Philippians 1:12-14 – I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Our planet has more people than ever, and oddly enough more loneliness than ever. I am reminded of this every time I sit in a coffee shop as this is where lonely people go to ignore one another.
Loneliness is becoming an increasingly significant health risk. One government study said that being lonely was as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! (1)
The apostle Paul was often on the move and alone. In his roughly decade of ministry, he walked an average of 20 miles a day. Additionally, he rarely spent more than a few years in any one place, and suffered shipwrecks, beatings, arrests, and mob riots. He writes Philippians from a jail cell in Rome, as he misses his church family far away in Philippi. He has no idea what his future holds, but in the midst of what could easily be anxious and lonely days, he had joy. In fact, the letter he writes from prison is about the theme of joy.
Paul’s example teaches us three things about finding joy even when you are lonely:
- You may not get new circumstances, but you can get a new mindset. In the 104 verses in Philippians, he mentions joy around 19 times, the mind around 11 times, and Jesus roughly 65 times. When your mind is saturated with the person and presence of Jesus Christ, there is internal joy that defies our external circumstances.
- You need a purpose bigger than your pain. Your pain is big and, to have joy, you must find a purpose for your pain that is bigger than your pain. This is exactly what Paul did. Wrongly imprisoned, he saw an opportunity to evangelize the 9,000 elite soldiers he now had access to, starting with the ones chained to him and forced to hear him talk about Jesus every day. This explains why Paul mentions the “gospel” more times per verse in Philippians than any other book of the Bible.
- Isolation is where you meet with the Devil and solitude is where you meet with the Lord. Paul was not lonely, because he was not alone. He held his friends in his heart as he says repeatedly throughout Philippians. Also, God was present with him. This is the secret of the Christian life. Luke 10:21 says, [Jesus] “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit”. And Galatians 5:22 says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…” Because the Holy Spirit is the source of joy, it does not matter where you might be or what you might be going through as He is with you and has joy for you if you will seek Him.
Which of these three principles for joy is one you need to focus on today?
For the full sermon series “Joy To The World” in Philippians, visit https://markdriscoll.org/.