Week 12: Philippians 4:8-13

 

Warm Up Before the Hike

Share with your friend(s) an area where you struggle to find contentment or an area where you’ve learned to live in contentment.

Introduction

It’s hard to believe we are on the last legs of our hike through Philippians. I enjoyed an amazing hike near Basalt, CO with my sister Lynnette a few weeks ago. As you can see, the sign showed “2 miles to Fryingpan Overlook” when we launched out and as it turns out, it was actually 2.5 miles. Now a half mile may not seem like a lot, but as you may know, trekking up a mountain is not for the faint hearted! When we realized the hike was longer and harder, we were tempted to turn around before reaching the top. What an amazing view we would have missed if we gave in to fatigue.

I think about how chapter 4 brings Paul’s letter to an end as we receive an amazing view of how to apply God’s Word. Stay with us through the next week of the study even if it feels hard and your schedules are filling up. You will not want to miss the beauty of the final words of this moving letter written by an imprisoned Paul. Nancy encouraged us last week about embracing God’s peace. The benefit of doing so means our hearts are guarded (4:6). I love her insight, “Guard is a military term and indicates God is defending us and shielding us from the disability that worry and anxiety can bring.” This week we look at how to direct our thoughts and where to find our satisfaction.

Scripture

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:8-13

Observation – what does the passage say?

“Finally” gives indication that Paul is wrapping up his thoughts (vs. 8)

Comparison – adjectives about what things to think about: true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, praiseworthy (vs. 8)

Cause and Effect – internalizing and doing the things Paul modeled as a follower of Christ will cause God’s peace to dwell within a person (vs. 9)

Contrast – the Philippians didn’t have opportunity to show their support of Paul due to distance compared to now when they were able to give to his needs through Epaphroditus’ visit (vs. 10)

Cause and Effect – their generosity for kingdom purposes brings Paul joy (vs. 10)

Contrast – Paul doesn’t speak out of a place of need, instead he’s learned to find contentment no matter what situation he is in; abased vs. abound, full vs. hungry, abound vs. suffer need (vss. 11-12)

Cause and Effect – Paul is able to be sustained and live above his circumstances because Jesus gives him strength (vs. 13)

Interpretation – what does the passage mean?

Paul highlights what to think about so that God’s peace and unity prevail. He knows there is a human tendency to focus on what’s not going right, ruminate on the “why” of a situation, and grumble about people. To make his point, he elaborates on 6 different adjectives. Below are the definitions from Sonic Light which lend more insight:

True – Valid, honest, and reliable

Noble – Worthy of respect

Just – What is just and upright

Pure – Cleanness and denotes moral purity

Lovely – Amiable, agreeable, or pleasing

Good Report – Admirable, what is praiseworthy because it measures up to the highest standard

Dr. Constable in Sonic Light continues to share a powerful quote about the battle for one’s thoughts:

“On the authority of the Word of God, I submit to you that the greatest conflict being waged is not international, not political, not economic, and not social. The greatest conflict taking place in the world today is the battle for control of our minds.”

Paul then reminds the believers that he wants them to follow the things he taught them and lived before them. He is not saying that he is without fault or weakness, he is reminding them that the things God asks of believers are not too difficult if he can depend on Him to be Christ-like in actions and attitudes. We all need people and mentors to learn from and model for us what it means to live out the Christian faith daily.

Finally, Paul expresses his gratitude for the Philippians financial gift. He is not primarily concerned about his needs since he has had many years to see God come through for him while living in undesirable and desirable situations. This is not the first occasion Paul has seen the walls of a prison, having been treated harshly numerous times for his faith. He learned contentment over time which tells us that contentment is something we all can make progress toward in any situation because we have access to the strength of Jesus within us.

Sonic Light sums up Paul’s thoughts:

“Paul did not want the Philippians to misunderstand him. He was not rejoicing primarily because their gift had met his need, but because their gift expressed their love and concern for him. Paul had “learned to be content,” and to rejoice regardless of his physical “circumstances.” Such contentment is not a natural gift.”

Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

How many of your thoughts center around worry, complaining, comparing, and thinking about what’s wrong with a situation or person? While there’s room for evaluation and processing disappointment, we can only control so much. Consider how your thoughts can be directed toward the things Paul urges believers to “major on.”

Whom are your models for living the Christian faith? This may be a person(s) you know firsthand or someone who speaks to you via their heart and teaching through studies, online, podcasts, etc. It’s important to seek out mentors who are a few steps ahead in their spiritual life including someone we feel comfortable asking our questions. It is also vital to become a mentor to others. By the way, we often think of a mentor as someone older, but this is not always the case.

Think about what you shared during the warm up. What area are you wanting God to fill you with contentment? What is the next thing you can do as you learn to be content?

Homework and Scripture Memory

Work through the process of observation, interpretation, and application for the remainder of Philippians, 4:14-23, this week. The final post for this study will be next week. I’m sad it’s ending! Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-13. I personally have gotten behind BUT I am taking Nancy’s encouragement to heart, and not just giving up this week as it will be profitable as I hang in there. Keep working at memorizing, meditating on, and applying God’s Word.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below about how our hike through Philippians is encouraging you as we think about ways to help each other live our stories in light of God’s Word. YOU are loved sister~ Laura

Week 11: Philippians 4:1-7

Warm Up before the Hike

Share within your small group or if not in a group, share with a trusted friend the thing that causes you the most worry or stress. Then share how you usually deal with anxiety.

Introduction

In last week’s lesson, Edna reminded us that we, like Paul, must strive to become like Christ in our journey of faith.  Paul has encouraged the believers to stand firm in their faith through unity and perseverance. Now Paul takes those two themes and gives us practical steps to live out this journey of faith individually and in community.  I have often said that it would be easy to be Christ-like if I lived alone on a deserted island.  But Christ-likeness is only lived out in community. Let’s dig deep into this passage to glean insight and guidance in living this faith walk with greater joy and unexplainable peace!

