Unshackled Joy

by Pastor Bob Myers

“Jail Cell Grace” is the title of the first message of the new sermon series on the New Testament Letter of Paul to the Philippians. It almost feels like Paul is quarantined and yet finds a way to connect.   

I prayerfully selected this book months ago, and when Covid-19 broke out, I re-examined it and re-read it and I was powerfully struck by how relevant it was to this season of church life.

Paul is in jail. He’s not languishing in prison, but he is longing for the company of the church he loves. He is cut off from worship and congregational ministry. It appears a horrible limitation, but out of that limitation came one of the New Testament’s most cherished letters. The letter itself is less than three typewritten pages, and contains only 104 verses, but many of those verses are familiar to most Christians and widely quoted and applied.

One of the best ways to study any book of the Bible is paragraph by paragraph. This series will savor each passage, sometimes breaking one paragraph into even small sections to drill deeply into scripture and draw out the life-changing truths. I encourage you to participate in livestream with an open Bible and a notebook and to read and re-read the letter each week. 

Christian joy is not based on circumstances. The Counterfeit of joy is circumstantial happiness.  But when suffering strikes, circumstances can make joy elusive. This makes the joy found in Philippians all the more remarkable and distinctive.


Paul is not in good circumstances. He is cut off from relationships. He can’t participate with his favorite church. Yet, Paul finds a way to rejoice even in the face of possible martyrdom. He is bracketed with enough uncertainty that he can’t plan for tomorrow, yet the letter rings out with peace, surrender, joy, and mission.


This makes Philippians especially suited to this time of quarantines and social distancing.  Do you need a basis of joy, mission, and connection that does not depend upon your circumstances?  I think we all do in these days.   

And there’s no better place to be equipped for it than studying this great book. When we finally come out of this unique season of Covid-19, I pray that the transforming power in Philippians gets written deep into our hearts, evidenced by joy, hope, and a clearer sense of unifying mission.    

If God’s grace and joy can reverberate centuries later out of a jail cell, how much more can God’s Word bring us the joy we need?