Most scholars believe that Paul probably wrote this letter to the Philippians while he was imprisoned in Rome between 60-63 AD. Even though he was in prison and his circumstances weren’t the best, his attitude shows that he wasn’t in the least bit discouraged.
First, there were some who started preaching the gospel with the intent of increasing Paul’s suffering in prison (since this was the reason why he was imprisoned in the first place). To this, Paul says:
What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…
Christ’s glory was what Paul lived for, and he wasn’t concerned in the least that Jesus wouldn’t be glorified in his imprisonment and death. He was convinced God would glorify Himself no matter what:
It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.
It was also a strong possibility that Paul wouldn’t be released, but even in the face of possible execution, Paul had no reason to fear because either death or freedom seemed good to him:
I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you
Nothing, absolutely nothing, was able to waver Paul’s faith in God. He considered everything, even his suffering a joy:
But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul’s joy, which was truly infectious to read, was founded totally in who God was. Paul knew that God offered him everything he ever needed and wanted:
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy…
More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
I personally saw that Paul was testifying to his joy and of God’s goodness in order to build up to a climax, which comes in chapter four:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice…
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So basically, the climax of Paul’s argument built to his final command to the Philippians, which was for them to rejoice and continue growing in Christ.
I know these verses are familiar to many Christians and therefore it can be challenging to find transformation in them. But studying the whole book verse by verse helped me apply this command in a new way.
I am definitely a worrier. I especially grow anxious when I’m presented with certain challenges in life, big and small. So when Paul commands to rejoice and not worry, it always seemed a bit easier to say than to do.
But Paul’s argument and testimony in the first three chapters reminded me of my own life and of how many times God has been faithful to me. He always gives me wisdom and strength to overcome my challenges. He never fails me. He always brings about peace and understanding despite the temptation to live in the fear that surrounds me.
This truth has helped me significantly in the past few weeks to stop worrying every time I presented with an obstacle and to instead trust God. This is why Paul was always able to rejoice, because his faith was so built up in God that worrying about his life didn’t even seem like a temptation.
Reading the rest of the Bible and experiencing God’s trustworthiness personally has helped me get to this point in my faith where worrying becomes less and less. I never knew a worry-free life that Jesus commanded was possible, but it is!
I like to think of this last verse as Paul’s climatic testimony and praise of God’s goodness, and the truth I find repeating in my head since studying his letter:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.