Scripture

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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

Observation- What does the passage say?

“Therefore” signals the conclusion to his letter and his final encouragement of standing firm with unity. (V.1)

Paul describes the believers he is addressing as “my brothers,” “my joy and crown,” and “my beloved.”

“Brothers” come from the Greek word literally meaning “from the same womb.”

“Crown” refers to an honor in which one may glory. (See 1 Thessalonians 2:19)

Paul’s glory was found in the people he poured love and life into.

“In the Lord” is repeated several times in this passage (v.1,2,4,7) emphasizing the importance that all be done out of a common faith in, and commitment to Christ.

“Plead with” (NIV) or “entreat” (ESV) (used two times) means to come to the aid of, help, comfort, encourage. (V.2)

Paul encouraged each woman to do her part to reconcile with the other.

“Agree in the Lord” (ESV) “be of the same mind . . . in the Lord” (NIV) is to have the same mind-set as the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:2)

Paul asked fellow workers to help with the reconciliation of these women who had ministered with him.  (v.3) (Galatians 6:1)

“Book of life” refers to God’s record of those who belong to Him.

“Rejoice” is repeated in this one verse and is found throughout Paul’s letter. Paul focuses their attention on the common blessings of walking with and serving Christ rather than on their petty differences. (V.4)

Let others see gentleness in your speech and actions. (v.5) (Philippians 2:15)

Gentleness is the attitude of spirit by which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist. It is balance born in strength of character.

The Lord is near. How comforting to know that the Lord is near enough to see and hear us when conflict arises.

Prayer with thanksgiving controls anxiety and brings the peace of God. (V.6)

Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything.

Pray about everything with all kinds of prayers (general) and petitions (specific requests). (Ephesians 6:18)

Let your needs be known to the Lord.  (1 Peter 5:7)

“Peace” means a state of untroubled, undisturbed well being. (V7)

“Peace of God”  – not the same as “peace with God.”  When we are reconciled to God through faith in Christ we have “peace with God” that we shall never lose. The “peace of God” is granted to us as we give over our anxiety to Him and it guards are heart and mind. (Isaiah 26:3)

Understanding – is the Greek word for mind, understanding, discernment and intellect. The peace of God is beyond our understanding. Man is not to lean or rely on his own understanding which produces worry and anxiety, but to trust God with every detail of his life. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Guard is a military term and indicates God is defending us and shielding us from the disability that worry and anxiety can bring.

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Sonic Light sums up this last chapter in this way: “The final chapter of the epistle to the Philippians is one of the great discourses on the doctrine of peace, such as Psalm 23 in the Old Testament and John 14 in the New Testament.”

This is the beginning of Paul’s long conclusion to his letter with his final instructions before sending the letter to them. He once again communicates to the beloved believers and fellow servants of Christ that because of his love and commitment to them his greatest desire is for their steadfastness in faith and their unity within the community of faith.  He leaves them with specific ways they are to apply what he has instructed them in the first three chapters.

Application- How does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

The church in Philippi needed to restore unity and be encouraged to persevere in their faith. Sonic Light includes Howard Hendricks’ “five part recipe for conflict resolution” taken from verses 2-6 which provides practical ways for us to apply these truths to our own relationships:

(1) ‘Rejoice in the Lord,’ that is, get beyond yourselves and look to the Lord. (2) ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ In other words speak with kindness to each other. (3) ‘Do not be anxious.’ Relax, and give it all to God. (4) ‘Be thankful.’ The simple act of expressing gratitude for our blessings takes the heat out of infection. (5) Present your requests to God. Prayer realigns us and restores peace …”

 My challenge to you is to begin applying each of these ingredients to a relationship or to a stressful situation today, tomorrow, and the next and the next . . . until you experience God’s unexplainable peace. He is near!

HOMEWORK: Read through and engage daily with Philippians 4:8 – 13 using the inductive Bible study method of observation, interpretation and application in preparation for next week.

 SCRIPTURE MEMORY: Continue reviewing Philippians 2:1-10 and begin memorizing Philippians 2:11. If you haven’t been as consistent as you like, remember not to take on the “all or nothing” attitude that can derail your scripture memory journey. Taking one verse a week with the goal of not only quoting the verse from memory, but also asking God to show you how to prove it true in your life. When I started memorizing scripture 20 years ago, Philippians 2 was one of the first passages I tackled. I still am able to recall and recite it simply because I not only memorized it, but I prayed it, shared it, and applied it to my life circumstances. I am praying as you hide His Word deep in your mind and heart it will bring you great joy and delight! (Jeremiah 15:16)

Nancy Taylor

Sacred Story is honored to have Nancy Taylor as a guest contributor. Nancy loves the Word of God and has been hiding it in her heart for over 15 years. In her book, “Taking the Word to Heart,” Nancy shares her journey of scripture memory and practical ways to get a firm grip on God’s Word. She loves to encourage women in their walk with Christ through writing, teaching and mentoring. She and her husband William live in Houston, TX and enjoy spending time with their two adult children, their spouses and their grandchildren.

 

Week 9: Philippians 3:1-11

Warm-Up Before the Hike:

Consider sharing something about your life that is a beautiful surprise and something challenging you never expected.

Introduction:

Have you ever stopped to consider how your life speaks to others about Christ?  Last week, Kaitlyn invited us to “slow down and gaze upon the beautiful examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Like these faithful men, may we each desire to walk humbly, serving those around us with genuine love in a way that honors Christ.”  I am excited to continue our journey this week as we observe, interpret, and draw application from Philippians 3:1-11 where Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christ alone is the source of salvation. All former works in the flesh are garbage in comparison to knowing Christ.

