The Philippian Letter: Chapter 4

philippians

Through our studies of Philippians we’ve looked at our lives in perspective of the hope of salvation. We’ve talked about what it’s like to try to be like Jesus. We’ve looked at our goals and measured them against Paul had for his spiritual growth. Finally, we’re going to look at the joy we should have in Christ and the way prayer and thanksgiving can help us attain that deep spiritual joy.

Unity in Love

As he closes this letter, Paul once again makes an exhortation for unity. He reminds them and us of God’s providence and and he encourages to rejoice. Paul instructs us to seek unity and agreement with one another for the sake of the gospel on multiple occasions. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul writes:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

We see this again in Philippians 4:2 when he encourages us to again find agreement in the Lord. He dissuades us from quarrels and divisions that can drive unrest and lead us away from our focus on being Christ-like. He specifically calls out a couple of Christians named Euodia and Syntyche, who are involved in a disagreement, and he asks a dear friend to intervene and assist them in settling it. The same focus on unity is asked of you and me today. Let’s not let the things of this world get in the way of our focus on doing God’s will.

Contentment in God

The latter part of the chapter sees Paul direct us to focus on the contentment only God can supply. This can be tough, and it’s easy to get focused on self in such a way that we become discontent. There have been times in my own life when I’ve felt like God is ignoring me or has left me to fend for myself. Paul confronts times of weakness like that beginning in verse 12.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Skipping down to verse 19:

My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever.

Paul reminds us of God’s care for us and His desire for us to find contentment with what He has supplied us. Paul certainly didn’t go about preaching what some call a prosperity gospel. He faced more struggles and trials than any of us are likely to face in our Christian journeys.

A Higher Perspective

Has anything happened that ruined your day or week, or even month? I once thought I was on a sure road to promotion in the company where I was working. I finished my first large project and was looking forward to the rewards from that venture when I was unexpectedly laid off — one week before Christmas. That sure ruined my month.

But it’s hard to compare experiences I’ve had like that to the struggles that Paul had. Starting in II Corinthians 11:16, we see Paul talk about imprisonments, beatings, near-death experiences, torture, going hungry and sleepless, being shipwrecked, and more. And at the end of that passage, he talks about the concern he has for the well-being of all churches. He rejoiced with confidence in God. He didn’t shy away from the challenges or threats he faced.

What’s your focus? What are you thinking about as you go about your day — when things are great or when you are facing struggles? Do you dwell on the problems or find contentment and hope in Christ? I’d encourage you to reread through Paul’s experiences in life and take note of how he views things. Having a perspective like his can change our lives and lead us down a path of greater contentment and joy.

lesson by Aaron Kadel

The Philippian Letter: Chapter 3

philippians

This is our third lesson from the book of Philippians, and we’re going to be looking at goals in the context of chapter 3. What aims do you have? Where do you want to go in this life? What plan do you have to meet those goals; how do you measure success; what steps will you follow? What feelings and motivations drive you to those goals? When we set goals, we can either set ourselves up for failure or success based on the answers to these questions.

In our spiritual lives, we must have goals that are measurable and actionable. We have to be prepared for the challenges and pitfalls we might face. We must be motivated to reach for those goals, or we might let them slip away from us. We might lose sight and begin to drift. What are your goals for spiritual growth? For church attendance? For benevolence? For encouragement? For teaching?

A Goal of Christ

Already in this letter to the Philippians, Paul has spoken of a goal to walk worthy of Christ. What does that look like? This chapter begins with rejoicing. Walking with Christ is a glad thing, even when we face challenges for our faith, as Paul points out in the next couple of verses. He is aware, and wants us to be aware, of the obstacles in the way of running toward Christ. If we know what obstacles lie ahead, we can be all the more prepared to avoid them.

