The Promises of God - Day 11

Personal Devotional: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

Our culture is consumed with the idea of HAPPINESS.  In fact, the inalienable right guaranteed to each American after “life and liberty” in the Declaration of Independence is the “pursuit of happiness.”  But what does it mean to pursue happiness?  We buy things, we create new experiences, we spend time with people we love and avoid people we don’t, we seek fulfilling jobs, and we have hobbies all under the guise of pursuing happiness.  We spend so much time pursuing this elusive idea that most of us aren’t even sure what it means to be happy.  Most of the time our happiness is tied directly to our circumstances.  When life is good, we are happy.  When the circumstances of life are off kilter, we are unhappy.  Happiness is fleeting. Paul knew that.  He also knew that a life in Christ offers something so much greater than happiness – a life in Christ offers JOY.

For the next few weeks, our personal study time will center in the book of Philippians, and I love this letter.  Philippians is Paul’s powerful statement that the JOY found in the Christian walk far exceeds the HAPPINESS that the world tries to sell.  In this letter, Paul declares boldly that despite the difficulties we have in our lives, we can live lives of contentment and joy.  Paul wants the believers in Philippi to be confident that joy is immutable. Paul himself was so convicted of this that he uses the words rejoice or joy 16 times in 4 short chapters.  Perhaps now, in the midst of circumstances that have certainly made us less than happy, it’s time to re-center on Biblical joy and rediscover soul-settling contentment.

Let’s begin in Acts 16.  Read Acts 16:12-34.  What three people does Luke record that Paul influenced for Christ in Philippi? Describe what scripture tells us about them.
Thyatira, Lydia’s hometown, was in Asia.  Given her job and independence, she was most likely wealthy.  While we don’t know for certain, scholars suggest the slave girl was local and would have been quite poor.  The jailer would have been Roman and fallen into what we consider the middle class. These three people were from different backgrounds, different socio-economic levels, and had different experiences, yet, together, they make up our first picture of the church at Philippi.

How do the people mentioned in Acts 16 paint a picture of what God intends for His church?

 Read Galatians 3: 26-28.  How might Paul’s time in Galatia have influenced his greeting to the Philippians?

Under normal cultural circumstances, these people would not have come together for any reason.  In Christ, these people have community. What are practical ways we can reach out to those in our community with whom we would not normally share community? What Gospel message should we be ready to share?  How can we use 1 Corinthians 2: 2 as a starting point in our attitude and message when we reach out to others?

In verse 2, Paul greets the church in Philippi with the words “grace and peace.” These are such a customary way for Paul to open his letters that we often breeze right over them.  These two little words have far greater significance than serving as a pleasant opening.  The Greek word charis translated is our word grace.  It carries with it the idea of abundance in God’s gift of salvation, joy, love, and brightness. More than that, charis was the customary greeting Greeks used when they encountered each other.  The word translates peace here is eirene.  The kind of peace Paul is wishing the Philippi church in his greeting eirene is the well- being peace that bonds.  Eirene is the customary way Jewish people greeted each other.  This little phrase that opens and closes so many of Paul’s letters is far more than a pleasantry.

By using grace and peace in his greeting to the Philippian church, how does Paul’s greeting set a tone of inclusion? Read Acts 10:34-35.  How does Paul’s greeting demonstrate a practical application of this verse in Acts?

 The grace of God saves and the peace of God bonds.  This is Paul’s greeting for Philippi.  Who do you know that needs the grace of God to save and the peace of God to bind them to the Lord and to the body of Christ? Regardless of differences, with whom do you need to share the Gospel message?

Two simple verses begin Paul’s letter to the diverse population in Philippi.  Two verses we often skip because they are familiar and often repeated. But, these two verses set the tone of a letter that overflows with joy and prove that regardless of background or circumstance or socio-economic status, community in the Lord is possible.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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