Sitting in his prison cell, Paul writes the brethren in Philippi to encourage them to be cognizant of various Christian duties: to be steadfast in the faith, to be in unity, and to be helpful to certain people, including the women who assisted him when he was there.
Then he breaks forth into this twice-stated dramatic expression about the positive attitude he wants them to have toward God and toward their journey in Christ: not only are they to be happy but they are to express the joy they feel.
Such an attitude is a choice; and when we choose to express an attitude of rejoicing, we put ourselves into a position of wanting to be the best we can be spiritually and, at the same time, we can have an even stronger influence on those around us because they can witness our joy.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
In this, his valedictory address, the Apostle Paul pours out his innermost feelings to his young friend and fellow preacher of the gospel, Timothy, as he asks him to come to him quickly.
Paul is imprisoned in Rome as he expresses the kind of satisfaction any faithful Christian hopes to feel as he approaches the end of his life. Because he has done the best he knew to do and because he has been faithful in his adherence to divine instructions, he feels he is ready to meet the Lord in judgment.
The most inspiring part of this message occurs when Paul broadens it to include all others who have appreciated the fact that Jesus came to the earth to make a righteous judgment possible. Even today, all who have lived righteously according to instructions given in the Word can have the same assurance within their hearts. We have the assured hope of going to heaven.
“Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Return to Me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 1:3).
God was angry with His people after their return from Babylonian captivity because they had allowed their enemies to cause them to stop rebuilding the Temple and restoring worship there. They had forgotten about God.
The Prophet Zechariah was one of several prophets who had the task of encouraging the people to return to God and to get on with the project of rebuilding the Temple. He gives them God’s message directly: “Return to Me.” And with that plea came a wonderful message of Hope: God would return to them.
That same plea rings down through the New Testament Age today with the promise, not of a material blessing, but with the blessing of Hope for Eternity. If we will but submit to God’s authority, He gives us assurance of a home with Him some day.
“Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live” (2 Kings 20:1).
God uses the prophet Isaiah to deliver this unexpected message to King Hezekiah as he lies deathly ill on his bed one day. Without a moment’s delay, the king turns his face to the wall and makes a passionate plea to God for his life.
Not having the same direct connection King Hezekiah had, we are not going to receive a warning as he did: God will not send us a direct message telling us we are going to die, thus giving us time to make right our wrongs and failures. But we do have the message of the scriptures telling us exactly how God wants us to serve Him.
The beginning of a year is a wonderful time for us to renew our acquaintance with that life-saving message and to make a commitment to God that we are going to correct our failures and to do our best to be a better servant this year than we ever have before.