4:4; 4:10). Paul had discovered the only lasting and eternally sustaining joy flowed from Christ’s cross and resurrection. It was a joy he told his readers was available to all who were in union with the Savior.

This joy which Paul wrote about, I know of no one who would not long to experience such deep seated joy in the midst of contrary circumstance. Such joy resides in Christ alone. However, the key is not making a priority the pursuit of happiness for the sake of happiness or joy for the sake of joy, for to do so is to chase a temporary mirage. Our priority is to pursue Jesus Christ, to develop an intimate relationship with the Risen Lord, then all these other “things” will be added unto us (Matt. 6:33). Such joy is a byproduct of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

Joy which is found in Christ is enduring and affects one’s attitude in living. While in suffering we want our pain to disappear, because of joy in Christ we can victoriously endure. Why can we victoriously endure, because by the death of Christ and His glorious resurrection we find strength and the radiance of His splendorous presence enables us to embrace our humanness which our God identified with in Christ who fills our hearts with an eternal hope by Him “who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10).

So, let us embrace Christ wherein lies a supernatural joy which He desires to impart to us. And let us remember, that someday all suffering and brokenness will be swallowed up in His eternal presence, all despair clothed with hope realized, and death abolished in victory.

O, what a Savor!

Dr. Dan