(The following is the May 27 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read Acts 16 and pay close attention to verses 16-25.)
Our joy as Christians does not depend on our outward circumstances. Instead, it depends on our relationship with Jesus Christ. No New Testament believer demonstrated this better than Paul.
On one occasion, an angry group dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities. “The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail” (vv. 22-23) and “put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks” (v. 24).
How did Paul and Silas react to this beating and being thrown into prison and locked in chains? “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (v. 25). Despite myriad reasons to bemoan their situation, they prayed and sang praises to God. Their actions drew the attention of fellow prisoners surprised by such behavior.
Elsewhere, Paul told about his multiple hardships of whippings, beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, dangers from people and nature, hunger, thirst, and other daily pressures (2 Cor. 11:24-29). Yet he also told the Philippians, “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13).
Paul did not allow his joy or witness for Christ to suffer because of mere outward circumstances. He showed that the impact of knowing Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit is more inwardly profound and life-changing than anything outward can destroy. May it be so with us as well.
What are the most challenging circumstances you have faced? What was your relationship with Christ like at the time? How did the presence or absence of knowing Christ impact your joy? How differently would you expect to face difficult times today?