Living in a harsh time physically, mentally, emotionally, and often spiritually, we need some joy!
St. Luke, a physician, recorded an unbelievable story about joy during harsh circumstances in Acts 16:16-34. On a missionary journey Paul and Silas were unfairly and illegally brought by an out-of-control crowd 20 before civil magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Let me quickly recount what happened. Paul and Silas were quickly tried and convicted falsely of crimes. They were “severely flogged” meaning beaten unmercifully with rods usually 39 times battered viciously. Their legs were bound so that they would have had to sit up because of the condition of their back. They were thrust into the most secure cells with a max detail of guards. What a horrific, unjust treatment for two innocent men. They had every justifiable reason to be bitter towards God about their condition! LOOK AT WHAT THEY DID! “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.” Shut up! You got to be kidding me! “The other prisoners were listening to them!” Their faith in God empowered them to have the joy of the Lord in the worst of conditions. Then, revival broke out in that prison with the villainous jailer saved and baptized along with his whole household. This jailer was “filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” Even in severe suffering and guilt, joy prevailed.
Paul ended up writing a letter to these Philippians from an ugly, nasty prison! Guess what the theme of that letter was? JOY! Philippians 4:4 exclaims, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Nine times in this brief four-chapter letter, he references JOY! As you read this letter, Paul testifies “joy” is not personally manufactured. It comes from submission to the Lord. God produces the joy. We worship the same Lord as Paul but try to live out life in our own power which often ends up in emotional and mental bankruptcy. Paul instructs us what to do, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6&7).
Let me leave you with a wonderful verse of encouragement from Nehemiah 8:10, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”