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. Lessons from Paul during his lockdown

LESSONS FROM PAUL IN LOCKDOWN

2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul was in lockdown. Firstly, he was in lockdown in a literal prison in Caesarea for two years (Acts 24:27). Then he was escorted to Rome by a Centurion and spent another 2 years under house arrest while awaiting trial. Approximately 4 years later he is arrested again, and this time ends up in a real prison in Rome until he was beheaded by the Romans.

 

Now from this Prison in Rome Paul writes the epistle to the Philippians. This epistle is called the most joyful of all his epistles as 16 times in 104 verses Paul uses the Greek word for joy. So, from a joyless place associated with misery and trial we would assume a letter that is joyless. Yet surrounded by every conceivable obstacle to joy, Paul is joyful.

 

In the time available I want to unpack Paul’s joy during lockdown and allow us to learn lessons during our own lockdown.

 

1. Paul rejoiced in Christ.

In Philippians 3:1 and 4:4, Paul commands us to "rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ always". Paul had an example in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Philippians 2 we are reminded that Jesus humbled Himself even to the death on the cross, and therefore God exalted him to the highest heavens. We saw three days ago in Hebrews 12 that Jesus for the joy set before Him endured the cross. Paul shared this joy. Rejoicing in the Lord means that the truths about Jesus — who He is, what He has done, and what He will do — personally and profoundly affect us, and causes us joy.

 

Do you remember the story of Paul and Silas in Acts 16? Now, “At midnight” – Paul and Silas are in jail.  Their jail was not a nice place to be.  They were not like some jails are today. They had no TV or Internet to keep them busy, no cell phones to communicate with the outside world. Theirs would be a filthy place with no sanitary conditions, a dark and dingy place.  And not only that, they would be put in the stocks, and the stocks meant that they would put their arms at a distance apart, stretching their limbs.  They would stretch their legs apart so that their legs were pulled like a wishbone, again, causing their muscles to tighten up into knots because of the immobility and the stretching.  And here they are in that condition in the stocks, in jail.  Their life is on the line.  And the Bible says, “At midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God.” Now, that is a joyous attitude during a very difficult trial.  But that seems to have been Paul’s portion all the time.

 

Rejoicing in the Lord also means knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord, our Saviour, and our Treasure. It means that Jesus gives us deeper, purer, sweeter, more lasting pleasure and gladness than anything this world has to offer. And this sweeter lasting pleasure and gladness is greater than the crisis we are facing at this moment. That is why Paul can say in Philippians 3:8 (ESV) 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

Jesus must be the chief object of our joy, if we are going to have reason to rejoice in our trials.

 

2. Paul rejoiced in the family of God.

Just like Paul we must rejoice in the joy of belonging to the Kingdom of God and the family of God, and therefore we rejoice in one another. In chapter 1 Paul thanks them for their partnership in the gospel and then in Philippians 2:2 (ESV) Paul’s says:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” True joy in the body emanates from having the same mind, same love and being united in agreement and sharing the same mind. No wonder Paul can call the believers in Philippi his crown and joy. Listen to Philippians 4:1 (ESV) 1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”

It does not mean when we rejoice in one another that our joy in Christ is eclipsed by it. On the contrary it is an outworking of our joy in Christ. It is the work of Christ in us and Paul reminds the church of Philippi in Philippians 1:6 (ESV) 6 … that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” So, God’s people rejoice in God’s work in God’s people and know that He is busy with all of us and will bring it to completion in Jesus Christ.

 

How can we rejoice in one another? We rejoice when we see people coming to saving faith, when they see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We rejoice when we see people growing in faith, we rejoice when God answer prayers for victory over sin, help in trials, healing from sickness etc. We rejoice when we see people maturing in their love, their holiness, and knowledge of God.

We live in a self-centered world. Just watching people in the shops before lockdown showed me just how self-centered people are.  What I saw was a ‘me first’ generation’. We need humility to look to the interests of others and seek their spiritual maturity and fullness of joy in Christ. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:3 (ESV) 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”


3. Paul rejoiced in what his future held.

Due to the Corona virus many people will die. America alone had over 1000 deaths just on Thursday to Friday.  But the reality for those who die in Christ Jesus is that they will not face the second death, but that they will finally receive their final glorification. That is the day that we will be saved from the presence of sin.

 

Paul mentions in Philippians 1:10 (ESV) 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,”

Philippians 1:28 (ESV) 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.” We take heart that God will one day vanquish all opponents of the gospel and save his people.

Philippians 1:18-20 (ESV) 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 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.”

Philippians 3:20 (ESV) 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”

So, Paul rejoices during uncertain, unsavory circumstances because his Redeemer lives, and he belongs to the risen Christ. Therefore, he cannot be put to shame on the last day. Paul’s unshakeable confidence in his future salvation completely reframes his perspective on his present struggles and produces deep, abiding joy.


4. Paul rejoiced in his trials.

 

In chapter 4:4 Paul calls us to “rejoice in the Lord always”, which includes painful trials.

 

In the gospel to the church in Philippi Paul draws attention to various realities that can steal one’s joy.

 

For Paul it was prison in chapter 1:13, it was in the form of his opponents in chapter 1:17, 3:2 and 3:18-19.  He had all the reason to be disheartened by the grumbling and disunity that was evident in the Philippian church.

 

But Paul rejoices in the Lord always, even though he sits in prison, even though he is maligned by his enemies, even while hearing reports of sin and strife among his friends.

 

Paul’s joy was not anchored in his circumstances but in his Saviour, who would never disappoint him and who will surely deliver him and take him to glory. Therefore, Christian joy is the great pleasure and happiness that we feel — whether or not the sun is shining, whether we are experiencing droughts or floods, whether our economy is down or up, whether or not we are healthy or hurting, whether we are at work or locked down — because our Redeemer lives, because we belong to Him, and because He is making all things new.

 

Often when we encounter challenges or trials, we tend to complain and lose sight of our all-sufficient Savior, we become God forgetting. Paul calls us to rejoice in the Lord always by reframing our present challenges in light of the awesome day of Christ, and to rejoice in God’s people — to take our eyes off of ourselves and pray for and pursue other people’s spiritual maturity and fullness of joy in Christ.

 

You ought to rejoice in your trial, for it draws you close to the Lord, it allows you to have the privilege of the fellowship of His sufferings and it keeps you humble, doesn’t it?  Keeps you dependent on God. Trials are a privilege and worthy of our rejoicing.

 

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 6 April 2020