Imprisonment plus isolation plus a death sentence equals . . . joy? Wait, that can’t be right, can it? In this message, Dr. Stanley examines the apostle Paul’s triumphant joy in the face of dire circumstances. It may seem absurd, but as Christians, we’re enabled by the Holy Spirit to experience overflowing joy even when our lives only seem to be adding up to despair. Explore what it means to trade in superficial happiness for steadfast joy. For more messages from Charles Stanley, including this week’s broadcast, go to

Dr. Charles Stanley: When you
are going through difficulties

and disappointments and trying
times in your life, how do you


What’s the difference in your
conduct, in your temperament,

even in your facial expressions?

When you’re going through a hard
time or when things are

just–just suite you fine?

What’s the difference?

Do you let the hard times get
you down?

Do you find yourself being less

Do you find yourself having a
hard time making decisions?

What upsets you?

Now, you say that you’ve trusted
Jesus Christ as your personal

Savior and your name is written
in The Lamb’s Book of Life and

you are a happy person.

But when things are not going
your way and you suffer real

disappointments or hurt or
physical pain, how do you


Does it absolutely wipe you out?

Does your disposition change to
the point that people say,

“Well, what happened to you?

I thought he was a Christian.

What’s all this about?”

Are you the same person when
things are going right and when

things are going wrong?

When you find yourself
disappointed and you want to

hang it up and walk away?

Whatever happened to your faith?

Whatever happened to your
relationship with Christ?

That relationship doesn’t

Maybe the way you express it
changes a little bit, but that’s

because, maybe, you’ve never
distinguished between happiness

and joy.

What’s the difference?

Well, when Paul wrote the book
of Philippians, only four

chapters, it’s interesting what
you find.

In these four chapters, over and
over again.

In fact, one out of every seven
verses, Paul speaks of joy or he

speaks of joyful.

That is, here he is in prison,
knowing that probably he’s going

to face death before long,
sometimes chained to a Roman

soldier, and his response, think
about this, writing this epistle

and being in prison.

Every seven verses of over a
hundred verses, is all about joy

and just–what did he know that
most Christians do not know?

Because we usually think about
difficult times and hard times

as a time to be sort of sad and

And we say that God understands
and things will get better.

But until it does, I’m just
going to pout.

That’s not somebody who knows
the joy of the Lord.

So, I want you to turn to
Philippians, if you will.

And I want us to just read these
first few verses here, in the

fourth chapter, to get us

He says, “Therefore, my beloved
brethren whom I long see, my joy

and crown, in this way stand
firm in the Lord, my beloved.

I urge,” and he names a couple
of persons here, “Euodia and

Syntyche to live in harmony in
the Lord.

Indeed,” he says, “true
companion, I ask you also to

help these women who have shared
my struggle in the cause of the

gospel, together with Clement
also and the rest of my fellow

workers, whose names are in the
book of life.”

And so, he goes on with that,
and then he says, “Rejoice in

the Lord always, again, I will
say to you, rejoice!” in the


What does it take for you to
have joy in your life?

And when I think about where
Paul was, he had all the reason

in the world to be miserably
unhappy, in a Roman prison,

probably cold in the winter and
very hot in the summer, knowing

that more than likely, his
future had already been

determined, that he’d probably
lose his life.

But somehow, he writes, in those
conditions, this joyous epistle

that continually talks about joy
and about the relationship with

the Lord that doesn’t fit his

And so, we’d have to ask
ourselves the question: well

now, if I were in that
situation, how would I feel?

Would I be happy?
Would I have joy in my heart?

Would I be content?

Would I be talking about all the
good things that God had done?

Or would I be complaining?

The apostle Paul knew how to
handle his circumstances.

And when I think about that, I
think about he didn’t just have

joy, he had triumphant joy.

Joy that overcomes the
difficulty, the hardships, and

disappointments in life.

And so, as we think about that,
let’s think about distinguishing

between joy and happiness.

A lot of people say, “Well,
I’m–I just want to be happy in


Well, happiness depends upon

Happiness depends upon maybe
what you have, maybe what has

you, and who you are, and all
the rest.

But joy has something to do with
the inner person.

Here’s the difference: my
happiness depends upon my

circumstances, my joy depends
upon a relationship.

