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Scripture

Philippians 1:12-26

Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.


Spend some time in worship.

 

 

Observation

Paul knows his friends are concerned that he is in prison. But he reassures them that it is not actually so bad because God was blessing him whilst he was there with the opportunity to spread the Gospel. Just because he was confined did not mean that God’s work had ended. His power was still present with Paul as he shared the good news with his guards and others. Many of these people – even the palace guard – came to Jesus because of Paul’s witness. He also had the time to write encouraging letters to the churches in Ephesus and Colossae as well as this one to the believers in Philippi.

Paul’s witness about God’s presence, power and blessing in his life, even in such restrained circumstances, gave the Christians in Rome greater confidence and courage as they saw his joy and witnessed how God cared for him and used him even whilst he was in prison.

Paul told the Philippians he knew some preachers spoke with the good intention of spreading the gospel. However he was also aware of some people trying to ‘out-preach’ him and rise to the highest place in ministry. These people saw Paul as a rival in a competition and it was a matter of selfish ambition for them as they tried to look better and more important than Paul in front of the people, rather than preaching effectively for the glory of God. But Paul didn’t care. What was important for him was that the true Gospel was being proclaimed, and he rejoiced about this, whatever the motive of the preacher.

In spite of his future looking dark, Paul knew God was in control, and the Philippians were praying for him. Paul valued these prayers for he knew it was through them that the Holy Spirit met Paul’s needs. Paul trusted God implicitly. He knew he was living in God’s will and was not being punished for any wrong-doing. He was very aware that his imprisonment may end up with his execution. If this was what God’s will was for Paul, he was confident that his death would glorify God. The Philippians would have found this hard to accept as they were used to God working miracles in keeping Paul safe (Acts 16:25-34), but now there was the possibility he might be executed.

So Paul goes on to reassure them. He did not fear death. Dying would not be a sacrifice for him but would mean being with Jesus, so his death would glorify God. On the other hand, living would mean Paul could continue to serve God by bringing others to Jesus and Paul believed, at this time, that this was God’s plan for him. He did hope to see the Philippians again, but it is not known whether he ever travelled back to Philippi. Yet there was still an element of uncertainty in him, as he was torn between dying and being with Jesus and living and continuing to serve Him by ministering to the Philippians and others. In spite of this uncertainty, Paul had a calm and steady acceptance of whatever his future would hold.

Icebreaker:

What major decision have you made in the past that affected your life? How has that decision turned out? Would you change it now? Why/why not?

Application

  • Paul had a dilemma. How do you deal with situations when you have a dilemma? What helps you to decide whether to go one way or the other? What part does God play in your decision making? How do you know what His will is, if you desire to do His will?
  • Paul was not afraid of dying. Are you? How does the thought of your death make you feel? Are you secure in your salvation and your destination? What makes you respond in this way?
  • What would you like to accomplish before you die? Why is this important to you?
  • What work has God called you to do that you have not yet completed? Are you working on this task or are you ignoring it? Whatever action you are taking/not taking, how does the thought of you being ‘called homeward’ before you have completed the task make you feel?
  • Whose agenda is the top priority in your life? God’s agenda may be the ‘right’ answer to this question – but what is your answer? Does anything need to change?
  • ‘For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ Can you agree with Paul? Why/why not?
  • Are you willing to bring yourself in line with God’s will for the rest of your life? What may be holding you back?
  • How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?

Prayer
Lord, You know our struggle about doing Your will or our own. Give us strength to fulfil Your commands, to follow what You are calling us to do joyfully and at once. Make us more like Jesus. May your will be done.
Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.

Service
What can you do this week to discover your calling, if you don’t already know it, and to work towards fulfilling that calling with joy, for the benefit of others? Be prepared to report back to the group next week.

Bibliography

Hargreaves, John, A Guide to Philippians, SPCK, London 2001

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