How to Rejoice When You’re Not Sure Life is Working

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Today I need to sit still in the Word of God. I need some things to sink in again. It’s Monday and I’m grasping for joy and answers and wondering when life will all really make sense. Maybe we can sit here soaking together for a few minutes?

We came to read Philippians 1:12-20 in our women’s summer study of Philippians a few weeks ago, and it has been churning within ever since.

In verses 12 through 18, Paul explains to the church at Philippi that his imprisonment has had two major effects on his ministry. First, the entire imperial guard has come to know he is imprisoned for Christ. As the word has spread and Paul’s imprisonment has led people to Jesus, other believers have grown bold to share their own faith. All the suffering is advancing the gospel, and Paul rejoices.

But the second effect is less exciting. Other ministers have viewed Paul’s imprisonment as their own chance to get ahead, to preach more and better, and to expand their personal influence toward the end of shaming Paul’s “limitations” while in prison. Competition, selfish ambition, and pride have infiltrated the motivations of some who proclaim the gospel. Still, Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed.

And then Paul writes these profound words to his first congregation.

“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (vv. 18-20)

Paul’s unshakable joy in such a trying season of life is startling, but I think there are four things we can learn and find encouragement from through his words in these verses.

1. Deliverance is not defined by physical freedom or success. Deliverance is defined as the use of our lives to honor Christ, whether by life or by death.

It’s clear Paul does not mean he’ll surely be released from prison. He’s not even concerned to regain control of his ministry or take back the monopoly on spreading the gospel. All he lives for is the fame and honor of Jesus to be made known in his life.

Paul cites two assurances that he will be delivered in this way.

2. The prayers of the Church are powerful to bring about the glory of God.

He tells the Philippians that their prayers will result in his deliverance. While we may never fully understand the ways in which God responds to our requests, we can be sure that the church at Philippi was strengthened as they interceded for Paul. These people were his warriors, lifting him up, praying against the efforts of the enemy.

We cannot underestimate the power of our prayers to bring about the glory of God in the lives of His people. We have a role to play, a place at the throne where we may bring our brothers and sisters to the all-sustaining hands of Jesus.

3. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of spiritual success.

Paul has already assured them in verse 6 “that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…”  He tells the church in Ephesus that the Spirit “is the guarantee of our inheritance,” just as Jesus had promised the Helper would come.

Beloved, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of you, working with all His power to transform you into the image of Jesus and deliver you from a life that does not honor Him. Walk in the victory of the Spirit of Christ within you today. Listen to the Truth that dwells inside of you. Encourage your brothers and sisters because Christ is in them, “the hope of glory.”

4. Assured deliverance is cause for circumstance-defying joy.

Paul writes repeatedly of his joy. His eyes are fixed so firmly on Jesus, on the absolute guarantee that all will work for the glory of God and the good of His people, that He can continually find joy in the middle of bleak circumstances. As he faces death, further imprisonment, and the undermining of his ministry, Paul knows Jesus has already won and will bring about the fullness of His glory no matter what happens all around him.

Beloved, you and I can live in joy today. Your life is not so far gone that hope cannot be held. Your family is not so dysfunctional, your plans are not too thwarted, your love life is not so nonexistent that Jesus cannot turn all your broken things into beautiful good.

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Pause to consider…

  • What situation are you in that seems beyond deliverance? Consider Paul’s definition of deliverance and pray Jesus will make that glory happen in your life above all else.
  • How can your encourage and pray for the people in your community who are walking through difficult seasons of life right now? Take a minute now to send a text and let them know you’re praying.

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