Scripture – Philippians 3:1-11

1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh– 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

10 I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Observation – What does the passage say?

  • Paul exhorts the church in Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord!” [1]
  • He reminds them that it is no hassle for him to remind them again because this truth will protect them from “dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.”[1-2]
  • Contrast – Paul explains that believers in Christ are the true circumcision by the Spirit as opposed to the Judaizers who place their confidence in circumcision in the flesh [3]
  • If confidence in the flesh was worth anything, Paul was an overachiever:
    – circumcised on the eighth day
    -of the people of Israel
    -of the tribe of Benjamin
    -a Hebrew of Hebrews
    -in regard to the law, a Pharisee
    -as for zeal, persecuting the church
    -as for righteousness based on the law, faultless [4-5]
  • Contrast – all of those accomplishments in the flesh are worthless in comparison to knowing Christ. [7-8]
  • Righteousness comes through faith in Christ, not the law [9]
  • Paul wants to know Christ in his power and his sufferings to experience the miracle of resurrection from the dead [10-11]

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

It’s important to understand who Paul is warning the church about. Sonic light provides great insight:

“The Jews habitually referred to Gentiles contemptuously as “dogs” (cf. Matt. 15:21-28). In ancient times, many dogs were unclean, wild, and vicious animals that threatened the safety of everyone. Paul now hurls this term of contempt back ‘on the heads of its authors’ …, for to Paul the Jews were the real pariahs that defile the holy community, the Christian church, with their erroneous teaching.” The Judaizers emphasized circumcision because it was the rite that brought a person into Judaism, which they viewed as a prerequisite to justification (cf. Acts 15:1). “False circumcision” refers to circumcision for the wrong reasons, namely, circumcision contrary to the revelation of God in Scripture. The Philippians and Paul, and all true believers belong to a different camp, that of the “true circumcision.” Paul was referring to the circumcision of the heart that happens when a person trusts in Jesus Christ. The alternative is trusting in oneself and or in rite-keeping for salvation. So Paul says: “You Jews think that you are circumcised, but really you are only mutilated.”

Paul makes it very clear that salvation comes only from knowing Christ. None of the physical acts, conformance with the Jewish law and birthrights are enough. In fact, there is nothing in our nature, even our God-honoring accomplishments, that make us acceptable to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Knowing Christ is the singular focus and Paul is eager to write as many times as needed to warn the people against falling away from the truth.

We can’t forget that Paul is writing from prison. Even there he’s encouraging others to “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Application – How does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

After his Damascus road experience, Paul poured out his entire life spreading the gospel to those he formerly persecuted. Ironically, the man who did great harm to early Christians authored most of the New Testament. His impact carries on 2000 years later. It’s eternal.

Paul experienced God’s protection and deliverance many times as he spread the gospel across dangerous regions, yet he is chained in prison. Why would the Lord allow this to happen? Paul was preaching about The Great Deliverer, yet he wasn’t delivered. Have you ever experienced this in your own life?

As a believer who has walked with the Lord since childhood, I want to believe my story will be different from Paul’s. I never persecuted the church, so my prosperity gospel should come with a fairy tale ending, right? The truth is, my faith is being tested because things aren’t working out as I planned. I didn’t mind the world watching when great things happened but what do I say of my Deliverer when my heart is crying “Lord, are you kidding me?”

What do you do when life doesn’t go as you planned, when circumstances don’t match the Christian story you wrote?

Like me, do you struggle to achieve more good to dilute the bad? Sometimes there is no Christian effort that can change the circumstances. Sometimes we’re given the opportunity to shine for Christ from our personal prison cells. Perhaps it’s only then that we come to truly know the overwhelming, more than sufficient love of Christ. It is more valuable than all that is lost in the process.

Paul tells us clearly that all the things he formerly valued are “loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” The goal is to know Christ.  Christ alone.  It’s not to know Christ, so that…he can fix what I don’t like about my story.

My friend, Anita Carmen, provides a beautiful perspective.

“There are times in life when the star disappears. We were following, following and then there is silence. It is during those times that we must return to when we last heard Him. He hasn’t changed. His mission hasn’t changed. When we anchor ourselves to God the person we flow with Him into new circumstances. He is no longer a rule book or a tablet of Ten Commandments. He is the living, breathing, resurrected Christ who will lead us. I pray that we will follow Jesus one day at a time. Father forgive us for the times we wanted to see the plan. Teach us to live holding on to you as our living plan! We get to say, “What’s next, Lord?” and we learn to fly blindfolded with your Spirit as our navigator! We’re in for the adventure of our lives.”

Scripture Memory and Homework

Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-10.  Consider writing the verses on note cards and take them with you on a walk.  Ask the Lord to speak specifically to your heart through each verse. For next week work through the rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application for 3:12-21.

As you hike through the days again, go blindfolded with the Spirit into the adventure of your life!

In His Unfailing Love,

Brandi

Week 10: Philippians 3:12-21

Introduction

Have you ever run a marathon?  If so, the training is hard but on the day of the run, when you you cross the finish line, it is an exhilarating feeling.  I remember running the full marathon (26 miles).  When I reached 22 miles I felt like my legs were blocks of cement that I could barely lift.  However, my mind was seared to cross that finish line.  If I did not have that goal, there is no way I would have completed it. 

Such is the same with the Christian life.  It is a journey.  There are times when it is exhilarating and there are times when those steps of faith feel like cement blocks.  I am excited to continue our journey to run hard toward Christ this week as we observe, interpret, and draw application from Philippians 3:12–21 where Paul exhorts believers to pursue the goal of becoming like Christ. 

Scripture

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Interpretation

Paul uses athletic imagery to parallel it to the Christian life.  He compares the Christian life to a race encouraging believers to fix their eyes on the goal ahead and not look back.  He also encourages people to continue along the Christian path by growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Though Paul was a strong believer, he was far from perfection like all believers.  He, along with other believers, must strive to become like Christ in their journey of faith.

