Parts 1. Avoiding…from Philippians 2. List of tips for choices and alternatives 3. Philippians (cont.) chapters 3 & 4
-How do you get ready for giving thanks (a look back, refocusing on blessing) and celebrating the birth of Christ (a look forward to a new future with hope)?
-Assess: What are your habits and past traditions?
-Are they still relevant and serving your spirit and walk of faith?
-What are your desires around these holidays?
-What are your expectations? (and what is their source?)
Highlights for Hope from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
-Background—Paul is writing from prison, but the tone of this letter is radiant amid life’s reversals. It’s his most personal of all his letters and conveys his hopeful mindset and excitement at what God is doing despite his situation.
-I repeat, there is joy despite outward reality. His inner reality is stronger and more meaningful.
Assess: Where is your prison? How long have you been there? Are you dragging yourself around dreading the coming days ahead, the “holiday season” with all its implications?
For this time together we’re gong to let the Lord unlock and open the door. It will be up to you to walk out with Him—as you lay your burdens down and go over the threshold. What we’re looking for is “What is God doing?” May you have “eyes to see, and ears to hear…” now and in the days ahead.
Parts 1. Avoiding…from Philippians 2.
Chapters 1 & 2
A. Bondservants: Paul refers to himself and Timothy from this lowly position. 1:1 “bondservants of Christ” Later, he tell of Christ, who “emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bondservant” 2:5-11 Read this in context to see the rationale and how it applies to any believer.
B. An offer of “grace and peace:” 1:2 from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (administered by the Holy Spirit residing within us).
C. “Grateful:” Paul declares this from the start. 1:3-5, 7-8 (focus: the fellowship of other believers, and those he loves from his pastor’s heart) Assess: What can you say you’re grateful for?
D. Our guarantee, a promise of completeness 1:6 “He who began a ‘good work’ in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (when either He returns or you go to be with Him).
-Assess: Does He have your life? Has He begun the work? 1:7-11)
E. “More reasons for thankfulness:” He sees some benefit from his current suffering 1:12-18 (Christ’s gospel is still going forth, there and elsewhere) He is trusting God with the results, though the methods seem inconsistent. Assess: Where can you keep trusting God when things initially don’t seem to add up?
F. “Rejoice:” This is the first of several times Paul will say this word. He sincerely is rejoicing, apart from his control of the current situation he’s experiencing. 1:18-20 He won’t be “put to shame in anything…but instead, have boldness.
Assess: Can you remember a time when you felt joy, even in the worst of times?
G. “To live is Christ and to die is gain:” 1:21-25 (It doesn’t really matter; he sees gain either way.) There’s freedom in this realization. (He also expects deliverance through the Holy Spirit’s provision and their prayers.) He was demonstrating this deliverance even then by his life in prison. Supernatural power is real.
H. “Strength of the Body of Christ:” of which we’re a part. 1:27-2:4 Unity—one spirit, one mind, striving together…
I. “Don’t misunderstand God’s Purposes:” (Don’t be alarmed at your opponents, or the times of suffering for Christ’s sake.) 1:28-30
J. “Work out your own salvation…in the midst of a crooked, perverse generation” 2:12-16 (Hold fast—tightly—to the “word of life.) This is the “why and how” of our walk of faith.
Assess: Are you connected to Christ’s body, the church, and has this helped by being part of this living expression of Christ in others? -H. thru J.
K. “Kindred Spirits:” 2:19-21 (–Timothy and Epaphroditus) 2:25-28, 30 Notice how they shared difficulties and cared for one another. Assess: Do you have some kindred spirits? These are gifts from God; receive them.
List of tips for choices and alternatives
Part 2. Holiday List of Tips for Choices and Alternatives
o Acknowledge that the holidays may be difficult and emotional. Acknowledgment helps.
o If you had long-standing traditions, you have the right to keep them or not. It’s up to you.
o The holidays are now all about your choices. You’re in control. This isn’t selfish; it’s about protecting your heart.
o You, your family members, and friends are all different. Each one can choose what’s meaningful, even if it isn’t what the others want.
o Volunteer for a worthy cause? It’s a great way to have your mind occupied in a different way and help others.
o Journal? It can tell you what you’re thinking and feeling. You may be surprised what shows up. Get to know yourself.
o Don’t feel guilty about what appeals to you this year. Make your choices for new memories and fun experiences.
o You may have to ignore people who are telling you what you should do.
o Eating sometimes becomes an escape. Don’t over indulge.
