Philippians: Real Joy in Real Life
Part Two – Philippians 1:12-26
Paul narrates his own experience in 1:12-26, not just to inform this church of his condition, but to provide a concrete example of what it looks like to live with a Christ-like mindset – the very thing he prays for this church (1:9-11) and specifically instructs them to adopt (2:5)
“All of life is a story.”
– Madeline L’Engle
“Life is…a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
– character of Macbeth (William Shakespeare)
- The Source of Paul Joy: Jesus as his ‘summum bonum’ – his highest good
Paul’s narration of his experience demonstrates that his “highest good” is Jesus, and seeing others come to know this good news (vv.12-18a)
Paul is ‘emulating’ Jesus’ own perspective – “who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2b).
“For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not love you, but only to those who love your for your own sake….This is happiness and there is no other. Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is not true joy. Nevertheless there will remains drawn towards some image of true joy.”
– St. Augustine of Hippo, 5th C.
Paul shows us that he has…
- An excitement about the mission of God – his joy is that the gospel is going forward.
- A joy in difficult circumstances – he is able to see God’s hand even in the hard stuff
- No need to “compete” with, or retaliate against others who are trying to hurt him
- A hope that is present for both this life, and the life to come
- The ability to legitimately put the needs of others ahead of his own
B: Paul’s Example of a Christ-Like Mindset
- When Jesus is our center, we find joy in being on mission with God.
- Evangelism – telling others the good news of Jesus – matters. We participate in our part in God’s mission.
- Religious pluralism = All religious are viewed as equally truthful, and therefore no faith can claim to have ‘the truth’. This view is illogical and disrespects each faith group.
We can confidently, respectfully and joyfully play our part in sharing God’s good news in our world.
Paul’s heart is so lit with a desire to see Jesus’ exalted, and he is so confident God will accomplish his goals, that he is willing not only to suffer, but even to loose his life to tell the Jesus-story.
- Joy comes from seeing our ‘little stories’ in light of God’s big story
“Paul’s joy lies with his perspective – his ability to see every pirouette both for its own beauty and for its place in the whole dance. He had long desired to come to Rome, so that he might share with the Roman believers his understanding of the gospel and proclaim Christ to those who do not know him….Now he is there, although in circumstances not of his own choosing. But even so, neither are these circumstances cause for complaint, but for joy, because God in his own wisdom is carrying out his purposes, even through Paul’s imprisonment” – Gordon Fee
– We must develop a habit of giving thanks to God for all the details of our life
Practicing Giving Thanks: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!”
- Paul’s Approach to Leadership as Our Model
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer (theologian, physician, musician, philosopher, missionary, 1953 Nobel peace prize recipient)
We are all leaders in that we all have the ability to influence others:
Paul let’s his life be an example to others (3:17; 4:9), and that is an example to us.
Encouragement to Lead By Example:
- You don’t have to be perfect (and you aren’t) – you just need to admit when you’re wrong, learn from your mistakes, and keep leading
- You actually want to positively influence others for Christ (see Phil 1:14, 25)
- God enables us to lead by example (Phil 2:13)
“We are ambassadors of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20
Life Group Discussion Questions: Philippians 1:1-26
Go around your table and, in a relatively brief story, share a moment where you experienced what you would consider real joy.
Do you think there is any difference between joy and happiness as it’s often thought of in our popular culture? How would you define each?
Dig In: Read Philippians 1:1-11
- Paul speaks of being confident that God will complete his “good work” in this group of believers (v.6). What is this “good work” God is doing in them? Check out vv.9-11 and then if you need more info, go to the heart of this letter: Phil 2:2-5.
- Read vv.7-8. How would you describe Paul’s relationship with the people of the Philippian church? (very short answer!)
- Think about Paul’s example of warmly vocalizing his affections in verses 7-8. What keeps you from telling people how you really feel about them – from expressing your love, thankfulness and affection for them?
- There are a number of verses that direct the church to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12), or with a “kiss of love.” It’s easy to skip over these kinds of commands as ancient practices that have no relevance today – but even if we think they need modification for our own cultural moment, they are still Biblical imperatives that speak to the kind of visible signs of affection that we are to have toward one another. Tim Keller writes: “We must not be cold, abrupt, indifferent, and harsh with one another. More than that, we must be willing to actually talk about our love for one another.” (Gospel in Life, 62).
How can you begin to follow Paul’s example and “talk about your love” for each other, showing visible signs of affection for those you are in Christian community with? Brainstorm some ideas and write them down:
- Read Paul’s prayer again in 9-11. He emphasizes “thinking” as a necessary element of how the Philippians need to develop. Paul will go on to speak a great deal about how believers are to “think” throughout this letter (i.e. 2:1-5; 4:8). He also provides his own life as a concrete example of what that form of thinking will look like in vv.12-16. Read Phil 1:12-26 as a group and take note of how Paul “thinks” about his own situation.
In this passage, Paul ‘narrates’ his own present experience. He is in prison – and most people would see this as a bad thing. How does Paul see it? (vv.12-14). What is Paul’s summum bonum – his highest good – and how does that influence how he responds to this circumstance?
- How has his experience influenced others around him? (v.14). How does the way that we speak and act encourage others to consider God’s bigger perspective too?
- If Paul’s primary concern were his own happiness or comfort, how do you think he would experience this time in prison, and with these ‘rivals’?
- In vv.19-26 Paul then goes on to speak about his trust in God’s “providence” – a theological word that basically means: “The belief that God is working in positive ways, even in the painful moments, to bring about good for those who trust him.” How can sharing our own experience of God’s providence encourage others – both those who are Christians and those who are not (yet)?
- Can you think of a time that, from the outside at least, seemed very painful, or like a serious burden, but in the end you can now see how God was using it to achieve good purposes – a time where you can point to God’s providence?
- After speaking about his own view of his own death – that it would be better for him to depart and be with Christ – Paul says that he is convinced that he will remain for a while longer. Why does he want to remain? What will be achieved if he does? (v.23-26).
Take some time to pray for those in your group – asking God to help us gain the same perspective Paul has in this text.