Today we start a walk through Philippians. Thanks for joining me. This book is the letter Paul written to the people of Philippi while he was locked up in prison. Read the back story (the short version) of Saul/Paul in the previous post. If you don’t know the story of how Saul, now called Paul, was once a Jesus condemner turned an avid Jesus follower, please read that first.
Then, grab the free download S.O.A.P. Bible study tool here. It’s a helpful study aid.
First things first, before I continue. I am not a Bible scholar. I don’t have a degree in theology. I am just a woman who desperately wants to understand the Bible and develop a deeper walk with Jesus. I try my best to state truth and understanding. I pray that anything I say here that is untrue or misunderstood will be forgotten and only the good stuff is remembered.
Let’s pick up with Paul in Philippians 1. He is in prison, and not one of those comfy prisons reserved for the elite. This was a damp, dark dungeon. In my over-active imagination, the scene as cold, smelly, and dirty. He sleeps on the floor (not a cot), on hay, if he is lucky. He might have burlap to cover himself. Prison in AD 61 wasn’t anything like today. We will read more later when Paul describes his true conditions in prison.
Observation: The tone of the letter is warm, encouraging, and uplifting. Here, Paul is in this horrible condition and he starts the letter out with blessings and thankfulness. I feel like if I was in this situation I would have started off pleading for someone to break me out of this rat hole. That’s just me. Paul chooses to praise God and Jesus Christ first.
I also think he is encouraging the people of Philippi because he may not want them to worry and lose faith. Like when we tell your kids that work was “okay” when really it was a stressful hot mess. We don’t want to bum our kids out or worry them, so we encourage them.
Philippians 1:3-4 “I thank God in all my remembrance of you. In every prayer of mine, I always make me entreating and petition for you all with joy.”
He starts off praying for others. I mean, he could be praying for a get out of jail free card but, he is thinking of others first. It’s obvious to me that the people of Philippi hold a special place in his heart. That he had a great bond with them and experienced something profound while with the Philippians. Remember, he was called in a vision (Acts 16:10) to go Macedonia, thus starting his journey in spreading the Word, ending up in Philippi.
Scripture: Read and color code Philippians 1:7-8. Why does Paul feel the need to say, “It is right and appropriate for me…to feel this way about you all…”? Paul’s unfavorable situation is so bad that he feels the need to justify his uplifting attitude in reference to the Philippians.
Observation: I don’t think his feelings are inappropriate. I think it’s exceptional. He feels great love toward them and feels the need to state his bad situation doesn’t diminish the love he has for them. He feels great joy because the joy of Christ is in him, and he is extending this to them. He goes on to defend his “attitude of gratitude” by saying, “…you have me in your heart and I hold you in my heart.” He wholeheartedly loves them like Christ loves them. That is a beautiful thing.
Scripture: Explore and color code Philippians 9-11. What does Paul pray for the Philippians?
Observation: Paul prays that the Philippians’ love will “abound yet more and more” and they see what is “excellent and of real value” which comes through Jesus Christ. He is praying for others this whole time. And, what is the “real value”?
This reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary. Martha is upset that Mary isn’t helping prepare supper. (Luke 10:38-42) Instead, she is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening intently to Him. Martha complains to Jesus. Jesus explains that Mary chose the good thing and it shall not be taken from her. He is the real value. Paul is praying the Philippians will choose the same. The world doesn’t tell us what is good and of value. Jesus does. It’s love for one another and love for our savior.
Right now is an anxious time for the world. Life as we know it has changed. How has living with the reality of COVID-19 and seeing the suffering of others affected your perspective on the world in general? Is it negative or positive? I find the nightly news soul-crushing. Do you tend to see more bad than good? Do you have to seek out the good stories?
Times of great suffering has a way of bringing out the worst in humans, but we also see the best. It’s easy to let the negative over-take your thoughts and cause negative reactions, such as yelling at loved ones, over-eating, drinking. I see a lot of anxiety, depression, stress, and sadness around me. Seeing this will negatively affect how I feel.
Keeping the negative from weighing us down is hard work. Jesus paid the ultimate price of suffering for us so that one day the suffering will be over and we will be in the loving arms of God.
What would it look like if you, instead of focusing on the negative, chose to see God’s joy and grace every day?
To say, “Yes, this bad thing is happening, but I see this good thing too.” Because bad things are always happening. We can’t stop the world from that experience. But through Christ, we can be a little light in the world of darkness. How do you do that? How are you like Paul?
If you have a hard time seeing the light (like me) then be the light. I baked eleven pans of brownies this weekend and delivered one to all my neighbors. I included a little encouraging note as well. I am not saying this to toot my horn. This was an active choice I had to make to stop the anxiety monster from running amock in my head. When everything feels out of control, sharing something that I can control feels good. That has a way of shifting your perspective. Almost instantly.
I am not saying Brownies are the answer to world peace. Or maybe I am. I am saying to put your blessings to good use. Can you sew? Then sew masks. Can you spare $20 to the beggar on the street? You know what to do. Can you write beautiful notes in chalk on your sidewalk? Can you decorate your window with cut out hearts for your neighbors to see? Can you shop for your elderly neighbor? Can you bring them a meal? Share your blessings in hard times. Find joy too.
Sharing our blessings and spreading joy will transform others who are in need of it.
Read again Philippians 1:9-11. Imagine Paul is praying this prayer to you. (And I think he is, really. It was written to the Philippians but we can apply this prayer to all of us.) What would his answered prayers look like in our life?
Prayer. Dear Lord, I imagine that Paul is praying this pray for me. That I too will see what is of real value in this world. I want to know the love that Paul shows to Philippi even this time of anxiety and loss. Lord help me open my heart and be filled with the fruits of righteousness [of right standing with You and doing what is right] which is through our savior and Your son, Jesus Christ. In God’s name, I pray, Amen.