Observation

(v.12) – “Press on” means to pursue a goal with great intensity; to be single focused on reaching the goal

(v.13) – “one thing I do” means Paul’s only goal in life is to become more like Christ

            “forgetting what lies behind” means letting go of anything from the past that can cause one to stumble while running towards the goal such as past sins or failures

(v.14) – “the upward call of God” means the time when believers will be brought up to heaven and receive the prize for their faithfulness to God

(v.15) “reveal”  means God will ‘unveil’ the truth to those who are not pursuing Christlikeness

(v. 16) “walk” means to stay in line and pursue sanctification

(v. 17) “my example” means to follow Paul’s example, who is imperfect, to be imitators of Christ

(v.17) “Note those who walk” means to follow examples like Timothy and Epaphroditus

(v.18) “told you often” means Paul’s frequent warning against false teachers

(v. 19) “earthly things” means the Judaizers’ preoccupation with ceremonies and laws as well as the Gentiles’ preoccupation with worldly things

(v.20) “our citizenship in heaven” means our home is in heaven when our name is registered and our inheritance belongs.

(v.20) “eagerly wait” deals with anticipating the second coming of Christ

(v.21) When Christ returns our bodies will be transformed and Christ will physically rule over all and supersede all natural laws

Application

Most successful people in the world have a vision and goal they are pursuing.  They are singleminded in their pursuit of accomplishing their goal.  Those who do not have a clear or become distracted in their pursuit do not succeed. 

Such is the same for the Christian life.  Paul encourages believers to run the race toward the goal of Christlikeness.  He exhorts believers to intensely pursue to become like Christ.  He motivates believers by reminding them their home is not on earth but in heaven where their names are written and their full inheritance awaits.  All present sufferings will be gone and they will receive their new bodies. 

He exhorts believers to pursue God and His kingdom over their personal comforts.  He encourages them to be like Paul who is imperfect but singleminded in His pursuit of being like Christ.  Is there anything that is distracting you from the goal to become Christ-like?  If so, bring it before the Lord and surrender it to Him.  The adventure, joy and peace of living for God will far outweigh any sacrifice you give up for Him.  

Scripture Memory and Homework

Memorize Philippians 2:1-10 and work through observation, interpretation, and application of Philippians 4:1-7 in preparation for next week.

Edna Lee

Week 8: Philippians 2:19-30

Warm Up Before the Hike:

Consider sharing a high and low from the week along with something fun you enjoy doing with friends or family in the summer.

 

Introduction:

Wow – this summer is flying by! I hope you are enjoying this incredible journey as we hike through Philippians. Last week, Emma shared some powerful insight on how we can be transformed from those who complain to those who rejoice in the Lord. I was convicted and encouraged by Emma’s call to action, “we are to lay down our fleshly desires to blame others, complain about our circumstances, and live in bitterness and anger… [so] we have room to pick up joy and gladness.” It is my prayer that God continues to grow our affections and obedience for him, so we can rejoice and be used for his glory by “holding fast to the word of life” (v 2:16). I am excited to continue our journey this week as we observe, interpret, and draw application from Philippians 2:19-30 where Paul gives us two incredible examples of servant-hearted followers of Christ.

 

Scripture – Philippians 2:19-30:

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

 

Observation – What does the passage say?

My husband and I recently took a trip to Yosemite… it was truly breathtaking to see God’s creativity in creation. It struck me, while I gazed at the majestic Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point (pun intended), that no picture could capture the true beauty. Like studying the bible, the same is true, nothing captures the beauty of God’s word like sitting down and practicing the art of observation for yourself. Use these points for your own inspiration as you dig in and observe this week’s text:

  • Paul wants to send two messengers to Philippi as examples of those who emulate Christ: Timothy (v. 19-24) & Epaphroditus (v. 25-30)
  • 2:19-24: example of Timothy
    • “For” in v. 20 explains why Paul wants to send Timothy in v. 19
      • no one like him shares a genuine concern for others and the interests of Christ
    • Contrast – (v. 20-22) Paul emphasizes Timothy’s “proven worth” by juxtaposing those who seek their own interests and Timothy who seeks the interest of Jesus for the sake of the gospel
    • Paul also desires to visit the Philippians himself; he too is genuinely concerned for others (v. 24)
  • 2:25-30: example of Epaphroditus
    • Paul and Epaphroditus are aligned to the same mission of the gospel; Paul uses terms like brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, minister (v. 25)
    • Paul reiterates the personal sacrifice Epaphroditus took to minister – even to the point of death (v. 27)
    • God has the power to show mercy in acts of healing (v. 27)
    • Servant-hearted men like Epaphroditus should be celebrated with joy and held with great esteem (v. 29-30)

 

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Paul intentionally highlights two of his ministry companions who embody a key message of the entire book of Philippians – the humility of Christ. Timothy and Epaphroditus serve as representatives of how to live humble, servant-hearted lives, genuinely concerned for the welfare of others for the sake of Christ. Paul uses these two as an example because their Godly character aligns with Christ’s example of humility explained throughout v. 2:1-11.

Interesting to note, Timothy helped plant the church of Philippi with Paul on his second missionary journey and Epaphroditus was from Philippi. This is important to call out because both men have personal relationships with the Philippians, showing their commitment to unity and genuine Christ-centered love for their community. They are ministers of the gospel who were living out the call of Phil. 2:4 “let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” These men were living testimonies to the Philippians… powerful to consider how our lives can speak volumes to the world about Christ!

 

Application – How does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

While we stare squarely into the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus, it’s clear they were both believers who were humble, genuine, servants of God. What an encouragement to study their examples! I know for me, reading a text that is rich in history can sometimes prove difficult to identify application. I was encouraged though on this section of our hike to slow down and gaze upon the beautiful examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Like these faithful men, may we each desire to walk humbly, serving those around us with genuine love in a way that honors Christ.

