This week is the first week of our online study though Philippians. I will be sending out one email once per week for the next 4 weeks through Philippians :)
For me the book of Philippians has been incredibly timely because of Paul's outlook on life despite his circumstances. It is no secret that many are struggling today with the Pandemic. I believe this book contains the secret to having joy, despite our circumstances and I am eager to share my findings with you!
As we begin week one, I want to encourage you to pause and think about circumstances in your life that potentially control your happiness.
Have you ever stopped to think about how few of our circumstances in life are really in our control? Can we control a pandemic? Absolutely not. How about the weather? No…
What we can control is our mindset and actions toward those things. If our happiness depends on extrinsic influences, we are going to be miserable the majority of the time. But if our happiness is placed in the One who controls our circumstances, our joy will abound no matter what we face.
When Paul wrote the letter of Philippians, he was not in an ideal circumstance. He was in prison. The Philippian Christians, knowing of his confinement in prison, may have thought Paul was discouraged. They may also have felt his work was hindered and perhaps thought he was accomplishing little in view of his circumstances. But God had other plans.
In this first section of his letter, Paul gives them a new perspective. In Philippians 1:12-30, he talks about his imprisonment and affirms that his chains had advanced the gospel. His writing shows that whatever the outcome of his trial, Christ would be glorified in his life or in his death and he could have joy in the midst of whatever he faced.
Paul, despite writing from prison, wrote a letter that dripped with joy and trust in God.
Paul was not living to enjoy circumstances; he was living to serve Jesus. He knew his purpose and was confident in his mission.
To him, he was not a prisoner of Rome, but a prisoner of Christ (Eph 3:1). The chains that held him were his bonds in Christ (Phil 1:13).
He did not look at Christ through His circumstances; instead he looked at His circumstances through Christ, and this was a game changer.
As Christian women, when we develop this type of mindset, we become concerned about spiritual things such as the fellowship of the gospel (1:1-11), the furtherance of the gospel (1:12-26), and the faith of the gospel (1:27-30) instead of burdened and overcome by physical things.
Paul's mindset allowed him to embrace his hardships because he knew they helped strengthen his fellowships with other Christians, opened up doors to lead others to Christ, and allowed him to defend the gospel before prominent people in the courts of Rome.
He had a joyful mindset in the midst of suffering and he called the Philippians to do the same.
Let's look at an example in Paul's life and what we can learn from it.
I want to take you back to Acts 16 when Paul was in prison with Silas.
Scripture says in Acts 16:22-33, Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. While imprisoned, they sang hymns to God. As you keep reading, an earthquake shook the foundation of the prison they were in, and the jailer thought they had escaped so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul said, "Do not harm yourself, we are here!" The jailer called for the lights, fell trembling before Paul and Silas and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" As a result of the incident, the Philippian jailer obeyed the gospel, vs 32 says "At that hour of the night, the jailer took them and washed their wounds, and without delay, he and all his household were baptized."
To me this is a prime example of Paul's words in Philippians 1:12, "But I want you to know brethren that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel." He knew that no matter what situation he was in, God was able to work through it to bring about His will. And God did over and over again! In Acts 16, Through Paul and Silas' example, the Philippian jailer and his family were added to the kingdom of God!
Now, what if Paul and Silas were negative during their stay in the prison or failed to shine their lights by singing hymns to God? What if they complained and constantly asked, "why me?" I am sure the outcome would have been different and who knows if it would have changed the outcome of the situation.
In the Philippian letter, Paul is talking about a different example he faced. However, the concept is the same. Paul is fully trusting God once again during his imprisonment and he is calling the Philippians to do the same.
Paul makes it clear in this letter that he believed in the providential working of God in his life and in the lives of His people. I love his words and perspective in 2 Timothy 2:9, where he writes, "For which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained."
No matter what situation we may find ourselves in, Gods word is not chained.
Through this section, Paul reminds the Philippians of the greatness of the providence of God and then he closes this section by reminding them how to live in light of that knowledge.
Their responsibility was the same whether Paul was there with them or absent. Their responsibility was to live a life that reflected their true citizenship in heaven.
When he writes, "conduct yourselves," in vs 27, this is an expression meaning, "live as citizens." The people of Philippi had prided themselves on their roman citizenship (Acts 16). But Paul calls them to reflect an even greater citizenship, we even see this later in his writing, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20). " He wanted the Philippians to live as citizens who knew their final destination was in heaven.
He wanted them to stand fast in one spirit with one mind, strive together for the faith of the gospel, and be bold before their adversaries.
How were they do to this? By fully trusting in God's provision and providence no matter what circumstance they found themselves in.
As Christians, we are not promised a life free of trouble. Paul makes that clear in the closing part of chapter 1 of Philippians as he writes, "For to you, it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for his sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me."
But, we are promised that even if we suffer as Paul we can also have the same kind of joy and fruit in the midst of it as he did. As children of God, we can trust in God's provision and providence no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in.
For the next 30 days I want to invite you to participate in a daily writing, reading, and reflecting. I will be posting daily in our Online Bible Study group for the next week and I invite you to screen shot your daily writings!
In addition, we will also have midweek reflection questions and end of the week application questions (these are found in your workbook).
This will feel uncomfortable and difficult at first, just like developing any new habit is at first. But if you stick with it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the end of the next 30 days.
***If you miss a day, please do not feel like you need to play catch up. Simply pick up on the current day we are on. When you play catch up, it can get overwhelming and paralyze you into a state of inaction. So instead, give yourself grace and pick up on the day we are on.
Looking forward to working through Philippians with you, if you want to join us, click here.
P.S, don’t forget to grab your workbook here.