Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw the overriding purpose for Paul’s writing to the Philippians as a tractate on martyrdom written by a martyr to a community of martyrs. While this thesis cannot be wholly maintained without straining the exegesis of the text, it does contain some truth. Joy and rejoicing occur 14 times in this brief letter (more than any other of Paul’s writings). For Paul, joy is more than a mood or an emotion. Joy is an understanding of existence that encompasses both elation and depression, that can accept with creative submission events which bring delight or dismay because joy allows one to see beyond any particular event to the sovereign Lord who stands above all events and ultimately has control over them. Joy, to be sure, includes within itself readiness for martyrdom, but equally, the opportunity to go on living and serving.
Philippians 3:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!”
Emphatically, Paul stresses that the Philippian Christians rejoice in the Lord. Paul is writing to people who are dealing with sorrow and situations marked by difficulties, hurts and trials. Still, there is much to rejoice over. In your life, what do you have to rejoice over? Spend the next few moments thanking God for something that is good in your life. We often focus on the negative. Focus on the positive. What is something good that is happening in your life?
Now, think of something negative and the worst thing that could happen. Rejoice in this situation. We must learn to rejoice in the Lord, (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
We can rejoice in this situation. Why?
Philippians 3:5, Because the Lord is near.
The Greek word, Engus has a double meaning, it refers to both space and time. Thus “The Lord is near” means that the Lord is close to you , present with you, hence aware of your conduct, concerned about your attitude, available to come to your aid, at hand to assist, and so on. But, it also means that the return of Christ is imminent. The Lord is coming soon to reward the faithful, to punish the evildoers, to heal all ills and to right all wrongs.
Philippians 3:6, Paul states for us to stop worrying!
The word used for worry has the negative connotation of worrying over something that one has no control or attempting to carry the burden of the future oneself.