3. Joy in Difficult Times
Historical Insight: How did Paul end up in chains in a Roman prison? While he was visiting Jerusalem, some Jews had him arrested for preaching the Good News, but he appealed to Caesar to hear his case (Acts 21:15-25:12). He was then escorted by soldiers to Rome, where he was placed under house arrest while awaiting trial- not a trial for breaking civil law, but for proclaiming the Good News of Christ. At that time, the Roman authorities did not consider this to be a serious charge. A few years later, however, Rome would take a different view of Christianity and make every effort to stamp it out of existence. (Life Application Bible Studies, Philippians and Colossians, p. 5)
Day One Study
1. Read Philippians 1:12-18. As in most letters, Paul tells what is going on in his life. What did Paul say were his “circumstances”?
2. What are at least three results of Paul’s circumstances?
Think About It: Paul enjoyed a powerful personal witness to the elite Roman guard (verse 13). He was always chained to a member of the Praetorian Guard, the Imperial Guard of Rome. Every six [or perhaps four] hours his guard changed. That’s 365 days a year, for two years. At [at least] four guards a day, Paul had 2,920 opportunities to share one-on-one about Jesus! Perhaps some of these soldiers who were sent throughout the Roman Empire spread the message of Jesus Christ they had heard from the lips of the prisoner Paul. What a ministry!—one Paul would not have had were he not under their guard. (Elizabeth George, Experiencing God’s Peace, p. 36)
3. In verse 12, Paul uses a term for the advance of the gospel, “probope,” which depicts a group of woodcutters clearing the way through an impenetrable forest for an advancing army. Why do you think this might be a good description of what is going on in this passage?
Scriptural Insight: In contrast to the situation in Philippians 1:15-17, Paul describes preachers in Galatians 1:6-9 who are preaching a different gospel than the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s response to this situation is that he hopes that the preacher who distorts God’s truth is “accursed” or that his message be destroyed. See also 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 and 1 John 5:10-12 for the essential elements of the true gospel.
4. In Philippians 1:14 Paul states that his imprisonment made many of the other believers in the church in Rome bold in proclaiming the gospel. Why do you think this happened?
5. Your Joy Journey: Share an experience when the courage or circumstances of another person inspired you to do something you had desired to do previously, but had lacked the courage or willingness to do.
6. As Paul continues to describe his circumstances in this letter, he tells of two groups of teachers who are preaching the gospel of Christ in his (Paul’s) absence due to imprisonment. Read Philippians 1:15-17 again. In the space below, describe each group and their differing motives in sharing the gospel.
· Group one:
· Group two:
7. Even though these two groups had very different motives in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, what was most important to Paul?
8. Your Joy Journey: What lessons can you learn from Paul in this situation?
Day Two Study
9. Read Philippians 1:12-18 once more. As you read through this passage, note the many ways Paul “bloomed where he was planted”—even when he was “planted” in prison!
10. List as many of the different possible ways you can think of in which a person could respond to unfair circumstances (i.e.: anger, self-pity). Then think about why Paul chose to rejoice, to “bloom” where he was planted. Write down your thoughts.
Think About It: Have you ever stopped to consider how few of the circumstances of life are really under our control? We have no control over the weather or over the traffic on the expressway or over the things other people say and do. The person whose happiness depends on ideal circumstances is going to be miserable much of the time! And yet here is the Apostle Paul in the worst of circumstances, writing a letter saturated with joy! His circumstances cannot rob him [Paul] of his joy because he is not living to enjoy circumstances; he is living to serve Jesus. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Joyful, pp. 15,16, and 18)
11. Your Joy Journey: Are there circumstances in your life today that are difficult for you, to which you seem “chained,” or perhaps even seem to “imprison” you? Or, has there been a time in your life when you would have said this was the way things seemed to be? Describe or draw how you felt in the space below.
11. Especially in light of your answer to the previous question, read Romans 8:28 and answer the following multiple-choice questions according to what this verse promises. Discuss your answers with your group.
· To whom is this verse addressed?
a. Every person who is alive and breathing
b. Only people whose lives are successful and full of good things
c. People who love god and are called according to his purpose
d. Only the people to whom this letter of Romans was addressed originally
· Do you personally qualify for this promise? (That is, do you love God and are thus called to His purpose?)
c. I’m not sure
· What is God’s involvement in your life?
a. God leaves me alone and doesn’t know what is going on in my life
b. God knows what’s going on in my life but He doesn’t care
c. God knows but isn’t powerful enough to do anything about it
d. God cares, God knows, God is powerful, and God is actively involved in my life
· How many things (or circumstances, people, etc) in our lives are included in God’s purpose?
a. Some things
b. Only the obviously good things
c. All things
· What are these “things,” or specific circumstances, doing in our lives? (Circle as many as apply.)
a. Working together for good
b. Becoming part of the “big picture” of the fullness of the life God has given me
c. Helping me better anticipate my future in heaven
12. Your Joy Journey: Looking back over this lesson from Philippians 1:12-18, how can the truths from God’s Word help you to transform your perspective and lead you to greater trust in Jesus Christ and help you choose to “bloom” where our all-wise God plants you? (The byproduct of this transformation will be greater joy in your life.)
Related Topics: Curriculum