During his confinement, Paul reminisced about the churches he established on his missionary journeys and the friends he had made through the years. Remarkable, isn’t it? Paul was facing death but he thought of others and not himself. And yet, perhaps it is natural for a person facing death to reminisce about the people who mean the most to him.
Looking Back on Bad Memories
As Paul was in his Roman prison, reminiscing about his friends in Philippi, he undoubtedly thought about his first trip to Philippi, when he was illegally arrested, beaten, and put in prison (Acts 16:22-24). Paul wrote to the Thessalonians “We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition” (1 Thessalonians 2:2, NIV). So it’s evident that Paul’s memories of Philippi were not all happy ones, and yet he remembered the Philippians with joy.
Through Paul’s imprisonment in Philippi, the jailer and all his household came to know Christ (Acts 16:33-34). When combined with Lydia and the members of her household who came to know Christ through Paul’s teaching in Philippi, they formed the beginning of the church at Philippi. Out of Paul’s hardship, the Philippian believers became devoted to Paul and his ministry of the gospel. This gave him joy.
We can look back on experiences of adversity with joy because of how God used them. The results may not be apparent, but when we face adversity other people are watching us to see how we respond to tough times. You never know how God might use that as a living testimony in the lives of others.
Generosity Evokes Thankfulness
Whenever Paul thought of the Philippians, he thanked God. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul commended the churches of Macedonia, which included Philippi, because “in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2, NASB). Not only did they experience joy in the midst of their affliction, but their joy overflowed in generosity toward the needs of others. The Philippians were generous in sending gifts. They eagerly contributed for the saints in need at Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Several times they sent Paul money at Thessalonica (Philippians 4:16), and at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:9), and the recent financial gift brought by Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:18).
Paul wrote that an act of generosity “is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 8:12). Acts of generosity cause others to thank God for you just as Paul thanked God every time he thought of the Philippians.
Questions for Reflection (Things to Journal)
Have you experienced adversity that you could later look back at with joy? When you experience adversity, do you think only of yourself or are you overflowing in generosity toward others?
Who is it that causes you to thank God every time you think of him or her? Why?
What do other people think about when they remember you? Are you a person that evokes thankfulness and joy in others?
Strategy for Discovering Joy in Difficult Circumstances
#1 Discover joy in difficult circumstances by looking around at my support.