September 28 I Monday
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” —Philippians 1:1-2
Some of Paul’s greatest revelations were borne out of hardship. He wrote four epistles, known as the Prison Epistles––Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon––while he was imprisoned in Rome. Yet, what is striking in the four short chapters of Philippians is Paul’s overflowing amount of joy.
Why was Paul overflowing with joy even while he was in prison and his impending doom is looming around the corner? We find the answer in how Paul understands his identity. Paul begins his letter to the church of Philippi by saying, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:1). Embedded in this phrase is the reason why Paul can find joy, even in imprisonment: because he sees himself as a servant of Christ Jesus.
There are two words for “servant” in the original Greek. One of the terms for “servant” would have been equivalent to our modern-day definition of an “employee,” a servant who could offer their services to their master but was free to come and go as they pleased. This kind of “servant” could offer their services for a season and if the master was not pleased with the job, the servant could go work elsewhere. The other Greek term for “servant” is doulos. A doulos could also be translated “slave.” A doulos had no rights and could not come and go as they pleased because they are bound to their master. They are to do what the master wants when the master wants it done.
In Paul’s opening to the Philippians, we find that he uses the Greek word doulos for “servant.” Paul starts his letter by reminding us of his perspective towards the Christian life. Paul is effectively saying, “I am not a prisoner in Rome because the Emperor wills it so. I am not a prisoner of unfortunate circumstances. I belong to Christ. I am His slave and I am His captive in this season of my life. It is about His will, His desires and His goals for my life.” Paul is not placed in confinement because man wills it to be, he is there because his Master wills it to be. Altogether, Paul recognizes that his life is not his own and the joy of the Lord is his strength in these moments.
Upon reflection, do we live our lives with that same perspective? Do we realize that our life is not in fact about our desires, our will and our wishes? We are not the captain of our own ship. We are not the master of our own destiny. Instead, joyful surrender happens when we place our faith in Christ, and we take up the same job description––we are all a doulos of Christ.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for giving us Paul as an example of what it means to be a doulos of You. I lay down my own desires, will and wishes in Your hands. Lord have Your way with my life. Amen!