If you know anything about his background, Paul’s letter to the Philippians is even more surprising.
In Philippians 4:4, he said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” From a place where he could have been overwhelmed with anxiety, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
And just in case we weren’t listening, he said it again, “Rejoice!”
Are we to rejoice when there is not enough money to make it to the end of the month? Or what about when the kids are in trouble … again? Paul’s situation proves our current circumstances are far less important than the choices we make about those circumstances.
He continues in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
How could Paul rejoice when he was locked up? How could Paul still be praising God when he laid his head to rest on the pillow each night as a prisoner, not a preacher? It is really all about perspective, isn’t it? Perspective is all about how you see things. Instead of choosing the perspective of a prisoner, Paul chose the perspective of praise.
Two different people can look at the same thing and they can see it from two entirely different perspectives. Most of us would look at Paul’s situation and we would say, “This is not good.” In fact, it looks bad. Really bad. Anxiety tends to flourish in a situation like this, doesn’t it? We can all see how Paul’s situation is fertile ground for anxiety to grow.
How can he even function in a situation like this? It looks like his ministry is over. His dreams are crushed. What is there to rejoice about?
Somehow, Paul was able to look at a very bad situation and see it from a very positive perspective. He wasn’t minimizing the situation. His faith in God allowed him to possess a unique outlook and positive perspective on life.
In fact, this is what he said earlier, in this same letter: “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” – Philippians 1:12-13 (NIV)
Paul knew God was in control, and he trusted God was at work in ways he could not see.