Philippians 1:15–18 – Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
The biggest person in history is Jesus Christ. The biggest holiday in history is the celebration of his birth every Christmas.
No one is certain when Jesus was born. So, early Christians took a day they already had off for the pagan holiday of Saturnalia and redeemed it as the day to throw Jesus a birthday party.
What we do know is that a young woman named Mary had the usual suffering that accompanies pregnancy but found all her troubles worthwhile as she was filled with joy holding baby Jesus.
Curiously, the Bible often uses the concept of birth and birth pains to explain how suffering and joy coexist in the life of a Christian. This analogy helps to explain the experience of Paul who writes to the book of Philippians from jail. Away from friends, with no spouse or child, his future uncertain, and critics mocking him publicly and positioning to overtake his ministry, Paul speaks of God-given joy some 19 times in 104 verses. Paul’s joy is despite suffering physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, financially, and legally. Furthermore, Paul’s suffering has no end in sight as he is unsure if he will be killed, stuck in jail, or released back into the world that had beaten him, harassed him, stoned him, left him for dead, and whipped him until his scarred back looked like his Savior’s.
Paul’s example is that suffering is part of the Christian life. When we suffer we have just two options. One, we can waste it, becoming bitter against others, angry with God, and excusing ungodly behavior. Two, we can invest it to learn more about Jesus’ suffering, become more like Jesus through suffering, and minister to other people who are also suffering.
How is joy possible amidst suffering? Suffering comes from the world, and joy comes down to the world as a gift from God. The greater your suffering, the greater your anointing with God’s joy can be as God wants His joy to always be bigger than your pains and problems. Lastly, this explains why some 18 times the New Testament mentions joy and suffering in the same verse such as 2 Corinthians 6:10: “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”. God wants the pain of your suffering to be like Mary’s birth pain which brought forth supernatural joy this holiday season.
Would the people who know you best say you put more focus on sorrow or joy in your life?