My Journal for Today: This month we’ve made reference to and discussed the stoning and martyrdom of Stephen. Well, we know that the Apostle Paul, then “Saul of Tarsus,” was present as a witness at Stephen’s stoning [see Acts 7]; and it is reasonable to assume, due to his authority and history of persecuting Jews, that Saul (Paul) may have ordered or authorized the “hit” on Stephen. And in that moment of Christian history, Saul, who would become Paul, witnessed the very act of faith that he would later exhort all believers to experience … and that is the choice to “rejoice … always,” even when facing a horrible and painful situation [as did Stephen]. And since the Apostle Paul wrote the words of today’s verse from prison, the contextual power of his pronouncement is enhanced.
Many of Paul’s greatest teachings, as positive as they were, came from his prison epistles (see also Ephesians and Colossians). … But note, in Eph. 3: 1, that though Paul was physically in a Roman prison, he referred to himself as a “prisoner to Christ,” which affirmed what he proclaimed in today’s verse that he could rejoice in his faith even when he was facing death from the Romans. Paul could have been executed at any time as he wrote Phil. 4: 4; and ultimately he was martyred for his faith. But he believed that one could choose joy in the midst of trials; and he did just that! We read in Phil. 1: 13 that he used the “opportunity” of prison to spread the gospel, even to his Gentile, Roman jailers. And the entire epistle to the Christians at Philippi was an expression of joyous love to them.
Go and read the wonderful true story, penned by Luke in Acts 16: 22 – 34, about Paul and his fellow compatriot, inmate Silas, as Paul chooses to rejoice in the gospel message remaining in the jail, even when they had the chance to escape prison. No, rather than escape, they chose to lead a Roman jailer to Christ, which also resulted in that jailer’s entire family being saved. Such an act of Christians rejoicing in their faith in the face of danger and trial speaks volumes of life proclaiming validity in the words of God, through Paul, in today’s verse.
How could we, as Christians, not aspire to such faith?
My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to bloom as joyful wherever I’m planted. Amen