Other than Jesus, I have no higher view of a man than I have for the Apostle Paul. His devotion to the Lord is par excellence. The motivating force behind this devotion is found in his letter to the Philippians, Chapter 3 verse 12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Christ had captured his hear, so Paul was captivated by him. Having said this, life was not easy for Paul. Paul experienced tribulations that you would only see in the movies. In one of Paul’s most heartfelt letters he writes:
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
What astounds me more than anything, however, is not Paul’s trials and tribulations, but what he says in 2 Corinthians 6:10. Paul describes his life as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Paul is not blissfully ignorant of his circumstances. He is human. His life was full of sorrow. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul says, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”
But this is not the end of the story, for even though life was hard for Paul and despair loomed over him as a great shadow, the current of joy continuously flowed in his life. There was never a moment in the born again life of Paul that he was absent of joy. He was ALWAYS rejoicing. Not sometimes rejoicing. Not rejoicing when his belly was full or he was freed from prison. He rejoiced in the midst of deepest and darkest of days. But how?
The source of Paul’s joy was not external circumstances. The source of Paul’s joy came from within. In 2 Corinthians 5:4, Paul says, “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
In Christ, we know that these days are temporary (i.e. tent). The burdens of this life will soon fade to black. What is mortal will be swallowed up and we will step into immortality that is beyond comprehension. And God by His grace has given us assurance that this future reality is locked in by the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit of God that indwells those who have faith in Christ is our guarantee. And because we know that this world is passing away with all of its burdens, and because we have the Spirit of God indwelling us, no one and no circumstance can steal our joy.
Therefore, beloved, take your eyes off of your conditions and set them on the promises of God that find their yes in Christ.