1. Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that couldn’t be resolved without outside help?
2. Who did you get to help you?
3. How would you feel if you found your name in a famous book because you weren’t getting along with someone else?
4. Would these be women you would want to be a part of your church?
Euodia and Syntyche are two women who have a disagreement that is serious enough for Paul to write about it. As is often the case they have been unable to resolve their differences on their own, so Paul asks one of the leaders in the church to help them. Many times, we try to let differences go thinking that they only impact the immediate parties. Paul believes that if this difference is not dealt with it will lead to division within the church. I would want these women to be a part of the church I attend. They are strong and courageous believers. Their strength will make reconciliation a challenge, but the effort will be worth it.
1. Where do you see examples of people rejoicing?
The most common place is at an athletic event when someone makes the winning score (the last-minute touchdown catch or the walk-off home run).
2. How is it possible to rejoice all the time?
Rejoicing all the time requires a source of joy that is constant and not dependent on circumstances. A deep trust in God is one of things that makes it possible to rejoice all the time.
3. When should we pray?
All the time. We still need times of focused prayer, but maintaining continual communication with God will help us deal with whatever life brings our way.
4. How should we pray?
We should always pray with a grateful attitude. Pausing to think of all that God has done for us helps to put whatever we’re dealing with in proper perspective.
5. What does Paul promise if we do this?
Paul promises us a peace that we cannot understand. Peace to Jews like Paul was not just the absence of conflict. If Paul were writing this in Hebrew, he would have used the word shalom, which means an overall sense of well-being and completeness. It is a feeling that will not be understood by those looking in from the outside.
6. What do our hearts and minds need to be guarded from?
Discontent and the ungratefulness that comes from it are real threats to the joy that God wants us to experience. By constant, grateful communication with God we continually remind ourselves that we are not alone, and that God is in control. The world we live in is determined to disturb our peace by filling us with discontent and ingratitude. The next verses provide us with the key to battling the evil forces around us.
1. Brainstorm examples of each of these qualities: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Barclay’s translation may be helpful with the definitions of several of these words:
Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things have the dignity of holiness on them, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are winsome, whatever things are fair-spoken, if there are any things which men count excellence, and if there are any things which bring men praise, think of the value of these things.
2. Is this more or less difficult than identifying examples of the following: false, undignified, wrong, contaminated, ugly, contemptible, shoddy, and dishonorable?
Personally, I find it more difficult to find examples of the positives. The world is full of the opposites of what Paul directs us to focus our attention on. I wouldn’t spend any time on brainstorming examples of this list. I think it would distract from Paul’s whole intent.
3. Who fits all these positive characteristics?
Paul is describing God in terms that we don’t usually associate with God. When struggling against evil thoughts it is always a good thing to begin thinking about Jesus.
4. Where does your mind naturally focus?
When I’m in pain I tend to focus on the pain. When any of my natural appetites are not satisfied to my expectation I tend to focus on the world’s provision for that want. Paul understands that this will not result in joy.
1. How does Paul demonstrate what he has been writing about?
Paul’s desire is for Jesus and his thoughts and concerns are for the Philippians. He can see from God’s perspective that his imprisonment is a part of God’s plan. His trust is so deep that he can be content even when his needs are not fully met.
2. When are most people content?
Trick question. Most people are never content. When I looked up the question above on Google I ran across the TED talk below. David Steindl-Rast is a Catholic monk who puts chapter 4 of Philippians in terms that a very secular world might be willing to hear. My only wish is that he would have mentioned God’s indescribable gift to us. You can view his TED talk here.
3. What are common sources of discontent?
I think there are basically two: pain and comparison. When we are in pain it is natural to focus our attention on ourselves. Pain is a warning signal and does need to be responded to, but focusing on our pain leads to discontent. Comparison in my mind is the more powerful of the two I’ve listed. As soon as I begin comparing, I’ll find someone who has more of something I want. As soon as the desire for more sets in I will be discontent. Television is a great discontent generator. It used to be just the ads, but now the content stirs discontent. Who can watch hour after hour of HGTV and not become dissatisfied with something in their house?
4. What were Paul’s circumstances?
Paul was in custody in Rome. We think he was in a private house but chained to a guard around the clock. He was dependent on others for his physical needs and had no freedom of movement. Once he went before Caesar, he would either be released or executed. Execution was the more likely of the two possible outcomes.
5. How could verse 13 be misinterpreted?
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 ESV) It is possible to read this verse and think that God will give us the ability to do whatever we want. If this was true, then I should be able to be an world class runner. We misinterpret when we put the focus on what we want to do.
6. What is Paul really saying in verse 13?
What Paul is saying is that God provides him the strength to remain grateful and contented regardless of where God leads him. This verse is meant to give us confidence and hope, not delusions of grandeur.
1. Who does Paul rely on?
Paul relies on God.
2. How does this impact his response to the Philippian church?
He can be grateful for them while not being dependent on them.
3. Who is Paul thinking about as he writes this section?
His focus here is consistent with his focus throughout the book. He is writing because of his concern for the Philippians.
4. How would you describe Paul’s relationship with the Philippians?
He is acting toward them as a loving parent would. He sees them as his spiritual children and desires the best for them.
1. What has God enabled Paul to accomplish during his imprisonment?
Paul has a captive audience in the soldier who is chained to him all the time. It would appear from these verses that this has resulted in converts and the spread of the gospel into Caesar’s household. Paul probably would not have gotten a hearing from these people if he had not been chained to a soldier.
1. Describe the quality of life that Paul desires for the Philippians.
He desires for them to live lives filled with gratitude and contentment. He wants them to be overflowing with joy regardless of the circumstances.
2. How will this kind of life be achieved?
By developing the mind of Christ and following Christ’s example in pursuit of becoming more like Jesus.
3. How does this compare with the American dream?
I find no connection between the life Paul describes and the American dream which seems to be all about the acquisition of stuff.
4. If the comparison isn’t positive, what would the Jesus following dream look like?
A life filled with joy in using what God has provided to serve others.
Material for this and the other lessons from Philippians are drawn from two primary sources and my own observations: