While in prison Paul learned that there were some in the area who, while preaching the gospel, did it for the wrong reasons. For one thing, they were enjoying the limelight far too much. Beyond that they thought that having to play second fiddle would really bother Paul. But it didn’t. In fact it was a cause for celebration. He exclaimed, “Because of this I rejoice,” and then added, “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice!” (Philippians 1:18.) But that the gospel was being preached in spite of his imprisonment wasn’t the only reason for his rejoicing. He also rejoiced because, as a result of the prayers of believers and the help of the Spirit, it would all work out for his deliverance (vs. 19). And that deliverance was more than just getting out of jail; it included the final vindication of the cause to which he had so completely given himself. It would have been impossible to suppress rejoicing in view of what was happening.
In simple terms, joy has little or nothing to do with the situation in which it breaks out. It is not conditioned by circumstance. Difficulties can’t muzzle it. To grasp what God is doing in the world and that his victory is certain, is bound to make the believer joyful. I can picture Paul, full of joy in an otherwise gloomy prison cell. All around him were criminals who could hardly believe what was going on right there before their eyes. “Sane people,” they say, “don’t get swept away by joy when locked up.” But Paul did. As we said, joy doesn’t depend on what is going on at that moment in one’s life.
There is a lesson here. Generally speaking, our emotional life is determined to a great deal by circumstances. And that’s how we’re made. We hear good news and we smile; bad news and we frown. But since salvation means to be forgiven and restored to a relationship with our heavenly Father who is the source of all joy – in view of that, a face marred by sadness or disapproval is strangely out of place. Once again, joy is a state of the soul – it is not conditioned by exterior factors. Paul was joyful because, even in jail, he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that after this brief span of time we call life, lay an eternity of delight. On the way to your wedding you may be discouraged for the moment by a flat time, but the real joy of the occasion is bothered in no way. You know, of course, that we are the “bride of Christ” heading to the marriage feast. Hey, forget the flat tire