December 12, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Philippians 1)

Submitted by Ilju W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 1:12-14

  • What does this passage show about difficult or frustrating circumstances in my life? 

It is easy to think that difficult or frustrating circumstances are just those things difficult and frustrating, and no good thing can come out those circumstances.  But Apostle Paul did not see it that way.  He had been preaching the gospel every chance he got, but he ended up in a prison where he has been bound.  This could have been a really frustrating circumstance for Apostle Paul who was always wanting to go to more places to share the gospel and visit the churches he planted.  Yet, he was able to see this frustrating and difficult circumstance as something good.  He was able to see how by him being in prison the gospel is advancing.  He did not focus on him being in prison, but saw beyond himself and saw that God’s work was still being done and how, even through his imprisonment, people came to know who Christ was.

This is in contrast to how I normally think about difficult or frustrating circumstance in my life.  My immediate reaction is to be negative and get frustrated that things are not working out the way I want. But I can learn from the example of Apostle Paul that if I learn to not focus on myself or my ways, then I can probably see God still working through those circumstances.

  • Why would “most of the brothers,” instead of being discouraged and silenced by Apostle Paul’s imprisonment, actually speak the word of God more boldly and fearlessly?  What can I learn from their response? 

Apostle Paul’s imprisonment probably echoed the very way he has been proclaiming that he lives for Christ.  Most of the brothers would have been inspired by this picture of Apostle Paul being imprisoned for the Gospel and yet continuing to preach the Gospel.  It gives them courage to do the same, to live for Christ.  They also want to be like Apostle Paul rather than hide out of fear. What I can learn from their response is to think about what drives me, whether it is fear or Christ.  It is so easy to listen to my own fears and be quick to be discouraged by negative circumstances, but I need to learn to be bold and courageous for Christ.

Philippians 1:15-18  

  • To Paul, the fact that the Gospel was being preached–-even from those with false motives—was of highest value to him.  As I reflect on my Christian walk, what is of highest value to me?
  • Can I rejoice when something good happens that does not involve me or benefit me? 

When I was younger, I did not really care about things that did not involve me or benefit me directly.  I thought, why should I when it didn’t do anything for me?  But that is an immature way of thinking of a selfish person.  Over the years, I have learned that there is also joy, actually more joy when I am not the center of it.  There is such joy when I lose myself in something greater than myself.  I have often experienced this joy after I became a Christian.  When I put Christ as the center of my life, there is so much more joy that I can proclaim.  One recent example I can think of is our Thanksgiving Retreat.  We had a full day and a half of hearing how God has been working in different ministries in our church.  I was filled with such gladness and thanksgiving at each of the sharing, but one ministry that hit me the most was our Elderly Care Ministry.  I have always been not that fond of the elderly since I grew up without any grandparents and I often felt awkward and unsure of how to related to the elderly.  Even though I had no part in what was happening in ECM, because I can see God’s work being done and how each elderly person making a decision is a miracle, I was able to truly rejoice.  I am so thankful that we get to share the Gospel with the elderly and give them hope.  Another example is the baptism service.  At our recent baptism, I was moved to tears to hear about how God had unexpectedly transformed people’s lives.  I had not been personally involved in their lives nor in their decision to become Christian, but I was able to rejoice in the work that God has been doing in their lives.  I rejoiced to know that these people have come to know God’s love and His forgiveness.  I rejoiced knowing that they also have come to know the same love and freedom and healing as I have come to know.  To know that another person was freed from their guilt and shame, from their hurt and bondage, is something that I can rejoice over every time.

  • Can I rejoice when others outdo me in serving God, simply because it gives me joy to know that God’s work is being done? 

I have come to rejoice when others outdo me in serving God because I have come to learn that it is not all about me.  When I was an undergrad and right out of the college, I was very keen on how much my peers were doing.  I just had to make sure that I did as much as they did or a little more than them.  I was consumed by this internal comparison that I would even be keenly aware of and put a tab on what my leader would put my friends in responsible for versus what she would ask me to do.  This was because I was immature and tried to prove my worth to people and tried to find security in what people thought of me.   What changed was that I saw God’s work being done in my friends.  I saw them mature and grow in God as we worked together.  It no longer became about me but about God’s work being done for there were so much brokenness around us and so many people who have not heard the Gospel but are distracted by the ways of the world.  Not only did I not care about how I fare against my friends, but I have come to admire their passion and courage for the Gospel.  I am actually lucky to have so many friends who are so bold and courageous for the Gospel that they were all willing to go anywhere for the Gospel.  I remembered rejoicing and being glad when my two friends volunteered to go to Taiwan as our first short-term missionary to Taiwan.   Instead of being insecure or discrediting them, I remembered just marveling at how God had worked in their lives up to that point.  That was just the beginning.  Now I have six friends who are out in different church plants doing God’s work.  I rejoice in their courage and sacrifice for God’s work.  I admire their commitment and am challenged to work fervently for the Gospel knowing that my friends are doing the same.

Philippians 1:19

  • How does Apostle Paul’s view of trial and deliverance challenge my view of struggles or difficulties?

