In a recent TV program entitled America’s Got Talent, a man named Archie Williams, testified that he was incarcerated for a crime he never committed, and spent 37 years in prison! He said that what that kept him sane, were prayer and singing. He watched America’s Got Talent regularly and dreamed that one day he will be singing before thousands of people in that show. That day his dream came true. He sang the song entitled Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.
I had never heard that song before but was moved because he sang with such passion. Simon Cowell, the resident judge who is known for his caustic remarks, said, “I will never listen to that song in the same way again…it took on a whole different meaning.…” The 4 judges together with the audience gave Williams a standing ovation!
In the New Testament, there was another man who was imprisoned and incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. He was Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ, called to be a light to the Gentiles. Jealous Jews brought false accusations against him. In one of his many imprisonments, Paul wrote the Book of Philippians. What kept Paul sane in heart and mind was the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
In Romans 1:16, Paul said that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God to everyone who believes, and it was exactly this Gospel that sustained him. The God of the Gospel empowered him and gave him the capacity to rejoice despite the sufferings he encountered.
In 2 Corinthians Paul described himself as a ‘jar of clay’ and that ‘treasure’ lay inside (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) It was this ‘treasure’ that enabled him to go through every challenge, every imprisonment, every beating and every kind of suffering.
As Paul experienced the power of God in his mortal flesh and the fact that this treasure –the powerful Gospel brought many to saving faith in Christ, Paul was overjoyed. Despite the afflictions, it was all worth it. Yes, it was the joy of the Lord and the Gospel that sustained and motivated him to press on despite adversity. It is no wonder that the theme of the Book of Philippians is all about joy and rejoicing! In chapter 4 verses 1 & 4, three times, in two verses, Paul commanded the church at Philippi to ‘rejoice always’
How it is possible to rejoice during physical violence, suffering, false accusation or the prospects of death? It is only possible because of our faith in the Lord. If Christ is the anchor upon which our faith is rooted, then neither external circumstances, nor internal conflicts can stop the Christian from rejoicing.
I am not sure about the faith of Archie Williams. He was eventually exonerated for the crime he was punished for 37 years.
Paul suffered all kinds of afflictions and here he was, in prison, writing this letter to the Philippians, commanding his readers to rejoice in the Lord always!
This joy Paul is speaking about stems from a relationship with the Living Christ, who continues to pour His life into His people to strengthen and renew them daily (Philippians 3:10).
Paul knew his God intimately because he had a personal encounter with the living Christ when he was on his way to persecute the Christian Church (Acts 9). It was then that the resurrected Christ commissioned him to become a light to the Gentiles. From that time on, Paul took the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In the process he encountered many imprisonments, beatings and finally became a martyr for Christ! This is the man who said in the same book that even if he were to die, he will rejoice and be glad (2:17).
How can I rejoice in adversity or when I am wrongly accused? God’s Word says we can rejoice in the Lord!
Because our faith is anchored in the living Christ and he is our Rock and our Redeemer. He is our greatest treasure and our hope in times of trouble. He pours into us His amazing grace to sustain and give us unspeakable joy that wells from within us and flows over us!
Yes, He gives us the joy and He gives us the capacity to love and forgive -- even when we are wronged for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.
Therefore, let us rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice!
See Archie’s performance on this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShgOH1u78XA