Joy in the Face of Hardship

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious One,

No matter what you are facing — right now or ever in the future — please know that I care about your struggles. I will never abandon you in your struggles (John 14:18). I have known what it is like to feel alone when facing trial and torture, even death (Mark 14:44-50; Matthew 27:46). While I felt forsaken, I was not abandoned no matter how alone I felt (John 16:32; Acts 2:23-28). I want you to hear the promise the Father gave to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 31:6). He then gave a similar promise to Joshua (Joshua 1:5). The Father then made the same promise to you through the writer of Hebrews:

“I will never leave you; I will always be by your side.”

(Hebrews 13:5)

The apostle Paul believed My promise. He emphasized My promise to My disciples in Rome:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39 NIV)

He also lived based on My promise.

While he was in prison awaiting possible death, Paul wrote the words you will read today. They are from his letter to the Philippians. He reminded them — and also you — that joy is based on a disciple’s relationship with Me and a disciple’s assurance of a future with Me, not on circumstances. The Philippians were getting bogged down in church arguments and life’s difficult situations. They were losing the joy of being the Father’s precious children. They were forgetting the peace they could have in being My disciples. They were letting their assurance of life forever with Me slip from their hearts and instead they were focusing on the squabbles in their church and the hostility of their culture against them.

To help the Philippians change their wrong focus, Paul wrote the words you find in the two sets of verses below. The first set is near the beginning of the letter and the second, near the end. Each set of verses focuses on joy in the face of difficult times. Both are reminders that circumstances shouldn’t determine a disciple’s joy. A believer’s faith in Me and future with Me should determine his or her joy and peace!

The first set of verses shared Paul’s personal situation in prison. His goal was to glorify Me in his body whatever happened — whether released to minister to the Philippians again or martyred because of his faith and loyalty to Me. No matter what happened — prison, torture, martyrdom, or release — Paul refused to let his hard circumstances steal away his abiding joy.

“I will continue to rejoice,” Paul proclaimed. He rejoiced because of his faith that the Philippians’ prayers and the power of the Holy Spirit would bring deliverance. He was confident of his deliverance from prison. Either he would be delivered from prison and released to serve the Philippians and others, or he would be delivered from prison through death to share in My presence forever. No matter what happened, his faith in Me and his future with Me gave him a deep and abiding peace that allowed him to rejoice! I want you to have that kind of peace because of your faith in Me and because of your confidence in a glorious future with Me.

The second set of verses occurs near the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He gave the Philippians very practical instruction on how to experience both the “the peace of God” and “the God of peace.” This “peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding” would be the foundation for their joy regardless of their circumstances.

No matter what happened in their lives, Paul wanted the Philippians to know that they would never be abandoned. He promised that My abiding presence would always be with them: “The Lord is ever present with us.”

With this knowledge, they should rejoice! They needed to make rejoicing a key part of their Christian lifestyle. Their rejoicing would help open the door for their gentleness to be displayed. Their anxieties could be released. Their prayers could be offered with confidence. Their focus should shift to lovely things. Their lives were to emulate Paul’s life as they obeyed his teaching.

Faith in Me and assurance of a future with Me lead to rejoicing. This joy leads to living a life of gentleness, release from anxiety, confidence in prayer, proper focus in life, and obedience. This lifestyle leads to peace that empowers faith and assurance. This peace leads to more rejoicing, which reinforces your life of peace. This peace and joy form a powerful cycle of grace that Paul both demonstrated and taught to the Philippians. I want this to be your lifestyle, too.

Verses to Live

What is going to dictate your joy and your outlook on life? Will it be your circumstances or will it be your faith in Me and your future with Me? In the verses below, Paul made clear what his choice was and what the Philippians’ choice should be. Be blessed today as you read these words of grace and truth.

So what do we do then? Listen. What matters is that in every way, regardless of the motives — whether pure or shady — the great story of the Anointed is a cause for joy. I will continue to rejoice because I know that through your encouragement and prayers and through the help of the Spirit of Jesus the Anointed, I will soon be released from this dark place. I don’t expect that dishonor and shame will plague me in any way, but I do hope that I will continue to be able to speak freely and courageously about Jesus, and that now and forever the Anointed One will be glorified and placed above all else through this body of mine — whether I live or die. For my life is about the Anointed and Him alone. And my death, when that comes, will mean great gain for me. So, if it’s His will that I go on serving here, my work will be fruitful for the message. I honestly wouldn’t know how or what to choose; I would be hard-pressed to decide. I lean toward leaving this world to be with the Anointed One because I can only think that would be much better. To stay in this body of flesh — even with all its pains and weaknesses — would best serve your needs. Now that I think of it, I am sure of this: I would prefer to remain to share in the progress and joy of your growing belief. When I return to you, we will celebrate Jesus the Anointed even more.

(Philippians 1:18-26)

Most of all, friends, always rejoice in the Lord! I never tire of saying it: Rejoice! Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me — do it — and the God of peace will walk with you.

(Philippians 4:4-9)

Response in Prayer

O Father, thank You! I rejoice knowing that my future is tied to Jesus. I rejoice knowing that I will never be forsaken. I rejoice knowing that no matter what my circumstances are, I can find Your peace. Be glorified in me, O God. May what I think, say, and do today and each subsequent day be pleasing to You and bring You the honor and glory due You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.