A Study in the Book of Philippians
The Apostle Paul teaches us there is joy in everything – no matter what. Paul painfully endured all sorts of trials, opposition, and persecution – as demonstrated by the fact that he wrote Philippians from a jail cell. But he always looked forward with hope not based on circumstances or outcomes but rather on the joy that comes from God’s faithfulness in his life and he teaches you and I how to do the same – no matter what!
How to use this Reading Guide:
Take the time to read through all four chapters of Philippians in one sitting.
Even in the worst of circumstances Paul begins by offering thanksgiving. How might you begin by giving thanks? Start a "Thanksgiving Journal" and write down a few of those things there. Take time each day to jot down a few things you are thankful for on those pages.
Write Paul’s prayer in your favorite Bible translation here. Maybe even write it down on an index card, put it in the notes section of your phone, or find another way to keep it close by where you will see it every day. Make the prayer personal and pray it each day.
The focus of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is “joy.” Joy(or a form of the word) is used at least 16 times in the letter to the Philippians. Paul’s inspiration to the church is to find joy in all circumstances. Who or what is robbing you of joy? What circumstances are stealing your joy? What steps do you wish to take to find joy?
Fill in Paul’s words with your own words: “For me to live is_______ and to die is _______.” (Examples: money/leave it all behind; fame/to be forgotten; power/lose it all)
Joy No Matter What
By Nathan Henderson
I took my seat on the cold, industrial German train. As the train pulled away from the station, I felt the loneliness grow deeper and stronger until I couldn’t take it any longer and I began to sob. Those sobs shortly turned into weeping while I pretended to look out of my window at the passing German country side. As tears streamed down my face I thought to myself, “Is this really happening?” All my planning for the last year was for nothing. All my plans for the next year had just been crushed in one night. In March of this year, I was in Germany to help staff and lead a Discipleship Training School with Youth With a Mission that was going to travel all across Europe. That all ceased to exist with one night and with one conversation from my leader. I thought God had abandoned me or that He was punishing me, but little did I know that the next few months, I would experience God’s closeness and grace like I never had before. Those next months were filled with bitter pain, but also with the sweetest times with the Lord. I learned that God draws near to us when we are lacking. He fills the positions that we are missing in our lives. I was without friends, but God would relate to me as a close friend. I was missing my community, but God let me be a part of his holy community. I was missing a wise elder who gives gentle counsel, but you bet your bottom dollar God came through and exceeded my expectations. If my plans in Germany had come to pass, I would have never gotten to know God in the intimate ways I have in these past months. Even now God is still healing and teaching me new things from this recent disappointment. The further time goes on, I get a clearer picture of what God was, is, and will do in and thorough me from this painful memory. I have learned my feelings and emotions don’t have to go up and down with my experiences. I can anchor my emotions to Christ, because no matter what situation I am in, I know he will bring me through. Not only will he bring me through but he make me stronger, wiser, and bring me closer to Him. All for his glory and for my benefit. I am able to have joy no matter what circumstance I am in because Jesus is my anchor and I know he won’t waste a season to purify me and to grow me closer to him. I believe that is the real prize in this life and it brings me joy.
Last week you read through the entire book of Philippians in one sitting. Take time today to write an outline the letter. There is no right or wrong so don’t stress over that. Just outline it as you see the way Paul wrote it.
Discover when Paul first visited Philippi during his second missionary journey.
Paul talked a lot about humility in unity in Philippians 2:1-11. What else did he say about the same subject in other letters?
More words on unity.
Even more words on unity.
Still more words on unity.
Unity No Matter What
By Barbara Lust
In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul makes it very clear what it means to have the attitude of Jesus. Paul begins by asking some questions. Is there any encouragement, comfort, or fellowship by belonging to Christ? Are your hearts compassionate? If so, find some common ground, love each other, and work together.
Paul then describes what Jesus’ attitude looked like. Philippians 2:3-4 in the New Living Translation puts it this way: “Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too.” Jesus showed true humility.
Even though Jesus was part of the Trinity, he did not put himself above anyone else. Instead, he humbled himself and came to earth and was the same as anyone of us. Yet he did so much for us. He forgave, healed, preached, and taught among many other things. Ultimately, he did for us that which we can’t do for ourselves. He died for our sins.