As Chuck Swindoll explains, “Paul knew that true joy comes only through humble faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, joining ourselves in harmony with His followers, and serving others in the name of Christ.” Are there people in your life who exemplify this type of humble, servant-hearted, joyful faith like Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus? What about them stands out? Do you think you are living a life of humility and service for others built on the interests of Jesus?  If not, what is holding you back?

Take time to prayerfully examine the community God has put you in (friends, family, coworkers, etc.). Consider ways you can humbly serve others by word and deed, seeking to align the interests of Jesus with a genuine care for your community.

 

Homework

Challenge yourself this week by spending 10-15 minutes a day reading Phil. 3:1-11: spend 2 days on observation, 2 days on interpretation, and 1 day on application. Ask the Lord to reveal his truth to you in powerful ways as we continue to soak in the beauty of his inspired Scripture. Go on a walk with a friend and share what you have been learning so far through our study over Philippians.

 

Scripture Memory

Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-10. An effective way to practice memorization is to read the verses out loud 10x (even if you know the verses before the 10th time, there is power in repeatedly reading the text out loud). Next, recite the verses audibly 10x from memory. You can then build on this pattern by adding new verses and repeating this read/recite method. This memory trick has been very helpful at storing scripture in my long-term memory… much like knowing the lyrics to a song you haven’t heard in years.

 

May God soften our hearts to genuinely love others in a way that honors Christ this week!

 

All glory to God,

~Kaitlyn W.

 

 

Sacred Story is honored to have Kaitlyn Wurzbach, who serves on the board of the ministry, as a guest contributor this month. Kaitlyn graduated from Texas A&M in 2012 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a Minor in Business. She recently received an M.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Earlier this summer, Kaitlyn moved from Houston to Dallas with her husband Bret. She enjoys working at an engineering firm in Talent Acquisition. Kaitlyn has a huge heart for sharing Christ with women in the workplace. She loves serving on the board of Sacred Story and is passionate about using testimonies of God’s faithfulness to bring glory to God.

Week 7: Philippians 2:12-18

Warm up for the Hike 

Consider sharing highs and lows from this week. After this, consider sharing with one another what you are thankful for. 

Introduction 

I hope you all have been enjoying the renewing of our hearts and minds as we walk through the book of Philippians this summer. Last week Laura shared with us Christ’s humility in the incarnation. A quote she referenced by Timothy Keller  particularly speaks to me: “the essence of gospel- humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself; it is thinking of myself less.” I am praying that this would become true in our lives as we seek to abide in Jesus together. This week we will dive into  Philippians 2:12-18 as we let the Holy Spirit transform us from complaining to rejoicing. 

Scripture 

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Observation – What does the passage say? 

  • Paul uses the word “therefore” to connect the previous passage about Christ’s work of humility to his encouragement of the believers to continue to obey as an appropriate response to what Christ has done (v 12). 
  • It is God who works in us to transform our lives for his purposes (v13). 
  • Paul contrasts grumbling and arguing to being pure and blameless (v 14-15). 
  • Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:5 in order to convey the importance of the way God’s people should act (v 15). 
  • Paul sees his success as the believers living in joy and gratitude, not bitterness and anger (v 16). 

Interpretation- what does the passage mean? 

After Paul teaches the believers about the humility necessary for Christ to dwell among us and die for our debt, he transitions to talking about what this means for the believers’ lives. It is almost as if he is doing a small bible study with the audience by walking through observation, interpretation, and application, with verse 12-18 being part of the application. In light of Christ’s work on the cross and through the resurrection, which he did out of great humility, we as God’s children are to live lives of freedom and joy in all circumstances as we walk in obedience to God’s will for our lives. It is very striking to me that Paul sees his success in the believers’ “shining among them like stars as you hold firmly to the word of life” Paul clearly sees that from a firm understanding of what Christ laid down in order to come near to us, we are to lay down our fleshly desires to blame others, complain about our circumstances, and live in bitterness and anger. If we lay these down, we have room to pick up joy and gladness, that come from clinging to the Word of Life. 

Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me? What does the passage teach me about God?

This week, let’s take some time to rejoice and be glad in what God has done. He has freed us from our bondage to sin and brought into a living hope that will never fade away. In Romans 8:1 we read that there is “no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set your free from the law of sin and death.” This means he has taken away all shame and guilt and replaced it with an ever flowing river of rejoicing in our hearts. In Galatians 5:1 we read that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This week, stand firm against our temptation to let our hearts and mind go wild with discontentment. Resist being burdened again by the negative thoughts that so often cloud of mind. Cling to these verses from Philippians, Romans, and Galatians, and let God transform your heart, that you may shine among this world like stars in the night sky. Jesus promises in Matthew 11 that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Our burden is not heavy but light! 

Homework

Set a goal to reflect upon Philippians 2:19-30 for 15 minutes every day this week while moving through the spiritual rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application. Read it many times in one sitting as you let the words soak into your soul. Also, practice turning from bitterness and anger to rejoicing and gladness by writing down five things you are thankful for every day. 

Scripture Memory 

Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-8. Adding on two new verses may seem intimidating at first, but memorizing sentences can be much easier than memorizing fragmented clauses. I personally have never been good at memorizing off of note cards, so I like to read the passage I am memorizing over and over and over again, and day by day it begins to be written on my heart. It is amazing how quickly Scripture integrates into part of your thought life and flows into heart language. I pray that those of you who share my similar restraint to memorization will find this method encouraging and successful!

This week let’s dwell in God’s love and freedom together- we are fully loved by our Creator even on our worst days. After all, this is what the book of Philippians is all about!

– Emma

Week 6: Philippians 2:5-11

Warm Up Before the Hike

Share with your friend(s) one of your most embarrassing or humiliating moments.