Paul begins by pointing out where he came from and how proud his heritage had been — a Pharisee among Pharisees, flawless by the law of Moses, zealous to protect his faith. This is a man who had goals and pursued them with energy and enthusiasm, but then his whole life perspective changed. He started pursuing new goals, but he did so with the same zeal with which he pursued his former passions. His new goal is to know his Savior and the power of the resurrection, so that he too can be resurrected one day.

Looking Forward, Not Back

Starting in verse 12, Paul acknowledges that he had not yet reached his goal, but he keeps it in his sight at all times. He has laid aside his former life in favor of his new goal. He has forgotten his past failures so they may not weigh him down and drain his endurance. Reaching forward is hard to do when the past is holding us back. Therefore, what do you and I need to let go so we can move forward? What steps do we have to take to move forward with direction and purpose?

Nothing in this world will survive to the next, so we should not be too eager to hold on to the things of this life. Paul tells us our citizenship is in Heaven. This world is but a journey, so we should keep home in our sights, guiding us in the right direction. Where we place our focus is where we will run, either toward God or away from Him. Let us follow Paul’s example, leave our past behind us, identify and overcome the obstacles of this world, actively live like Christ, and press forward toward our home.

lesson by Mike Mahoney

The Philippian Letter: Chapter 2

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In our last lesson, we started this series in Philippians 1, and we spent some time looking at the dire situation Paul was in while imprisoned in Rome. We saw his joy and gratitude at the proclamation of Christ’s message and how his entire life had become wrapped up in Christ’s mission. Joy and thankfulness — these are possible in Paul’s life because of his complete faith and trust in Christ despite his current troubles.

Working for Unity

This congregation got its start in Acts 16 where Paul found a collection of people praying by the river. There he meets a businesswoman named Lydia. She was a successful woman, and she also had a good heart. She was not a Jew, but she had adapted to Jewish customs. Paul’s message awakened something within her, and she dedicated herself to Christ.

At the other end of the social spectrum, we meet a jailor. Here is one who lives and dies by the order of Roman society, and he makes a major decision when an earthquake comes and opens up the cells he tends. When he sees Paul and Silas still there with the other prisoners, something clicks. He then responds to the message of Christ. Starting with these two individuals — a successful businesswoman and a Roman jailor — a church grows in Philippi.

These two individuals represent the diversity contained in Philippi and should comprise any church of Christ. Philippians chapter 2 calls us to unite in diversity, having the same mind, love, and faith. Paul calls on us to abandon self-interest and hold others above ourselves. When we can do this, we can put aside rivalries and divisions that can upset the unity of Christ’s church. We are all individuals, but we hold each other up so that we can grow into something better.

Humble Like Christ

Philippians 2:5 – 18 then distills the gospel message down to its most basic elements. It’s that we should conduct ourselves as Christ did, that we should be humble as He was humble, that we should do all things without complaint and to the glory of our God. Though Christ had equality with God, He did not covet that position. He gave it up to be like us, and He did so because He put our spiritual needs and the will of the father above Himself.

Because He followed the will of the Father and looked out for our best interests, He is now glorified. He endured pain and suffering to give us hope for eternity. When we face our own periods of helplessness and hopelessness, we should look up to the source of our hope, and we should look out for the interests of others. We can endure as Christ endured when we put others before ourselves and focus first on our Father’s plan for us.

A Personal Salvation

In verse 12, Paul makes it clear that no one can do this for me. I have to have an investment in my own salvation, and that will take effort. This is to God’s glory, and that is why we can keep up our Christian walk without complaint. It is because we know we are doing it for God and not for ourselves. It is because we are focused on something better than this world. It is so easy for negativity to overwhelm us, but we can keep it at bay through our faith and hope in God. This sets us apart and makes us lights to the world.

No matter the challenges we face, we can remain faithful. Even approaching potential death, Paul could remain joyful in the Lord. In prison, Paul could remain thankful. We can follow his example, and we can live the way Christ showed us as lights to the world, looking to God and others before ourselves, and humbling ourselves so that His glory might shine in us.

lesson by Donn Koonce