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 email@example.com.
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.”
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.” 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.”
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.
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,