o Watch the booze. It’s easy to overdo.
o Focus on what you can control. What’s necessary and do-able right now.
o Have healthy boundaries. (Think of a football player giving a straight arm.) Keep at arms’ length with people who don’t feel safe.
o Read a good book. A book read to you by “Alexia,” or audio books can be soothing. Your library’s collection may be extensive.
o Go to a holiday movie with someone else, or just take yourself. Another option is to stay at home with Netflix, or your own collection, and have friends in who bring snacks.
o Allow yourself to feel emotions each day that show up. Sadness, anger, joy, longing, fear, and others. Healing involves recognizing what’s impacting you, then letting God in to help.
o People who love and support you are there. Surround yourself with others who care.
o Remember to enjoy the holidays: take a walk in nature or window shop in a festive setting. Enjoy the fragrances, sights, and sounds that are only with us for a short time.
o Or, skip the holidays all together! Take a trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. (You’re not a bad person if you do this.) You’re adventurous!
o Don’t over commit. You’ll pay for it with fatigue, saturation with people, agitation, and other negative effects. Be realistic with the things you say “yes” to.
o What’s something you can do for others to show kindness? Others may need encouragement at this time, too. Send a note, shovel a walk, bring a plant, make a holiday treat, or give the gift of time to someone who’s lonely. Think outside the box.
o Ask for help when you need it. We all need to learn to ask.
o Exercise in creative and fun ways. Workouts encourage restful sleep and help process our feelings. Being tired at the end of the day is a good thing.
o Remember, your loss or trauma is fertile ground for spiritual growth. Meditate on the Scriptures most days and get perspective on what troubles you.
o Give the first part of day to God. Prayer at the beginning of the day can settle our minds by unloading burdens that accumulate. Take your time and be honest. He can hear things no one else can.
o Stir a passion. What have you done that you want to try again or, perhaps, learn how to do? Are you artistic, a teacher or coach, a closet chef, a gardener, good at building things, or something not everyone can do?
o Recognize when you’re doing life in your own strength. This will be exhausting. Do you have a church body that you can share life with?
3. Philippians (cont.) chapters 3 & 4
L. “The Surpassing Value:” Paul’s old life of accomplishments (in men’s eyes) seems devalued in comparison with his new life in Christ. 3:7-8, 10-11 Rather, he values “knowing Christ, even when it means suffering loss, but gaining Christ. In this new relationship he knows he will have “the power of His resurrection” in this life, as well as the next.
M. “Pressing On:”In this regard, Paul says, “I press on…in order to “lay hold of what I was laid hold of by Christ, “the upward call.” 3:12- 14 He also proclaims, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind…reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Assess: Have you had a radical shift in values like this since knowing Christ? Why/ why not?
N. “Let God reveal your attitude:” 3:15-17 It helps to keep before us “God’s pattern” of new birth and standards. Paul warns of others who have forsaken the cross and “set their mind on earthly things.”
O. “Our true citizenship:” Believers “wait eagerly” for their Savior to return and the promised “transformation” into a glorious state. By Christ’s authority this will happen one day. 3:20-21 Assess: How long has it been since you’ve had this reminder?
P. “Stand firm in the Lord:” –and help others in the body who struggle. 4:1-3
Q. “Rejoice, and again I say rejoice:” This chapter is Paul’s great thesis of rejoicing—and benefits and reasons why. 4:4-7 These commands come with promises and blessings only known to believers.
R. “Where your mind dwells:” This list is uplifting for anyone. Paul says again how God’s peace accompanies these practices. 4:8-9 Assess: How are you doing in this area? Can you tell a difference when you “let” yourself attend to these admonitions?
S. “Be content:” Paul is not asking anything he hasn’t learned to do. He’s speaking from experience and knows it’s possible. 4:11-13 Boldly he asserts, “I can do all things…” not because he’s Paul, but “through Him who strengthens me.”
T. “And, my God shall supply…according to His riches…” Assess: Is this your God, too? 4:19
U. “Grace:” Used again like a bookend (1:2), Paul wants most of all for the brethren to have God’s grace continuing in their spirits. 4:23 There isn’t any substitute to living in this grace. Assess: How are you seeing His grace active when you face every day challenges, not to mention the holidays?
For video of discussion: https://zoom.us/recording/detail?meeting_id=eLNFe4VtT76p1MqhUmMCGg%3D%3D
Copyright: by His design (always give credit when you borrow these ideas. Not for reprint.)