That relationship with Jesus
Christ can sustain me in any

difficulty, hardship, and trial;
happiness cannot.

There is a strong difference
between happiness and the sense

of joy that the apostle Paul

And, as I think about it, I
think about joy is a God


Happiness is just a
light-hearted, worldly feeling.

Lot of things make people happy
and unhappy.

But when you’ve trusted Jesus
Christ as your savior, and the

Holy Spirit seals you once and
for all as a child of God, and

you know that can never change,
it doesn’t make any difference

what we face, what valleys we
walk through.

Deep down inside, there’s an
overwhelming sense of joy,

contentment, that we can’t even

And when Paul wrote this
epistle, that’s what he was


His future looked very, very

In fact, it looked deadly dim.

So, he could not look around and
say, I’m happy for this reason

or I’m sad for that.

But he didn’t have his mind on
his circumstances.

And I think, oftentimes, we who
are believers, we allow

circumstances to determine our
disposition: how we look,

whether we smile, do not smile.

And we get trapped by

Godly people do not live by
their circumstances, they live

by their relationship with Jesus
Christ, sealed forever as a

child of God, and nobody can
break that.

A person may get in prison or
out of prison.

And Paul knew that where
he–watch this, Paul knew that

where he was, was not going to
determine where he was going to


He was going to be in the
presence of the living God.

And until then, the joy of the
Lord he intended to express.

So, when you think about peace
in your life and joy in your

life, what do you think the
source of it is?

And isn’t it interesting that
people can go through just a

little bit of trauma, a little
bit of heartache, and they just

get all out of shape.

And there are people who can go
through the most trying,

difficult times, but there’s an
undergirding, there’s a sense of

foundation, there’s something
that’s immovable on the inside,

and Paul knew exactly what that

So, it’s pretty evident from
this epistle that he knew

something that most people don’t
know, ’cause think about it for

a moment.

He’s in prison, sometimes
chained to a Roman soldier and

with no real hope of ever
getting out, and he’s discovered

that some of his fellow workers
are preaching against him and

falsely accusing him, so that’s
another reason for him to


People that he probably won to
Christ, some of the pastors that

he talked to, now they’re
preaching against him.

So how do you deal with that?

Then likewise, having the
missionary spirit that he had,

and think about all the places
he went.

He could no longer travel.

He could no longer share his
heart with multitudes of people.

He couldn’t go from one part of
the Roman Empire to the other

establishing churches.

Now he’s all closed in, shut in
to a cold, deathly Roman prison.

How do you have joy in that kind
of a circumstance?

How could he possibly sing?

Now, I don’t know what kind of
songs the Apostle Paul sang.

But think about this, can you
sing when the bottom dropped


Can you sing when your friends
have walked away?

Can you sing when there’s no
more money?

Can you sing when you cannot see
your way clear?

Can you sing when you’ve lost
your job?

You say, “Well, that’s not


It isn’t natural.

But you’re not a natural person.

When you trusted Jesus Christ as
your Savior, the Holy Spirit of

God came into your life and
sealed you as a child of God,

sealed you with the same Holy
Spirit that He sealed Paul with.

That’s the reason Paul could sit
in prison, talked to soldiers,

knowing in his life that one of
these days he’s going to lose

his life.

But I want you to notice
something that’s missing in this

passage of Scripture.

There’s something in this–in
these four chapters, something

is missing.

You think, “Well, did Paul
forget something?”

No, but there’s something

And what’s missing?

No mention of his sorrow over
being there, no mention on how

bad the circumstances were, and
no complaining about his


Now, most of us, that would’ve
been our conversation.

“I don’t know why I’m in here.

I wish He’d get me out of here.”

And Paul is thanking God that
the next Roman soldier

who’s–comes in to be his
partner for a session, he’s

thanking God for his opportunity
to sit in the cold Roman prison,

or a hot one ‘pending on the
weather, and share the truth of

the gospel.

Just think about what those men
walked away with.

Now, they were lost and didn’t
believe anything, but by the

time the Apostle Paul had three
or four sessions with them, how

could they not believe because
there was no human explanation

for Paul writing this awesome
epistle, all these verses, talk

about joy and rejoicing in the

Because he knew something.

But listen to this carefully, he
knew the same thing that you and

I know, and we have it all
written down.

Paul was listening to God speak
to him.

We have it all written down.

