Trials and joy

June 21, 2011 at 7:05 am (My ramblings)

Is it possible to be in the midst of a trial and be joyful at the same time? If you look at the apostle Paul’s life, you have to agree that it is. I’ve been doing a Bible study by Warren Wiersbe on the book of Philippians, one of my favorite books of the Bible. I always get so convicted when I study this small book of only 4 chapters. It astounds me when I think of Paul writing this incredible letter of joy from prison. I love Paul’s testimony because in many ways, it reminds me of mine. When Paul describes himself as the chief of sinners, I know exactly how he feels.

Warren Wiersbe writes,

“in spite of his circumstances as a prisoner in Rome, Paul was rejoicing. The secret of his joy was the single mind; he lived for Christ and the Gospel. (Christ is named 18 times in the first chapter of Philippians and the Gospel mentioned 6 times). “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” What really is the “single mind”? It is the attitude that says, “it makes no difference what happens to me just as long as Christ is glorified and the Gospel shared with others.” Paul rejoiced in spite of his circumstances because his circumstances strengthened the fellowship of the Gospel (1:1-11), promoted the furtherance of the Gospel (1:12-26) and guarded the faith of the Gospel (1:27-30).”

What do you think? How do you feel about rejoicing in spite of circumstances?  Trials tend to turn people inward, we think about ourselves and our circumstances instead of being focused on Christ. Take Paul’s imprisonment while he is writing this letter. He had every right to be angry, frustrated, discouraged and I’m not saying he didn’t have these emotions but this letter is a letter of joy. Paul had the “single mind” because he knew that God had a purpose for him to be in jail at that exact moment in time. In verses 12-14, he writes, “now I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Lord more courageously and fearlessly.”

Paul had the incredible opportunity to share the Gospel with the prisoners and the guards. He wasn’t focused on his circumstances, he was focused on eternal things, not temporal things. Paul’s ultimate goal was to preach the Gospel. Period. I don’t know about you but I wish I had his mindset. I think my  life would look very different. I wouldn’t get frustrated or angry about circumstances or trials. I would welcome these as opportunities to share the Gospel. I pray that I would be able to have the “single mind.” How much easier my life would be if my only expectation would be to further God’s kingdom. I am so grateful that God loves me so much and I’m going to close with verse 6, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.”  This gives me hope!

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