Hello to all my fans and those who tolerate me! I hope your time in quarantine is going well. To pass the time I made some imaginary friends. That helped. But then they formed a club and won’t let me join. Now I’m back to studying until they learn some manners.
I watched a sermon on Philippians the other day. It was a wonderful lesson on not letting physical circumstances define your life. He pointed out that location, relationships, and uncertainty should not define our lives. It inspired me to reflect on the book of Philippians.
Philippians, in my opinion, is all about perspective. Paul presents the perspective, the mindset, and the attitude that determines the quality of your life. Like the preacher said in his lesson, we allow our circumstances to dictate the quality of our life. If we do that, then how often will we actually be happy? We would only be happy if all circumstances were perfectly placed in our lives–how often does that happen? It is a rare day when you have no reason in your life to be anything but happy. In fact, did you know the word happy originally meant lucky–in the late 14th century it meant “lucky, favored by fortune, being in advantageous circumstances, prosperous.” It comes from the word hap meaning “chance, fortune” (like the word happenstance). If your circumstances decide your perspective, it will be by chance that you are happy. In Philippians, though, Paul presents a better way.
Paul presents throughout the letter how to view your circumstances. He presents what we would call “optimism” or “thankfulness,” but he calls it joy. He is able to look beyond his circumstances to see God’s hand in his life. When God’s hand is in view it stirs within him a humble thanksgiving, regardless of how many reasons he has to complain.
The most incredible thing about Paul’s letter to the Philippians is where it was written. Remember, Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter about having joy. He refused to allow his circumstances cloud his perspective and define his life. Can’t we see how that relates so well to us, huh! Being in house arrest having our freedoms restricted may not be quite like prison but is a relatable circumstance. If Paul was able to look past his circumstance to see God’s hand in his life in prison, then shouldn’t we be able to do the same in quarantine?
Paul saw his imprisonment as a chance to preach the Gospel to new people (1:12); he saw the possibility of life or death as a win-win scenario (1:21); he was able to cling to the Gospel message in his cell (2:5-11); he had the genuine integrity to encourage us not to complain while he sat in prison (2:12); he was thankful for those who served him and comforted him (2:25-30); he was conscious that his human accomplishment were not important compared to the gospel (3:4-9); he did not allow “enemies of the cross” distract him from heaven (3:17-21); he encourages us not to be anxious about our circumstance but instead to pray with thanksgiving (4:4-7); he encourages us to think on the positive things (4:8-9); his secret in all the circumstances of life is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:10-13).
I encourage you to study Philippians, to look past your circumstances to see God’s hand in your life, and, in so doing, have joy. If Paul can have joy in a prison cell, so can you!