And so, we know why, and what,
and what went before and what

went afterwards.

And somehow, he had this
unshakeable sense of joy.

And in this particular epistle,
and he wrote many epistles, this

is the one that talks about joy,
confidence, and assurance above

all the rest.

But you don’t see any
complaining, but rather an

explanation of his awesome sense
of joy.

So, what’s the source of it?

Here’s what it is.

The source of his joy was his
personal, intimate relationship

with Jesus.

Can’t be anything else.

Now, watch this.

You have the same privilege the
Apostle Paul had a couple of

thousand years ago.

You have the same privilege.

Jesus hasn’t changed.

And it’s his plan that wherever
you and I are, He wants to be in

the process of being in us,
which He is through the Holy

Spirit, but being through us to
other people.

That’s what the Apostle Paul was

He was sharing himself with

And when you think about his joy
was unshakeable.

He was still rejoicing in the
Lord and praising him while he

was in prison.

So, let me ask you, when things
get really tough for you, do you

go to prayer and tell God about
them and tell Him why things

ought to get better and claim a
few answers to prayer?

Do you ever rejoice in the Lord?

It took me a–I have to admit,
it took me a long time to

get that out of the pages into
my heart, to rejoice in the Lord

and to thank God when things
aren’t going well.

Listen, these are the times we
grow the most.

These are the situations and
circumstances that grow us up.

This is where get a glimpse of
what the Christian life is all


Christian life is not all about
everything going our way and

people being kind and nice to us
and being sure we have

everything we want, and this,
that, and the other.

The Christian life is all about
the Lord God being what we need

when He’s the only one that can
meet our need.

And when He said count it all
joy, that’s exactly what we


Now, the choir can sing all
about that.

They do a fantastic job of
singing all about the joy of

Jesus, and the power, and all
the rest.

And we love to hear it.

But can you honestly say that
you have the joy of the Lord in

your heart?

You say, “Well, I’m happy about

No, that’s not the same thing as

Happiness comes and goes.

Joy that’s of God becomes the
foundation of our life every

single day, that no matter what
happens, listen, that foundation

doesn’t move.

And I want to say to people who
believe you’re saved today and

you can be lost next week and
next month, and this is taught

by some pastors, and some of
them still teaching it.

It’s just pure error.

How can I have confidence and
joy in my heart when I could

lose my salvation?

You say, “But people sin against
God, and you mean that even if

they sin against God, they don’t
lose their salvation?”

Let me ask you a question.

Have you sinned since you were


You haven’t lost your salvation.

What do you call that?

G-R-A-C-E, grace.

That is God’s awesome grace to

And so, when you think about
this kind of joy, this kind of

joy is a spiritual gift.

The fruit of the spirit is what?

Love, peace, right.

Love, joy, peace, goodness, and
all the rest.

That’s the gift of the Holy

When you were saved, the Spirit
of God came into your life to

seal you and indwell you and to
do what?

To–here’s what he began to do.

He began to overflow through you
who He is: love, joy, peace,

goodness, kindness, and on we go
with the gifts of the Spirit.

You, watch this, you have the
fountain, you have the fountain

of the Spirit of God within you
overflowing constantly.

No matter what you’re facing in
life, He’s there.

And we talk about the Holy
Spirit, but think about Him as a

fountain ever flowing.

Now, here’s what happens.

When you sin against God,

And what happens?

Watch this, He doesn’t leave
you, but you can’t experience

the joy of the Spirit of God
living in sin.

And so, you have the fountain on
the inside.

That’s the Holy Spirit.

So, somebody says, “Are you

You’re better than that.

You’re filled with the Spirit of
God, and He’s living within you,

working through you every day.

And I wonder how often we stop
to just thank you.

Thank you, Lord; thank you,
thank you, thank you, dear

Jesus, for living in me, living
though me, and doing what you

promised to do.

And so, here’s the promise of
God based on His Word, not my


There’ll be feelings in your
life that you think, “God, You

must be a thousand miles away.”

No, He’s right where He’s always
been, living on the inside

of you.

But we’re the ones who forget.

We allow feelings to overshadow,
overcome this awesome reality of

God living inside of you, living
through you in order to express

who He–watch this.

In other words, when you look at
the moon, for example, you can

think about God being the
Creator of the moon, how

beautiful it is and so forth, or
the sun or whatever it might be.

