My favorite book of the Bible is Philippians. It’s often called the “Epistle of Joy” because some form of the words “joy” or “rejoice” is used more than a dozen times in the book. It’s remarkable that Paul wrote about joy while held prisoner in Rome.
About what did Paul rejoice – despite his difficult circumstance?
What caused Paul to celebrate?
Paul found joy in his relationship with the Philippian church – his partners in Gospel ministry (Philippians 1:4, 4:1). Paul celebrated that he and others continued to share the Gospel (Philippians 1:18, 2:17, 19) – even when they had bad motives.
And Paul rejoiced ultimately “in the Lord,” in His relationship with Jesus (Philippians 3:1, 4:4, 10), about whom he wrote:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
– Philippians 1:21, ESV
… I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, …
– Philippians 3:8-9a, ESV
Jesus was Paul’s ultimate joy.
Paul celebrated His relationship with Jesus above all things. Paul wanted more than anything to know Christ, gain Him, and be found in Him.
Philippians 3:8 is my personal life verse. Because no matter what happens in my life, I want my ultimate joy to rest in my relationship with Jesus. I want to pursue Him with my whole heart, no matter what obedience or difficult circumstances help me grow closer to Him.
I want to continually celebrate that I know Jesus more intimately tomorrow than I do today. I want to celebrate more and more that I have Jesus as my always and forever love.
The disciples celebrated, too, not long after an Easter morning nearly 2,000 years ago:
And (Jesus) led (the disciples) out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
– Luke 24:50-53, ESV (emphasis mine)
Let’s celebrate that Jesus conquered sin and death on the Cross! And let’s celebrate the resurrection. The resurrection means that the Cross completed God’s rescue plan while ensuring our own resurrection. What joy! What cause for celebration!
And let’s celebrate that we have the immense privilege of sharing this Good News with others.
Most importantly, let’s celebrate that we can know Jesus personally, intimately, and eternally. Let’s celebrate our friendship with Jesus more and more.
And let’s celebrate the good – though sometimes difficult – situations God brings to bear in our lives – those circumstances that often help us fall more in love with our Lord.
I, for one, have two more things to celebrate on April 1 as I bless God this Easter.
One is that God has given me another year of life on this earth which I celebrate annually on April 1. Yes, I am a fool! And, no, I won’t tell you how old I turn on April 1 (although it includes a 0!).
A second is that April 1 marks the last day of my honeymoon! Which means I have been married a bit more than a week to Bill Zechmann. Now that is cause for celebration! We are thrilled that God brought us together after losing our spouses. I again thank you for your many prayers for a new life (and ministry) partner after the death of my dear Rick. My wedding to Bill is a resurrection of sorts for us – and we celebrate the love and resurrection of Jesus – and my birthday – April 1!
May God bless you abundantly this Easter. May He fill you with joy for His work on the Cross and for His resurrection. May you celebrate that you can share this joy with others. May you rejoice that you yourself know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom (he has) sent” (John 17: 3, ESV). May you find a way to celebrate in all your circumstances – both tough and easy, those of plenty and those of want.
May you find deep joy this Easter because you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, compared to whom all things are rubbish.
Lorraine Potter Zechmann
Former President and CEO