There is a “contagious joy” that overcomes the flesh. This thought permeated the reading of Acts 16 and Philippians as I feasted on it numerous times with a prayerful heart before the Lord. Nehemiah gives us insight into the believer’s strength. Paul lives it out for us in the midst of persecution and trials. Paul’s ability to rejoice despite the darkness of the inner prison cell, the open wounds on his back, and knowledge of false teachers distorting the gospel, makes his joy in Christ infectiously contagious.
A jailer desires it. The Philippians seek to imitate it. Anyone desiring to be released from captivity of the flesh must discover it. It was revealed to me that before the hardships of real life come at Paul, he knows Christ in such an intimate way that he experiences enormous pleasure and satisfaction “in Him.” Paul’s joy in Christ provides the magnitude of strength necessary for him to say that if he lives he receives more of Christ! If he dies he simply gains Christ! (This attitude is one of my goals for biblical change. If it kills me, I gain Christ!)
Personally, there have been a few times I was somewhat “prepared” when life came at me. During such times I have known the “rare and wonderful species of joy that flourish only in the rainy atmosphere of suffering,” as I read from the pen of John Piper years ago. I find that if a trial is short-lived I seem to fare better than long trials that drain my joy and strength to endure. More and more, however, I’ve learned to lift up my soul to the Lord, delight in His presence and learn to be completely satisfied, like a weaned child (Psalm 131:2). The immense joy derived in experiencing the Lord Jesus through worship sustains me when I am betrayed, persecuted, misunderstood, or tempted.
Sustained joy is what I see and desire while pondering Paul’s misfortunes. More than the ability to rejoice in all things, or the strength to endure trials, however, I am attracted to the profound defeat of flesh I see in Paul as I read Acts 16 and Philippians. May the joy of the Lord be contagious and highly potent for overcoming sin so that I “put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). There is a contagious joy found in Christ alone that overcomes. This certainly provides reason to rejoice with Paul!