My Dear Friends,
In the Book of Acts, at chapter 16 and verses 16 to 28, we read of Paul and Silas being unjustly accused, flogged, and thrown into prison at Philippi. (Talk about Lockdown and Restriction; Loneliness, Demoralisation and Despair.) In the middle of the night, however, when you might have thought that they would have been at their very lowest, Paul and Silas were to be found singing praises to God.
Paul went on to found a Church at Philippi and some years later he was to write them a letter. The Letter to the Philippians is sometimes known as the Epistle of Joy. The whole point of the letter is to challenge us to be joyful. Earlier, the Psalmist was to say: “They looked to him and were lightened.” (Ps.34:5) Paul said: “I wish you all Joy in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:4) He wrote to the Christians at Philippi about the Joy of Faith and the joy of being linked with Christ. “The Lord is near,” he told them. “Have no anxiety, but in everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Then the Peace of God will keep guard over your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) His theme is Joy and Peace.
What gave Paul such courage, confidence and fortitude? He tells us that he knew he had the prayers of his friends; and he knew he had the support and presence of Christ. The fact that he felt united to Christ and united with his Christian friends served as an inspiration and a strength and an encouragement.
Paul also tells us that “I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am.” (Philippians 4:11)
Not, you notice, contented WITH the situation; but contented IN the circumstances. This was the great aim of the Stoics; but for Paul it was simply a matter of Christian faith and trust and patience.
This, then, is his message to us in our time of affliction. “Be united; be joyful; be at peace – and may the God of love and Peace be with you all.”
Liz joins me in sending our love.