Philippians 3:1 (NIV): Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
People are often amazed at the upbeat tone of Paul’s “prison epistles.” They wonder how a man could be so full of joy and praise while stuck in a Roman jail, having all of his movement restricted, and not even being able to choose what to eat or who to see.
The answer is in the short phrase, “Rejoice in the Lord.” Paul understood that he was part of something much larger than himself. He knew that his imprisonment was accomplishing something that could not otherwise be done (cf. 1:12-14). He believed that he could still make a profound impact for the kingdom of God by telling everyone about Jesus, even those he met in the jail.
Paul could not control his circumstances, but he could control his focus. And so he chose to focus on God. And when he did that, he found that he had a lot to be thankful for: his salvation. The fruitful ministry that he had been given. The reality of God’s power in his life. The miracles that had been done, and that continued to be done, through him. The people that God had brought into his life. And, greatest of all, the assurance that, when this life was all over, he would spend all of eternity in the presence of his Lord and God.
When Paul took his eyes off his circumstances and placed his full attention on the Lord, on the blessings that He had given, and on the blessings He had promised for the future, he found that it was no problem to be full of praise and rejoicing. He did not rejoice in being in prison, but in the Lord – Jesus was right there with him, empowering him to be an ambassador of the kingdom of God even in the jail. He did not rejoice in his lack of freedom, but in the Lord – in the freedom of spirit that Jesus gave him even though his body might have less freedom than he wanted. He did not rejoice in the limitations on his associations, but in the Lord – in the fact that every person that God brought into his life was either an aide in the work for the kingdom, or a target for evangelism. When he focused on the Lord instead of on his circumstances, he found he had a LOT to rejoice about.
Father, thank You for helping me to see my ability to choose my response to my circumstances, purely by what I choose to focus on. No matter what, help me to keep my focus on You, on all of Your great blessings, so that I can always rejoice in You. ALWAYS!! Amen.