Introduction

Last week Edna pointed to the unity we have as believers through union with Jesus in Philippians 2:1-4 while challenging us to think about how we contribute to disunity. She highlighted the reality that unity thrives where there’s a spirit of concern and care for others as opposed to pride and self-promotion. I can become self-absorbed about my daily to do’s and how I come across to others while forgetting to think through their needs. I am grateful for God’s Spirit reminding me to seek His mind. This week we will look at the next 6 verses in Paul’s letter which elaborate on the mind of Christ.

Scripture

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Observation: What does the passage say?

Cause/Effect – being in Christ Jesus means the believers can exercise His mind (vs. 5)

Contrast – Jesus existed in the form of God but did not hold onto His rights but instead emptied Himself to become a human (vss. 6-7)

Cause/Effect – being born as a man caused Jesus to assume the role of servant and become obedient to death on a cross (vs. 7)

Similar ideas/terms – born in the likeness of men and found in human form (vs. 7-8), highly exalted and bestowed on Him (vs. 9), every knee bow and every tongue confess (vs.9)

Cause/Effect – Jesus’ obedience gave Him a name above every name which results in every person eventually acknowledging He is Lord which brings God glory (vs. 9)

Interpretation: What does the passage mean?

Jesus exemplified humility in the way He thought about His divine nature. He didn’t hang on to His rights to remain in heaven as an equal to God. Instead He exchanged His immense privilege as the all-knowing, all-powerful Son of God in heaven to become God incarnate and take on the form of a human body. He was willing to limit himself to becoming a baby who was rocked, a child who played, a young man who was trained in carpentry, and the homeless Son of Man who faced a ministry of being misunderstood, rejected, and tortured on a cross. His sacrifice was great and yet the reward for His obedience is beyond measure. Like a trophy, the Father gave Jesus the name above any other name which will move those He created to acknowledge He is Lord while bowing their knees at the unfathomable realization of His majesty and authority.

It is mind blowing to try to understand the incarnation of Jesus as a man. Scholars throughout the centuries attempt to explain how Jesus became a person and maintained His divinity. Below is an explanation offered in Sonic Light:

“. . .Taking humanity imposed certain restrictions on Jesus Christ, including those involved in possessing a physical body and a human, though not a sinful, nature. He laid aside the glory and freedom that His former manner of existence afforded Him when He became a man (cf. John 17:5). He became dependent on the Father in a different sense than had been true formerly. He gave up “His rights as God the Son.”

Jesus received a reward for His obedience so believers can expect to be rewarded for their obedience. Sonic Light explains,

“The exaltation of Jesus Christ is as much a motivation for the Christian to live a life of submissive humility as is His incarnation. God will reward a life of self-denial now and in the future. That is the obvious implication of Paul’s illustration. Is it not selfish to serve the Lord for a reward? Was it selfish for Jesus to endure what He did because He knew He would receive a reward? Motivation is the key. If we submit to God and to one another for the glory of God, as Jesus did, rather than for selfish glory, our motivation is correct.”

Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to my life?

Unity flourishes where there is an attitude of humility and servitude. As believers, we can access the mind of Christ so that we think about others and ourselves in a way that reflects the humility Jesus demonstrated.

*Meditate on the amazing reality of Jesus coming to earth in human form. Look at the phrases which describe Jesus’ mindset and spend some time in prayer together, praising Him.

*To paraphrase pastor and theologian Timothy Keller, “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself; it is thinking of myself less.” Pray for yourself along these lines.

*A humble attitude shows itself in humble behavior. Dr. Constable in Sonic Light makes the following statements about a servant:

A servant serves others even when it is inconvenient.

A servant serves even people that he or she dislikes.

A servant serves even when he or she dislikes the work.

A servant serves even when he or she receives no personal satisfaction.

A servant serves with an attitude of enabling another.

Who can you serve this week? How do you plan on doing so?

Scripture Memory and Homework

Continuing memorizing this beautiful passage in 2:1-6. I find it helpful to say the Scripture out loud. When I asked my friend if I could practice saying it her, she heartily agreed, and as I did so, it showed me my gaps. For next week work through the rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application for 2:12-18.

We talked about how the apostle Paul is literally confined in prison as he writes to the believers at Philippi. In spite of his hardships, Paul served others through his words, behavior, and heart. He must have drawn much comfort from meditating on Jesus’ “confinement” to a human body. You and I may feel “confined” in some way to a prison of circumstances. I pray we experience joy this week through serving others as we draw strength from the Spirit of Jesus living in us.

~Laura

 

Week 5: Philippians 2:1-4

Warm Up Before the Hike

The photo above was submitted by Lori who lives in San Antonio while on a hike in Tennessee. She is participating in the hike through Philippians along with friends from her ministry, She Praise. To warm up this week with your group, share a place where you experienced rest and relaxation, whether close by home or far away. We’d love to receive your summer pics of scenery and/or your group. Send to us via instagram, @sacredstoryministries, or email at contact@sacredstoryministries.org!

Introduction

The church in Philippi was a strong, loving, generous, prayerful and theologically sound church.  However, even the strongest church must guard itself against disunity.  Paul had just encouraged the church to…”let your manner of life be worthy[a] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).

In just four verses, Paul gives one of the strongest teachings on unity.  He identifies three crucial elements that will build unity: the right motives, the right marks, and the right means.

Scripture

Christ’s Example of Humility:

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Observation – What does the passage say?

Philippians 2:1:

“Participation in the Spirit” also means believers’ fellowship with each other is threaded together by the common hope of eternal life given by the grace of Jesus Christ.  Believers’ humility and gratefulness for the Gospel should be the springboard for unity in the body of Christ.

