Paul’s theme of joy in Philippians is remarkable when you consider that he wrote the letter from prison.
He wrote believers in the city of Philippi to thank them for a gift, let them know how he was, and encourage them in their walk with God.
Paul didn’t have much to correct among the Philippians. He mentioned dissension among a couple of members and encouraged unity. Otherwise, the Philippian church seemed a healthy one.
He let them know that “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (1:12). In addition, other believers increased in boldness and confidence. You’d think the opposite would happen, that Paul’s imprisonment would make them afraid lest the same thing happen to them. But perhaps seeing that Paul flourished and that God used even imprisonment to accomplish His will helped them go forward.
Most of us would chafe in imprisonment, eager to get out and back to business. But Paul knew that “to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1: 21). He says later that he had learned contentment in good or bad circumstances, knowing that God would give him strength to face anything (4:10-13).
Paul encourages the Philippians to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27), pointing to the example of Christ’s humility and selflessness (2:1-11).
Warren Wiersbe’s commentary, Be Joyful (Philippians): Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy, helped as a companion to Philippians.
In some of Wiersbe’s other commentaries, he combines several shorter books together. Philippians has only four chapters, so I expected to find its commentary bundled with others. However, Wiersbe gave Philippians its own book.
Because Wiersbe wrote so much about this book of the Bible, and my ESV Study Bible had copious notes as well, I decided to slow down through this book and follow Wiersbe’s chapter divisions, which each covered only a paragraph or two of Philippians. It’s easy to zoom through this short book of the Bible and not retain much. So I was glad for this slower focus on it.
These are some of the quotes that stood out to me:
What was the secret of this joy? The secret is found in another word that is often repeated in Philippians: It is the word mind. Paul uses mind ten times, and also uses the word think five times. Add the time he uses remember and you have a total of sixteen references to the mind. In other words, the secret of Christian joy is found in the way the believer thinks—his attitudes. After all, outlook determines outcome (p. 18).
When you have the single mind, you look on your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the gospel, and you rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do (p. 42).
We Christians are the citizens of heaven, and while we are on earth we ought to behave like heaven’s citizens (p. 53).
It takes more than an example on the outside; it takes power on the inside (p. 73).
The Christian life is not a series of ups and downs. It is rather a process of “ins and outs.” God works in, and we work out (p. 73).
The verb “work out” carries the meaning of “work to full completion,” such as working out a problem in mathematics (p. 74).
Like most religious people today, Paul had enough morality to keep him out of trouble, but not enough righteousness to get him into heaven. It was not bad things that kept Paul away from Jesus—it was good things. He had to lose his religion to find salvation (p. 96).
Once again, I am thankful for Dr. Wiersbe’s insights.
I’ve read another of Mr. Wiersbe’s commentaries and I really like how he explains scripture. I think I can get this one as an ebook through the library. Philippians is one of my favorite chapters. Thanks for the review.
What a wonderful post! What we think plays a huge role in how we feel and what we do. Thank you for this topic.
As with all these books, Wiersbe’s thoughts are really helpful. It seems so much of our mindset seems to be a determination and an act on our part, rather than just how we automatically “feel” — similar to love being more an action than a feeling. I like how Paul says he has LEARNED to be content — inferring that he wasn’t necessarily that way at first.
This is a really beautiful line -> He had to lose his religion to find salvation.
A lot of people are holding on to religion thinking it’s what will save them.
Those are great insights! Thank you for sharing!
Pingback: April Reflections | Stray Thoughts