Apostle Paul awaits with hope and turns to prayers and trust that Christ will deliver him.  It isn’t so much about Christ delivering him from current difficult circumstances but he had full confidence that regardless of what happens, Christ will be honored through him.  Even in his difficult circumstances, he is not thinking about himself but about Christ.

This is very different from how I approach struggles or difficult circumstances.  I immediately get focused on myself and what I need to do.  I know mentally that God will deliver me but it is more difficult to trust in this.  But I need to learn to trust in God and know that regardless of what happens, I can trust that what ultimately matters is that Christ is honored.

  • How real are people’s “prayers” and the “help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” for me compared to how real they were for Apostle Paul?

I have come to experience how real people’s prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ are many times.  Most recently, I have come to experience this through my mom’s cancer.  When I found out that my mom was diagnosis with stage 4 cancer, I felt so helpless and not sure what to do.  But when my leaders and close friends of mine gathered to pray for my mom and my family, there was a sense of comfort that filled my heart.  Not only that, I have come to experience the power of prayer as the whole church was praying for my mom.  My mom’s complete healing of the cancer is nothing short of a miracle and an answer to the prayers of so many people.

Submitted by Jeanne T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 1:21

·       Reflect on the power and confidence expressed in this verse.  How does the gospel enable such a stance toward life and death?  

Before when I was a teacher, I used to have my students journal in the morning. One morning the question was “What do you fear?” About one-third of the class, most of them about 15 years old, wrote about fearing death. Some lived in areas where they actually had to fear for their life, and others had loved ones or classmates who had passed away; others just feared death, because it was the ultimate unknown, the ultimate testament to man’s lack of control and powerlessness.  When I was in high school, my aunt slowly passed away from cancer, and I remember heart-wrenching times when my aunt would sit on the couch, cry and utter into space “What’s going to happen to me…I don’t want to die.” Apart from the gospel there cannot be anything but a sense of fear, deep sadness and tremendous loss. But Apostle Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In the face of life, with all its difficulties, even as he sits in prison and in the face of possible judgment in death, Apostle Paul is triumphant; he doesn’t have to cower in fear, or wait in the agony of the unknown. He knows that even if he dies, even if he loses this life—there is a kingdom waiting for him, and a Heavenly Father waiting for him to come home, and a reward for his faithful service. At death there is gain for him, tremendous gain. I think Apostle Paul is also confident and triumphant because of the first part of the verse: “For to me to live is Christ.”  For Apostle Paul, life was about Christ–about following him, honoring him, making known the gospel of Christ. Christ was the answer to life, the resurrection and the life for Apostle Paul. He already let go of so many things while he was living in order to live so that Christ’s agenda was central and total in his life. He didn’t have worldly sorrow as he thought about the prospect of losing this life. The gospel enables us to have such a stance towards life because we know that our present world is passing away, and that there is an eternal glory that is waiting for us. The gospel enables me to have an attitude of surrender towards life, and the confidence to live for a heavenly reward, rather than an earthly reward. The gospel enables us to live confidently and fully in this life, to die so that others may live; to give away our lives rather than hoard our finances, possessions and time, because we don’t have a finite life in which all will end; when we die, we gain. Life will continue, and it will be so much better.

·       Consider what you were living for before Christ, or what the people of the world live for.  How would these blanks be filled out for them: “For to me to live is ____, and to die is ____.” 

Some examples are:

– For to me to live is to be able to buy whatever I want, and to die is to lose everything I spend my money and life’s work on.

– For to me to live is to be successful in some arena of life, and to die is to become frail in old age and to become powerless.

– For to me to live is to experience pleasure, travel, etc., and to die is to be deep in sorrow.

– For to me to live is to do whatever I want, live however I want, and to die is to do the one thing that I don’t want to do.

I think for people who are really suffering though, the statement can be answered, “For to me to live is to continue to be miserable, in despair, and in fear of so many things…” Sometimes people tragically don’t feel like they have a reason to live.

·       What could possibly go into the blank “For to me to live is ____,” for which one could then say that “to die is gain”?  What are the things in my life that compete with Christ for that position?  

The things that can possibly go in this blank for me is: to have a little more time for myself to enjoy life, to have a little more time with my family, to have a little more time to rest, to have enough time so that I don’t have to be stressed. I think if I were not a Christian my motto in life would be like the fool’s motto-“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  But for none of these things I can say to “die is gain.” To die is to realize the tremendous loss of time I wasted on frivolous things, on whatever I thought it meant to “enjoy life” at the time. To die is to remember all the time I wasted resting, being lazy instead of doing something worthwhile in my life. There is nothing towards which I can say to die is to gain. The things that compete with Christ in my life for this position are all the ways and things of the world that say its peace time and not war time; that life is meant to be enjoyed and that there is not a raging spiritual battle going on. It’s the voice of the world that says enjoy life now because it’ll be gone later, and it’s the voice in my head that is relentless in wanting rest or diversion from any suffering or sacrifice that comes with dying with Christ in order to love others.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response