As we study Philippians, widely known as the “book of joy,” we’re praying specifically that God would teach us more about joy as we walk through difficult circumstances. Having completed chapter 1 in our study, I am most impressed that the things Paul takes most joy in are:

(1) that the gospel is preached regardless of his circumstances (or perhaps even because of his undesireable circumstances); and

(2) that God is working in the lives of people in whom he has invested.

Over and over again Paul takes joy in what is happening or will happen in the lives of the Philippians, the church he founded ten years earlier. Paul is saying that investing in others and seeing God work in their lives is a source of joy that transcends our circumstances. Further, the Philippians will rejoice with Paul when he is released from prison and able to be with them again. They will rejoice in what God does in Paul’s life.

The joy of Christian fellowship is the ability to rejoice in what God is doing in one another’s lives. There’s no place for competition or jealousy. There’s only place for rejoicing at the goodness of a God who works in all our lives to accomplish His purposes.

We were talking about how undoubtedly not everyone in the Philippian church would have the growth or consistency in their lives that would seem to be a reason for rejoicing. Someone in the study said that’s when we need to have vision, not sight (thanks Matthew). In other words, look for what God is doing in the lives of others, don’t just see what’s on the surface; look for what God is doing in a situation, don’t just see how a situation is affecting you. When you have God’s vision, not just earthly sight, there is always cause for rejoicing.

Hallelujah! My circumstances might be sad or scary or less than I’d like them to be in any number of ways, but God is working (remember Grace, the double-powered prayer!) and when I can’t have vision for what He’s doing in me, I can look around at what He’s doing in the lives of people I’ve invested in over the years. And I can see the goodness of a God who is always good.

Next blog: The goodness of a God who “gives us the opportunity” to suffer for Him!

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