God loves you the way you are, but he knows you can do better.
- Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4, NIV)
In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he mentions "joy" or "rejoicing" 16 times. What makes that so amazing is this–Paul was in prison when he wrote Philippians. And, it wasn’t just any prison.
Greek scholar Rick Renner of Renner Ministries studied the historic details of the prison where Paul was being held at the time he wrote to the church at Philippi and shared those findings at one of the church services at Eagle Mountain International Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
I’m so thankful I was in that meeting because it forever changed the way I read this passage of scripture.
It seems that this Roman prison was known as one of the worst prisons in the entire country. It had actually been used as a septic hole for many years and had sort of evolved into a prison for the worst offenders.
Prisoners were chained with their arms above their heads and forced to stand waist-deep in human waste. The prisoners had to stand at all times–no matter how weary they grew. And the smell was so horrid, many prisoners died from the toxic fumes alone! Others died from rat bites and infection. Others died from hopelessness.
It was that bad–so awful it sucked the very life right out of many strong men.
The prison was dark all day and all night except for the few moments of limited light when the guard fed the prisoners. There were no windows. No ventilation. No reason for joy.
So, how could Paul write about rejoicing in the Lord? Paul learned that the source of his joy had nothing to do with his environment or his physical state. He found joy in Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul was able to write: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Paul was surrounded by dung and darkness, but his heart was full of joy and Jesus. He fixed his eyes on eternal things. He knew that Jesus was with him in his suffering, and Paul knew that Jesus would deliver him from that place of despair.
Let me ask you this–how is your joy level today? Take a lesson from the Apostle Paul–rejoice no matter what! God is with you! He loves you, and He hasn’t forgotten about your situation.
Even if you’re waist-deep in debt, sickness, marital problems, physical addictions, depression, fear, etc. God is able deliver you from any of those situations. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). So, rejoice! Praise Him! Shout the victory even before you see it!
We used to sing a little chorus at Camp Wildwood church camp in Clay City, Indiana, that simply said: “Praise Him. Praise Him. Praise Him in the morning. Praise Him in the noontime. Praise Him. Praise Him. Praise Him when the sun goes down.”
That pretty much covers every waking moment, doesn’t it? So that’s your assignment–praise God all day long! Or as the Apostle Paul encouraged: “Rejoice in the Lord always–again I say, rejoice!”
Michelle Medlock Adams is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, with more than 60 books and 1,000 articles for newspapers and magazines to her name. She was won several SELAH Awards (best children’s book and book of the year for God Knows You in 2014 and best children’s book for My Big Book of Prayers in 2012), and her book Divine Stories of the Yahweh Sisterhood was named a Family Christian Bookstores Premiere Pick in 2006. When not working on her own assignments, Michelle ghostwrites books for celebrities and some of today’s most effective and popular ministers.
Michelle is married to her high school sweetheart, Jeff. They have two college-aged daughters, Abby and Allyson, as well as a small petting zoo. When not writing or teaching writing, Michelle enjoys cheering on the Indiana University Men’s Basketball team, the Chicago Cubbies and the LA Kings. Find out more about Michelle at her website.