If anyone had reason to be anxious, it was he. Let your imagination transport you two thousand years back in time. Envision an old man as he gazes out the window of a Roman prison.
Paul is about sixty years old, thirty years a Christian, and there is scarcely a seaport on the Mediterranean he doesn’t know.
See how stooped he is? All angles and curves. Blame his bent back on the miles traveled and the beatings endured. He received thirty-nine lashes on five different occasions. He was beaten with rods on three. Scars spiderweb across his skin like bulging veins. He was once left for dead. He has been imprisoned, deserted by friends and coworkers, and has endured shipwrecks, storms, and starvation.
He’s probably half-blind, squinting just to read (Gal. 4:15). What’s more, he is awaiting trial before the Roman emperor. Nero has learned to curry the favor of the Roman citizens by killing believers, of which Paul is the best known.
As if the oppression from the empire weren’t enough, Paul also bears the weight of newborn churches. The members are bickering. False preachers are preaching out of pride and envy (Phil. 1:15–17).
So much for the easy life of an apostle.
His future is as gloomy as his jail cell.
Yet to read his words, you’d think he’d just arrived at a Jamaican beach hotel. His letter to the Philippians bears not one word of fear or complaint. Not one! He never shakes a fist at God; instead, he lifts his thanks to God and calls on his readers to do the same.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Paul’s prescription for anxiety begins with a call to rejoice.
Paul used every tool in the box on this verse, hoping to get our attention. First, he employed a present imperative tense so his readers would hear him say, continually, habitually rejoice! And if the verb tense wasn’t enough, he removed the expiration date. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (emphasis mine). And if perchance the verb tense and always were inadequate, he repeated the command: “Again I will say, rejoice!” (emphasis mine).
Max Lucado, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017).
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