You can look around.

But what’s the most important

It isn’t what God’s created,
it’s who God is.

He–when you think about this,
God ordained and chose to live

within us to manifest Himself,
His power, His joy, love, joy,

peace, goodness, and on we go.

And that’s what God wants within
each and every one of us.

Now, the only thing clogs that
up is sin.

Unbelief, for example, or
disobeying God just sorta–it

doesn’t do away with it, but it
sort of clogs it up.

You can’t live in sin and have
the joy of Jesus.

It doesn’t work.

And every once in a while, I’ll
meet somebody who says, “Well,

yes, I’m a Christian.”

And then the longer we talk and
I hear about what they’re into

and up to and who they’re with,
and I think, “Mm-mm, no.

You may have a little bit of
happiness coming and going, but

you don’t have the joy of Jesus,
or you wouldn’t be living this

kind of life.”

That’s who He is.

He’s living within us to do

To establish us; to make us
immovable in difficult, trying

times; to protect our faith; to
give us guidance and leadership;

to answer our prayers; to show
us the right way; Almighty God

living within us through His
Holy Spirit.

And so, the Spirit of God
enables us to live through

anything and everything

Doesn’t mean you won’t have

Doesn’t mean we won’t be in the
valley at times.

Doesn’t mean we’ll always do the
right thing, but He’ll bring us

through it.

So, when we say the fruit of the
Spirit, that is the overflow of

the Holy Spirit within us, is
not only love, but there’s joy.

And when that joy is in your
heart, no matter what you’re

facing, that’s the joy of
the Lord, not the joy of our

abilities and talents and
skills, but the joy of the Lord

God Himself.

And Paul writing this to
encourage them, to help them

understand that no matter what
they’re facing, that this joy is

realistic even in times of

And you know, I can remember a
pastor friend of mine, he was

much older than I was, but he
was confined to his bed.

He would call me every single
Saturday without fail to tell me

he’ll be praying for me the next

And then on Monday morning, he
would call me every Monday

morning to ask me how things

Now, he was confined to a bed,
and for a number of years, I

forget how many; probably seven,
eight, or nine, and so forth

before the Lord called him; he
was praying for me.

We forget how powerful the
prayers of someone who loves

you, concerned for you, cares
for you, wants the best for you,

they’re talking to the Heavenly
Father in your behalf.

We forget how awesome, how
awesomely powerful that is in a

person’s life.

And I can remember thinking
sometimes, “God, let–just let

him live as long as I’m living,
God, so he won’t ever stop

praying for me.”

Because I could sense it.

And I would go through some
difficult time during the week,

and you know what?

Without me calling him,
oftentimes he’d call me and ask

me how I was doing.

And I’d think, “Well, you called
me just at the right time.”

And the Apostle Paul, imagine
the people he must have prayed

for while he was in prison.

And when I think about, he knew
what they were going through

’cause he’d been there.

He knew how to pray for them.

And so I would ask you today, is
there any one person, any one

person in your life or in your
friendship, any one person that

you pray for every day?

Any one person?

You see, here’s the difference
between joy and happiness.

Happiness is based on
my–listen, based on my

condition or my desires or my
environment or my friends, or

many things.

Joy is based on relationship.

So, if you’re going to write
something down, you write it


Happiness is based on
conditions, whatever it might


Joy is based on relationship.

My conditions and situations and
circumstances change, every day

they change.

My relationship with Him does
not change.

It is an eternal relationship
because we are sealed with the

Holy Spirit of the Living God.

So, Paul could sit there with
those Roman soldiers and he had

a relationship with God that no
matter what happened, he would

one day be released from that.

It was his relationship.

It wasn’t his surroundings.

Everything surrounding him would
have brought him to despair and

a dismal existence.

But even in a Roman prison,
there was this awesome sense of

confidence and assurance.

Did he like his circumstances?

Certainly not.

But you see, watch this, our
relationship with God is not

dependent upon our

It’s dependent upon an intimate,
personal relationship that

started in your life when you
trusted Jesus Christ as your

personal Savior, even when you
were a little boy, a little

girl, or an adult.

So, that it’s not our condition
or our situation or our

circumstances, but rather our

Don’t forget that.

Your relationship to God
supersedes everything else.

