Paul is one of the greatest disciples of Christ that ever lived. Once he was saved, he traveled and learned in Christ’s presence. After Christ ascended, he dedicated every moment of the rest of his life to sharing the Good News. However, he spent the last years of his life in a miserable Roman prison. Even through this adversity, he found joy and wrote almost one half of the New Testament! We can learn to find joy in all circumstances by studying Paul’s words.
Paul had a difficult journey the last years of his life. He traveled from town to town, spreading the news of the Gospel. Not everyone was happy to see him. In his letter to the Corinthians, he explains that he “worked much harder… been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again” (2 Corinthians 11:23) After all of this, he finally made it to Rome, only to be thrown in prison! Yet he still spread the Gospel and found joy in these terrible circumstances. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
He wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon… ALL FROM PRISON. That is almost HALF the New Testament and he wrote it all during one of the most difficult times in his life!
He wrote 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, AND 1&2 Timothy… ALL FROM PRISON. That is almost HALF the New Testament and he wrote it all during one of the most difficult times in his life!
In Paul’s letters of the Bible, he effused joy and contentment in his prison life. He was thankful and grateful for any and all assistance, but said not to despair, but to be joyful in the Lord. How did he do it?? And how can we learn to have the same joy in our lives?
Hope during Trials
Paul begins all of his letters in prayer. For example, he opens Philippians saying “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:4-5)Prayer is the key to keeping a relationship of communication with the Lord. Prayer not only for yourself, but for others that need His blessing as well. Prayer leads to being thankful and being thankful leads to joy.
He remembered his True Purpose
No matter what we may face, adversity, persecution, affliction, hardship, or disaster, the Lord has a plan for us. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, God has a future for you. That future will always include a way to grow in faith and bring glory to Him. That is our true purpose on this Earth. “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7)
Paul never planned on going to prison, and yet he found a way to fulfill his purpose while there. He was chained to a different guard every day. Instead of being upset that he was chained to some random person, he saw it as an opportunity to pour out his best sermons with a captive audience! He writes of this opportunity in Philippians: “I want you to know, beloved, that was has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ… having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.” (Philippians 1: 12-14)
God is the true source of hope
Stark contrast between Paul’s terrible circumstances and his intense hope is very evident in the book of Philippians. The word “joy” appears 16 times in this short letter. He explains that “I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19)
How can he be so confident? The Bible tells us that no matter how scary our current situation, God’s will shall be done. You can face the worst and come out the best. Just like Paul, faith and trust in the Lord, and his plan, can get you through any circumstances. Paul wrote “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (Philippians 4:12)
He remained humble
While he became the apostle of spiritual joy, Paul never took the credit. He never boasted. He didn’t even overcome through his own willpower. He attributed his spiritual contentment to its true source, Jesus Christ. He explains in Philippians 4:13 that it was the power of Christ that helped him overcome.
While it may be easier for us to rely on ourselves and take the credit for the blessings in our lives, God is the true reason for the good in our lives. Whether he gives you the dream to build your own company or sends a friend in a time of need, God will always be there to provide for you!