Dear Philippians: Don't Worry, Be Joyful. Love, Paul.
Adapted from Steve Brown’s Through the Eyes of Grace – the Prison Epistles.
|Philippi by wallygrom @ Flickr|
Philippi was the leading city of Macedonia, situated on the Egnatian Way between Rome and Asia. Philippi took its name from Philip II of Macedonia who captured the cityand was the father of Alexander the Great. It was the most important city of the province, but not the capital. It became a full Roman city—a rare and great privilege. A financial center with natural attractions, too.
Acts 16 tells how Philippi was the first church established in Europe. Paul was led to Macedonia because of a vision and shortly thereafter met 3 people who founded the church: Lydia, an Asian professional woman, a girl possessed of a spirit who had been making a lot of money for her owners until Paul healed her, and Paul’s jailer who received Christ and whose household was baptized. Paul visited this church three times.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written around A.D. 62 from the city of Rome where Paul was in prison. But one of the major themes of Philippians is joy. Paul was joyful, not because of circumstances, but because of Jesus. When the church heard he was in jail, they sent a man to help, and Paul sent him back home with this letter.
Some people tell the message about Christ because of their jealousy and envy. Others tell the message about him because of their good will. Those who tell the message about Christ out of love know that God has put me here to defend the Good News. But the others are insincere. They tell the message about Christ out of selfish ambition in order to stir up trouble for me while I’m in prison. But what does it matter? Nothing matters except that, in one way or another, people are told the message about Christ, whether with honest or dishonest motives, and I’m happy about that.
1) Why would someone tell about Jesus for not good reasons? Why doesn’t that bother Paul? What’s most important to Paul?
Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more. If I continue to live in this life, my work will produce more results. I don’t know which I would prefer. I find it hard to choose between the two. I would like to leave this life and be with Christ. That’s by far the better choice.
2) Is it possible Paul really didn’t care whether he lived or died? How would you explain that to someone?
Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be blameless and innocent. You will be God’s children without any faults among people who are crooked and corrupt. You will shine like stars among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life. Then I can brag on the day of Christ that my effort was not wasted and that my work produced results. My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service I offer to God for your faith. Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you. For this same reason you also should be filled with joy and share that joy with me.
3) What do you like to complain about most? How does complaining keep you away from joy?
In chapter 3, Paul warns the Philippians to beware those who impose extra rules on them. (Like circumcision.) He explains how he was a better rule keeper than anyone. But…
When it comes to being enthusiastic, I was a persecutor of the church. When it comes to winning God’s approval by keeping Jewish laws, I was perfect. These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ and to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn’t receive God’s approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God’s approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith that knows Christ. Faith knows the power that his coming back to life gives and what it means to share his suffering.
In this way I’m becoming like him in his death, with the confidence that I’ll come back to life from the dead. It’s not that I’ve already reached the goal or have already completed the course. But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me. Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.
Whoever has a mature faith should think this way. And if you think differently, God will show you how to think. However, we should be guided by what we have learned so far.
4) Does Paul think we have to try to be good to get right with God?
5) Does Paul think we should try to be good to please God?
6) Key sentence: “But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.” How can you put that in your own words?
7) What does the end mean there?
Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful! Let everyone know how considerate you are. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable. Practice what you’ve learned and received from me, what you heard and saw me do. Then the God who gives this peace will be with you.
8) What is worthy of praise in your life? For what should we praise God?
"Joy is what happens
when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."
- Marianne Williamson
- Marianne Williamson