Your circumstances may change
and will change, but not your

relationship to Him.

And I think he was thanking God
for that and he was thanking,

also, God for the privilege of

And just because we go through
hardship and pain and suffering

and trial, watch this, doesn’t
mean that God has moved one


Sealed by the Holy Spirit until
the day of redemption.

And when I think about that, how
can we rejoice when we’re

hurting because of physical pain
and so forth?

Well, several reasons, we can
rejoice because we have Him to

walk through it with us.

We’re not walking it by

He says, “I’ll never leave you
nor forsake you.”

A second reason, listen, He’s in
control of your circumstances.

That is a major issue.

He is in control of your

No matter who thinks they are,
He is in control of your


Thirdly, He’ll cause these times
to turn out for our good no

matter what.

When we understand what real joy
is like, we understand why

difficulty, hardship, and pain
are only temporary.

And then, there’s nothing that
can separate us from His love.

And when you think about all
these things, and I hope you’re

jotting them down, and we can
thank God for what He’s doing in


And I want to read a passage of
Scripture in first Peter.

This is not Paul’s writing, this
is Peter, but I love this

passage, and I love because
Peter also suffered.

But in first Peter beginning in
verse three the first chapter,

“Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, who

according to His great mercy has
caused us to be born again to a

living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ

from the dead,” period.

He could have stopped there, but
he didn’t.

In order that we might, “Obtain
an inheritance which is

imperishable,” we can’t lose it,
“undefiled,” it’s perfect, “and

will not fade away, reserved in
heaven for you, who,” speaking

of us, “are protected by the
power of God through faith for

our salvation, ready to be
revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice,
even though now for a little

while, if necessary, you’ve been
distressed by various trials, so

that the proof of your faith,
being more precious than gold

which is perishable, even though
tested by fire, may be found to

result in praise and glory and
honor at the coming of the Lord

Jesus Christ;” what an awesome
Word, “and though you have not

seen Him, you love Him, and
though you do not see Him now,

but believe in Him, you greatly
rejoice with joy inexpressible

and full of joy.”

What an awesome passage of
Scripture, and this is Peter.

Now, think about this.

I don’t know how often you read
the Bible.

I would like to think you read
it every day.

Now, I know everybody doesn’t.

But if you just want to stop and
make your life a little better,

just decide I’m going to sit
down quietly and I’m going to

read those four chapters of
Philippians and see what God

says to me.

Or I’m going to read these first
eight verses, or the third to

the eighth verses of first

That is an awesome passage of
Scripture of promise after

promise after promise.

And there’re all God’s promises
to us that you and I can claim.

“The proof of your faith being
more precious than gold.”

Now, most folks wouldn’t agree
with that.

Look at that.

“The proof of your faith, being
much more precious than gold,

which is perishable, even though
tested by fire, may be found to

result in praise and glory and
honor to coming of the Lord.”

Do you have joy in your heart?

Doesn’t sound like it.

Doesn’t sound like it.

The joy of the Lord Jesus
Christ, that isn’t just a

feeling, it’s an awesome
assurance and confidence

overflowing within us because of
who we are in Christ Jesus.

Now, if you’ve never trusted
Jesus Christ as your Savior,

everything you heard, it’s just
sort of pass you by.

And I want to invite you today
to say, “I made a mess of my


And I want to get saved.

I want God to change my life.

I want to be able to claim what
Paul and Peter talked about in

those two books of the Bible.

I want God to change me.

Will He do it?”

Yes, He will.

Yes, He will.

And I want to encourage you as a
follower of Jesus.

Notice I didn’t say just a
church member, follower of


That’s who you claim to be.

That you allow God’s Word to
captivate you, fill you up,

overflow in you that no matter
what you’re walking through,

these verses and these truths
absolutely never change, and

they’re applicable to every
single person, no matter what

the circumstance, if you’re
willing to believe them.


Father, we thank You that You
don’t give up on us.

Thank you for the apostle Paul,
knowing in his heart what he was

going through.

But he–what he didn’t know,
that two thousand years later,

we will have learned so much by
what he suffered so much for in

discovering who You are and
writing to tell us about it.

We bless You and praise You this
morning and rejoice over Your

goodness, love, mercy, pain,
suffering, hurt, heartache, but

joy in Jesus’s name.