Philippians 2:2:

“complete my joy” – Paul’s joy was tied to the unity of believers

“having the same love” – means one-soul, having the same passions, ambitions and desires

“one mind” – to think the same way

Philippians 2:3:

“selfish ambition” – strife; people’s pride can push others away creating strife and disunity

“conceit” – pursuit of one’s own glory

Paul encourages believers to “count others more significant than yourselves” which is the ultimate definition of humility

Philippians 2:4:

Paul encourages believers to look beyond themselves and onto others

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Paul encourages believers to remember what they all have in common: saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.  He exhorts the believers to let the Gospel be the basis of their unity.  He gives four practical ways to build unity.  First, he encourages them to humble themselves by acknowledging Jesus Christ saved all members, not just one.  Second, he encourages believers to think the same way (one mind) and serve the same way (same passions, ambitions and desires).  Third, he commands them to guard themselves against pride.  Lastly, he encourages believers to consider others more important than themselves.

Paul encourages believers to make his joy complete by being unified.  He has the same investment and interest in the spiritual well-being of the believers in Philippi as a parent would for a child.  In order for the church to stand against persecution, false teachings and spiritual warfare, believers must not tolerate disunity.

Application- How does the meaning of the passage apply to me?

If the enemy wants to deem the Gospel ineffective one of the first places he attacks is the unity of believers.  If he can split up the church, he weakens it.  This is a great opportunity to look inside ourselves and see if there is any pride that can separate us from others.  Pray and ask God to reveal to you if there is pride.  God wants to set you free from pride so you can experience a deeper relationship with Him and others.

Secondly, how do you regard yourself compared to others?  Humility is not self-deprecating.  Humility is lifting others up and wanting the glory of God to shine in them more than we want the glory to shine on ourselves.

During the Winter Olympics, I love watching the couple’s ice skating.  I love seeing the male skater lift up the female skater and twirl her around while the audience roars in applause.  The male and female skaters are equally important.  However, the male skater’s pride is in lifting up the female skater and making her shine.  Such is the same with esteeming others over ourselves.

As a licensed counselor, I’m finding more and more people being professionally instructed to cut off relationships.  Being of one mind and having the same passions is now called ‘enmeshment’.  If we die to ourselves so others shine, we are ‘being taken advantage of’.  If we let others win an argument, we are being ‘manipulated’.  Friends, guard yourself against such lies.  The enemy is now disguising unity as disunity and disunity as unity.

If you discover pride in yourself, confess it to the Lord and change your ways.  If you feel you have let pride get in a way of a relationship, consider calling them up and having dinner with them.  Encourage them, compliment them and uplift them.  You will discover loving selflessly is the key to a joy-filled heart, just like Paul wants.

Scripture Memory and Homework 

We are memorizing Philippians 2:1-6.  It is one of my favorite passages of the Bible.  When you are finding yourselves having a hard time in a relationship, it is a great passage to bring to the forefront of your mind. Work through observation, interpretation, and application for Philippians 2:5-11 over this week. 

Prayer

I also encourage you to pray through Philippians 2:1-4 and ask God to give you the passion and conviction for unity, the humility of Jesus Christ, and a selfless love that can embrace the hardest of hearts.

~Edna Lee

 

Week 4: Philippians 1:19-30

Warm Up Before the Hike

Consider sharing highs and lows of the week, then download the app, AllTrails.  Find a trail near you and set a date to hike it together.  Post your group pics or selfies to Instagram @sacredstoryministries or by e-mail to contact@sacredstoryministries.org.

Introduction

As we enter week 4 of our hike through Philippians is anyone else saying, “I needed this!?” Life is a steep hike right now. Heavy life circumstances are mounting up and I needed to be reminded of Paul’s suffering, to put my own in perspective. Can anyone relate?

Last week we watched Paul demonstrate what it looks like to trust God when it doesn’t seem like God is moving. Emma challenged us to identify areas of our lives where we are struggling to see God move.  It caused me to change my prayer from, Father, fix this, to Father, show me how this suffering can advance your kingdom.  Not my will, but yours.

There’s no time to “sulk in our cells”. Let’s put on our hiking boots and move into greater intimacy with God and each other, just as Paul instructed us to “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”

Scripture

19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Observation – What does the passage say?

  • Paul’s source of strength is the prayers of fellow believers and God’s provision through the Holy Spirit. (19)
  • Paul desires to maintain sufficient courage to honor Christ with his body whether alive or dead. (20)
  • Paul is torn between his passion for the church and his desire to be at home with Christ in heaven but is resolved that it is necessary for the church that he remains in fruitful labor. (21-24)
  • Cause/Effect – Because Paul chooses to persevere others will progress and joy in the faith and boast about Christ. (25-26)
  • Paul urges fellow believers to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel, unfrightened by those who oppose them as a sign of God’s deliverance, regardless of Paul’s outcome, regardless of what they may face, just as Paul is demonstrating for them. They must not only believe in Christ but also suffer for him as Paul is. (27-30)

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Reminding us of the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit, Paul calls on the believers in Philippi to intercede for him that he would receive sufficient courage to honor Christ in his suffering, whether he lives or dies.  He exhibits extraordinary perspective proclaiming that regardless of how it turns out God will use it for his deliverance.  Just as Christ chose to leave heaven and come to earth to suffer and die for us, Paul chooses to remain in the struggles of this earth for the sake of advancing the gospel although he desperately desires to be in heaven with Christ.  His perseverance will encourage the church to stand firm together in fear-destroying confidence to advance the gospel.  They are not immune to suffering.  They should expect it and commit to persevering with the mind of Christ.

“Sonic Light provides many insights on the meaning of the passage. Here are a few:

“The paradox of a man in prison—rejoicing—lies at the root of what this book is all about. Such an attitude demonstrates an unusual view of life. It is a uniquely Christian view of life. It demonstrates the “mind of Christ,” which is the key to this epistle.”

