I think it is fair to say that humility is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about joy.
We associate joy with feelings of delight and peace whereas humility brings up thoughts of weakness, being on the bottom rung of the ladder and even rejection.
But if we read the Apostle Paul’s words carefully in Philippians 1:18-20, a pattern for humility is revealed that is closely connected with our capacity to experience joy in difficult and trying times.
In fact, humility goes hand in hand with joy.
How does humility increase our capacity for joy?
Humility enables us to thank Him for the situation we find ourselves in. Paul wrote in v18c that he would “continue to rejoice” in his situation, no matter what.
On another occasion he wrote to “be joyful always…in everything give thanks…” (1 Thess.5:16-18).
Remember, when Paul wrote Philippians he was a prisoner awaiting trial for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You would think this would have made him a hero with every Christian in the church – but not so!
Paul reveals that there were some Christians who were preaching the Gospel “from envy…and selfish ambition…” (1:15 & 17).
It isn’t difficult to imagine their thinking:
“You’re getting too big for your boots Paul. See where your pride has landed you? Prison!”
“You think you’re something Paul? Well so are we – look at the number of converts we are making!”
“Hey Paul, look at how large our church is becoming! Wouldn’t you like your ministry to be this successful?”
Despite it all though, Paul’s commitment to thanking God for everything is a dominant theme throughout this first chapter. No matter that he finds himself in a humbled position – he thanks God for it because it means that one way or another, the Gospel is being preached!
If his humiliating circumstances helps to facilitate this, then bring it on!
Receiving from God what He gives us is also another hallmark of humility. In verses 19-20a, Paul tells his readers he is “craning his neck” with anticipation about the fact that God will not let him down in his current circumstances.
Paul willingly accepts whatever God has before him – life or death – with confident expectation and a strong desire to glorify the Lord he loves and serves.
The final characteristic of humility is to live it out.
“No matter what” says Paul, “live or die, I want to glorify Jesus!” (Phil.1:20b)
You see, the end game for Paul was that Jesus be exalted and glorified. You cannot escape the genuine joy that Paul is experiencing here.
He joyfully submits to God’s will for his life. “God is on the throne”, says Paul, “And I will live this truth out in both life and death!”
Like you, my life circumstances crowd out my joy at times. I become preoccupied with my problems or the negativity of others and I lose sight of Who is really in control.
But if I remind myself that Jesus is Lord of my life and circumstances, I take a step towards humility and the acceptance of His will for my life.
Does this resonate with you as you read this?
Then why not join with me in praying this prayer:
“Lord Jesus, thank you for this situation. I receive it from You and I ask that You will help me to live it out. In Your Name, amen.
The situation won’t necessarily be fixed, but you will have taken a long stride down the path to joy!
Blessings to you!
Pastor Rob Furlong.