If we are going to have the attitude of Jesus we must be willing to do what Jesus did. We must put others ahead of our own desires and not care who gets the credit. Remember the phrase, “It’s not all about me.”
God rewarded Jesus for his obedience declaring that Jesus’ name should be above all others and that all should bow and confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Paul has given us an example of what it means to have true humility. Our job is to pattern our lives as closely as possible to the example Jesus set for us. Have the right attitude, put others first, and love each other. Most of all we must remember to honor the name of Jesus above all other names.
God is working for you, in you and through you. Jot down some ways God is working for, in, and through you today.
The miraculous story of Paul and Silas occurred in a jail in Philippi. What is God saying to you through this story today?
What encouragement do these verses about God’s Word give you today?
What encouragement do you receive from these verses about prayer today?
What encouragement do you receive from these verses about suffering?
What encouragement have you received from others? Where might you encourage someone else today?
Encouragement No Matter What
By Scott Robertson
Researchers studying self-esteem in children have found something worth considering when it comes to encouragement in the Church. They discovered that praising a child for what he or she has accomplished is important, and, on an arbitrary scale, is worth about one point when it comes to strengthening self-esteem. However, praising a child for who they are rather than just what they have accomplished is worth about ten times as much on the self-esteem scale. Frightening is the observation that criticizing a child for what they have done is worth a negative ten points. Most costly to a child’s self-esteem is criticizing them for who they are which is worth a minus 100!
Sometimes words matter and sometimes they matter even more. Everyone needs affirmation for who they are, and value for what they do. About 35% of the relationships which children have with their primary caregiver can be described as insufficiently secure. They have not been responded to in a consistent, timely and affirming way. If we assume that the same statistic applies to the Church, there is a lot of repair to be done for the Children of Grace by the Children of Grace.
The fact that God trusted the survival and development of human beings to other human beings is pretty amazing to me. It was undoubtedly one of the greatest risks that He has ever taken. As extensions of grace, we raise one another. The ability to affirm others, particularly those with whom we may disagree, is incredibly powerful when it is active in the Church.
Allegro Dante was an Italian writer in the 1400s who wrote a three piece story about a trip to hell and back by a wandering soul. Over the entrance to Hell he said that there was a sign which said something like “Forsake hope all who enter”. When I heard that for the first time, I thought that, if that were the sign over Hell, then the sign over every church door should read “Let Hope Begin Here All Who Enter”. The offer of hope to the hopeless by those who have found it is an affirmation in the Church is powerfully healing. That nothing that we have done or could ever do will change God’s mind about us and our worth is securing. In fact, I would argue that forgiveness is God’s investment in who we are and affirmation of us in Him.
Paul had a way of affirming others that made them want to be their best. He valued what the Philippians had done, but affirmed who they were in Christ. In Christ, nothing counts for nothing. Everything, given enough time and grace, counts for something redemptive. Paul, the former murderer of Christians, knew it personally.
Notice how Paul outlines his spiritual biography with his past (3:1-11), present (3:12-16), and future (3:17-21). How might you outline your spiritual biography?
Paul used analogies from to world to communicate truth about the spiritual life. Today’s analogy is the military. What does it speak to you?
The analogy today is architecture. What does is say to you?
Paul often used the analogy of agriculture. How do these illustrations speak to you?
By far, the analogy Paul used the most was athletics. How do you relate to this analogy?
We are not sure who the author of Hebrews is. There is good evidence it could be Paul. One reason is because of this athletic analogy. What do these verses speak to you about pressing on no matter what?
Press on No Matter What
By Diane Burnett
Last month, one of my coworkers passed away in a tragic accident. The loss hit my work family exceptionally hard. Tony wasn’t just another co-worker. He was one of those people that when you met him, you instantly became his family. He truly exuded joy and was a beautiful person. There was no questioning his love for the Lord because he exhibited it daily. When I heard of the news my response was, “there’s the straw,” because what else could 2020 possibly throw our way?
Pressing on during 2020 has proven to be incredibly difficult. We have all been hit with things we never saw coming. A global pandemic, job losses, and should I dare say “virtual schooling?” When the alarm clock rings, we arise to a gloomy day of mask-wearing and social distancing. It really feels as if we are living in this bad dream we can’t seem to wakeup from. It has so many of us questioning things like our sanity, our purpose and for many, their faith. Why should we continue to fight the good fight when we have so many dark clouds around us? How will we make it?
