Day 18: Triumph of joy
A LoveSingapore 40.Day prayer and fast devotional, following 2022's theme of To Live Is Christ: A Journey Through the Book of Philippians.
LoveSingapore // July 18, 2022, 12:01 am
Bible reading for 40.DAY 2022 | Philippians 2:17–18
Paul hopes to be acquitted and reunited with his beloved Philippians (Philippians 1:25). But things could take a turn for the worse.
Death is gain for him. But his execution by the emperor could result in a setback for the faith.
Christianity was not yet legally recognised or protected by the state, like Judaism and other religions. Therefore, a guilty verdict for Paul might encourage a greater persecution of the Church. This would be even more likely in a Roman Colony like Philippi.
Should this happen, Paul would see both his and the Philippians’ suffering as a joint offering of worship as well as an occasion for double rejoicing – his and theirs (Philippians 2:17-18).
This is a profound revelation that few have grasped or noticed. That suffering with and for Christ is a deeper expression of worship than singing our favourite songs with special effects.
Joy, suffering, and worship are not mutually exclusive but mutually inclusive.
Joy, suffering, and worship are not mutually exclusive but mutually inclusive. Anyone who suffers for Christ and offers this to God will discover that there is no greater joy on earth, and no greater cause for rejoicing.
Joy enabled Christ to endure the Cross and defy its shame (Hebrews 12:2). Joy enabled Peter and John to take a beating for Christ and rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:40-41).
Joy enabled Paul and Silas to sing hymns under torture in the Philippi jail until earth shook, chains snapped, and prison doors swung wide open (Acts 16:20-26). Joy enabled the holy martyrs to face hungry lions without fear, so astonishing pagan spectators that some of them embraced Christ on the spot.
Joy enabled the Early Church to triumph over wave after wave of state-sponsored persecution until Jesus Christ became the Lord of the empire that crucified Him.
Joy is an existential necessity for all human life. The Christian faith could not have survived persecution without joy. Because without joy it would not have been the true faith. How then can we live without joy?
It is the joy of the Lord that helps us through every grief and pain and holds back the dread and despair that stalks every human heart. “Above everything else, joy is the distinctive mark of the believer in Christ” (Gordon Fee).
“We find our peace and joy in this life, not by avoiding sufferings, but in bearing them humbly and patiently. Those who suffer best enjoy the most peace. Such persons are masters of themselves, lords of the world, with Christ for their friend, and heaven for their reward” (Thomas A Kempis | Adapted).
1 Be glad. The Singapore Church is spared the tyranny of state-sponsored persecution. In contrast to many other nations, we enjoy an exceptional degree of religious freedom. We are governed by religious policies that are just and wise. This is evidence of divine favour for a Gospel-purpose. May we never take this blessing for granted. Humbly acknowledge God with holy joy and deep gratitude:
- One, our faith is legally recognised. The Constitution grants every person “the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it … Every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs; to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law”.
- Two, our faith is legally protected. The Religious Harmony Act states that “followers of different religions should exercise moderation and tolerance towards each other and their beliefs, and not instigate religious enmity or hatred”.
2 Be alert. Messy geopolitics in an increasingly volatile world make Singapore highly vulnerable. Foreign influence and interference are real and present dangers. Things can take a turn for the worse. Think Ukraine. The peace, prosperity, and progress we enjoy today could be gone tomorrow. We must take nothing for granted. We must pray like never before. As we hope for the best, let us prepare for the worst. When troubles hit us on every side, may we take this as an invitation to become more like Christ. And count it all joy. Pray.
Suffering for Christ is a more powerful witness than any word we can ever speak.
3 Be ready. Suffering for Christ is a more powerful witness than any word we can ever speak. We don’t expect to be martyred in Singapore. But pray that we will patiently and joyfully endure what Church Fathers have called a living martyrdom: In Christ’s name, deny self. Die to self. Graciously forbear with all who slight you, snub you, sideline you, cut your throat, and stab you in the back – even if they be fellow Christians. To live is Christ. Pray the Word: When [Christ] was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). Bless those who insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me (Matthew 5:11).
4 Be willing. Suffering for Christ is a far deeper expression of worship than any song we can ever sing. Confess: Singing is but one expression of worship. The essence of worship is sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2). Pray: Lord Jesus, as You made Your death an offering to God, and as Paul made his martyrdom an offering to You, so help us to make the most of every trial to distinguish ourselves as living sacrifices to You. We pour out the tears of our past, present, and future on the altar of heaven. We rejoice in You amidst our suffering. For the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
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