“Our life should be “worthy of the gospel” (1:27). This was one of Paul’s favorite ways to describe our conduct responsibility as Christians (cf. Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12). Worthy conduct is not just morally upright behavior. It is conduct that the gospel drives, conduct that aims at proclaiming the gospel, making it known. It is conduct that responds appropriately to God’s gift of grace to us.”

“The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground. We are sons in the family, enjoying the fellowship of the Gospel (1:1-11); we are servants sharing in the furtherance of the Gospel (1:12-26); but we are also soldiers defending the faith of the Gospel. And the believer with the single mind can have the joy of the Holy Spirit even in the midst of battle.”[98] Wiersbe

Application – What does the passage teach me about God and me?

My life is not a playground, so why do I expect it to be all sunshine and picnics?  How do I react when storms roll in?  I’m particularly frustrated by a big one right now that seems so unfair and hits me in the core of my soul. It is such a distraction from all the good work I had going.  What will I do with this prison cell?  Will I pout and hide behind closed doors to avoid public shame and hurtful labels?  Will I let the world determine the end of this story, or will I stand united with believers in fear-destroying confidence?

“In calling his readers to unite in steadfastly enduring the antagonism of unbelievers in their area, Paul was not asking them to do something he himself had not done. He was urging them to unite with one another, and with him, and to view suffering for their faith as a privilege that would glorify Jesus Christ. This exhortation is necessary for today, when we feel tempted to agree with, or go along with unbelievers, rather than taking a firm stand for our Lord.”

What are you enduring right now?  What does the world say about your circumstances?  Are you being tempted to give in?  Is it too much?

What if Paul hadn’t written? What if his pain was too debilitating, the outcome too bleak? What if it was too difficult to write a letter while in chains? Would it even reach the audience? Would they listen?

Who would miss out on God if I let my “too much” take away too much of my faith?

The higher I hold up the Sword of the Spirit the more opposition I will invite.  But there is only one sure way for victory in this life, and we have no fear of death.  “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Homework

Next week we’ll cover our memory verses, Philippians 2:1-4.  Spend 10-15 minutes a day: 2 days on observation, 2 days on interpretation, and 1 day on application.

Scripture Memory

Anyone else struggling with a memory verse mental block? Try reading and reciting 2:1-4 during your next work out.  Break down each verse and personalize it.  For example, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,”… recall times you have received courage through Christ. And, so on.  Before you know it, the Word is deeply embedded in your soul and your workout is over.

Life is tough, the struggles are real, but our joy overflows!

In His Unfailing Love,

brandi

Week 3: Philippians 1:12-18

Warm Up Before the Hike

Consider sharing highs and lows of the week, and maybe share your favorite summertime memory from growing up too.

Introduction

Welcome sisters to the mountains of God’s goodness and grace! For the past few weeks we have been traipsing through the book of Philippians, seeking to dwell closer with God and one another. Last week we learned about the joy of watching the lives of dear friends be transformed by the gospel and loving one another deeply. Deep friendship is an incredible gift from the Lord, and Laura’s post last week lead me to recall some particularly joyous friendships which have been saturated with God’s redemption, faithfulness, and goodness over the years. I encourage you to do the same! This week Paul shifted from pouring out his heart to a more exhorting progress report on his current imprisonment in Rome. I am excited to share with you the richness found in this passage about who we know Christ to be and how this knowledge transforms how we live!

Scripture

12 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Observation – What does the passage say?

  • Paul thinks his circumstances are being used to advance the gospel (v 12)
  • Everyone in the prison with Paul, including the Romans soldiers working as guards, have come to know Paul as a Christian (v 13)
  • Believers who are not in prison with Paul have experienced increased excitement and success in sharing the gospel. His circumstances have inspired fearlessness for the gospel! (v 14)
  • Paul thinks that God still uses the message of those preaching the gospel out of selfish ambition (v 15-17)

Interpretation – What does the passage mean?

Paul easily could have used this time in prison to pout that he was suffering instead of “succeeding”. However, he is steadfast in his knowledge that his life is about the furthering of the message of Christ, not about his own comfort and worldly success. While his circumstances are difficult (he is stuck in prison while other preach out of selfishness in his place), he is encouraged by the understanding because the goal is for Christ to be proclaimed and taught. We see Paul be singularly focused on the advancement of the gospel for the sake of the salvation of those not yet saved by the unending grace of God.

Application -What does the passage teach me about God and me? 

God didn’t waste Paul’s time during his imprisonment in Rome. It would have been so easy for Paul to sulk while watching his platform be stripped away from him while others preach from false motives in his place- I know I would have been very tempted to sulk in my cell! However, he chooses to see God’s sovereign hand moving, even in the hearts’ of the false teachers. We know from Romans 8:28 that God “works all things together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” and we watch Paul here walk out what it looks like to trust God when it doesn’t seem like God is moving.

Where in your life are you struggling to see God move?

Where are you tempted to proclaim hopelessness instead of clinging to the Living Hope?

God is our hope, our strength, our refuge. He is working all things together, so we can trust him when things seem bent out of shape.

Homework

Set a goal to rest in Philippians 1:19-30 for 15 minutes every day this week while moving through the spiritual rhythm of observation, interpretation, and application.

Scripture Memory

Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-4. Adding on two new verses may seem intimidating at first, but memorizing sentences can be much easier than memorizing fragmented clauses. I personally have never been good at memorizing off of note cards, so I like to read the passage I am memorizing over and over and over again, and day by day it begins to be written on my heart. It is amazing how quickly Scripture integrates into part of your thought life and flows into heart language. I pray that those of you who share my similar restraint to memorization will find this method encouraging and successful!

This week let’s dwell in God’s love and freedom together- we are fully loved by our Creator even on our worst days. After all, this is what the book of Philippians is all about!

– Emma