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when several of us gathered to celebrate Tony’s life. Many wiped away tears as stories were shared of how he impacted lives of others. In the front row, was Tony’s wife, Kena. As the band started one of Tony’s favorite songs, Raise a Hallelujah, Kena stood up in the sea of sadness, raised her hands, and began to praise. It truly was a beautiful moment. Here was a woman, who never expected to be burying her husband in 2020, demonstrating her outpouring love to Jesus. Wow.
See friends, the Lord isn’t asking much of us during this challenging time. He isn’t asking all of us to find a cure for COVID or to even solve all the problems the world is throwing at us. He is asking us to trust in the fact He is still working. He is asking for us to be like Kena and continue to praise and rejoice in him event. We can take comfort in knowing it’s not our battle but His, and because of that we have what we have all we could ever need to continue to press on.
…I'm gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you're gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!
Choose today to be CALM: Celebrate God’s goodness (verse 4). Ask God for help (verse 6). Leave your concerns with Him (verse 6). Mediate on good things (verse 8).
Take whatever is it that you are worried about today and find each of these things in that worry:
What is Peter’s wisdom about our worry?
If Jesus gave us peace but we are not feeling much of it, what does that mean?
How do God’s promises change your outlook on the day ahead?
What does this promise say about God’s power compared to the anxieties you face?
Find beauty in the Season – How to Rejoice No Matter What
By Debra Henderson
I Love Fall!!
Growing up in West Texas, Fall really isn’t a season. It sort of passes as an extended part of summer; the nights may get a little cooler until it’s suddenly cold. But, for a few years in our early family life, we lived in Kentucky. That is where I saw the true glories of Fall. I would walk out of our front door or drive down the road and be aghast at the beauty of the colors, stunning and vibrant, not just yellow orange and brown, but purples and reds. Ever since then, when September rolls around, I start looking for ways to celebrate Fall color. Or take a trip to see it again.
It reminds me of how our lives also have seasons. Some are hot and busy, some are cold and closer to home, some involve work, others hunkering down, but God put beauty in them all. You may have to look for it, but if you are quiet, God will whisper His beauty to You. Beauty comes in all colors and shapes, but if you focus on that beauty, you will begin to see it all around you and even inside of you. The more you thank God for it, the more it shows up. You may even find ways to bring that beauty out in others, or be that beauty for someone who has lost their focus and can’t see the beauty today.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’ –Philippians 4:4-8
Confess the places where you are struggling with contentment.
What does Jesus say about contentment in these verses?
What does Jesus say about contentment through this parable?
What does Paul have to offer about contentment to his protégé Timothy?
What is the connection between giving and contentment?
Receive the grace of Jesus today.
Contentment No Matter What
By Glen Mullins
In this week’s Scripture passage, Paul tells (verse 11) that he has learned to be content. We might be inclined to say that’s clearly because he wasn’t alive for the year 2020! In reality, though, Paul’s life wasn’t easy: he was flogged multiple times, he was stoned for preaching about Jesus, and at one point he was shipwrecked. He even wrote the letter to the Philippians from a Roman jail. (Plus, he didn’t have access to a Whataburger!) If Paul was alive today, he could’ve easily written, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing pandemics and health, racial tension and harmony, political attacks and unity, social media trolls and likes” (verse 12).
Paul says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (verse 13). In our culture, we like to interpret this verse along the lines of “God will enable me in whatever I set out to do.” In the light of the previous verse, though, I think it’s more likely that Paul means he can face any set of circumstances, knowing that God will give him strength.
Paul gives us the key to contentment: “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (verse 18). The catch is that we don’t get to decide what’s a need versus a want, and we don’t get to decide God’s timing. Contentment involves getting back to basics: knowing that we are loved beyond measure, and trusting God with the details. Relationship with the Father is what’s most important!
This isn’t to say that God doesn’t care about our job situation, our ailing parents, our kids’ struggles with school, or any of the other multitude of stresses we face every day. He knows us intimately, and He cares about the things we care about. Contentment doesn’t sweep away our hopes for the future, and it doesn’t blithely ignore our concerns about the present. It does, however, promise to supersede our circumstances – from pandemics to racial and political tension and more – and gives us strength to face whatever life throws at us.