Today marks the beginning of a new experiment here in our audio check-ins. We have been looking closely at how to study your bible. Not just read it and put it aside but to really take time to look at what the Bible says and start to figure out what it means for your life. To that end, we are about to start studying the book of Philippians. 4 chapters, 4 weeks, and for us to work together to study our bibles. And to guide us we are going to be using the steps that we talked about a few weeks ago: observation, interpretation, and application. Check out the staff resource page (miniyowe.com/summer-staff-resources) and you can find an easily printed version of this guide.
Before We Start I Want to Tell You a Story:
Early in our marriage Kendra and I started buying cool salt and pepper shakers to have for our home. Now you may be thinking “cool” and “salt and pepper shakers” are not words that go together but we thought that they made good souvenirs and were a good way of keeping memories fresh in our lives. Now the key to keeping these souvenirs is not dropping them on the floor.
It turns out that in order to maintain the shape, the quality, and wonder that is a salt shaker you need to handle it with care and make sure it makes it from shelf to plate and back again. This really important and something I learned when I dropped one of these shakers on the floor. I was moving some dishes and swung an arm in the wrong direction and suddenly time slowed down as I watched a salty blue elephant slowly land on the kitchen tile and smash into a fair number of pieces.
Now I tell you this story because of what happened next: I tried to fix it. I tried to put it back together and make it whole again (photos in the post) but honestly, it was never the same. It now looks like a mangled cracked and broken elephant.
And it no longer holds salt.
This is important because of one simple the truth: once something breaks it is difficult to put back together and is never the same. This is something Paul knows in writing his letter to the Philippians and one of the major themes for us to look for in this book is the theme of unity. Paul knows the church community is as fragile as a salt shaker and if broken it is difficult to restore and never the same.
As we look into the book of Philippians and study it we may want to keep this theme of unity and the importance of unity fresh in our minds.
To begin, pause this file and read the first chapter of Philippians.
I worked through the stages of observation, interpretation, and application by printing out the verses and writing on the passage. It was a great way of engaging with the text. So pause and give it a try: observe, interpret, and apply.
Welcome back! In my own reading, I came across three critical themes that came up again and again or dominated a particular section of the text.
Paul’s Partnership with the Philippians
The first idea came from the language that Paul was using to refer to the people of the church. Between verses 3-11 he uses phrases such as “partnership” and “partakers with me.” He expresses real affection for the church referring to his feelings for them, holding them in his heart, and yearning to be with them. This led me to an initial question about the book of Philippians: is this kind of loving language the norm for Paul? I turned an old study guide I had and it shone some light on this passage. They noted that in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians Paul uses parent imagery with them as if he was their father and them his children. But here Paul is using the language of a friendship or a partnership.
The way that Paul writes to the Philippian church is different from the way he writes to other churches. My question for us is this: does this change the way you read or understand this book? Though Paul always writes with compassion and love does it change the tone of the book if the love comes from a place of friendship rather than that of a parent?
Unity is Key
The theme of unity begins in this early part of the book. Just as the chapter is finishing in verse 27-30 Paul’s language becomes focused on unity. We see the sudden inclusion of phrases like “one spirit,” “one mind,” and “side-by-side.” The implication is that Paul, though focused on the gospel and his life in prison, is deeply concerned about the church in Philippi remaining unified as one.
These phrases left me with a critical question: how often to I strive to be of one mind with the people I care about or serve with? Do I see myself as working side-by-side with the people in my church or at camp? In short, do I put unity high on the list of things that matter to me?
Worthy of the Gospel of Christ
The final theme I came across was that of honouring Jesus in what we say and do. All throughout the text, Paul has these phrases which point people to Jesus. He is concerned with “advancing the gospel,” focuses on how “Christ is proclaimed,” and ultimately suggests that his existence (whether he lives or dies) matters less than whether or not Christ is honoured.
He ends this first chapter with a really strong idea and one that I want to work on remembering in my own life. In verse 27 he says “Only let your manner be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Let that really sink in and I encourage you to spend time with this verse reflecting on what it means to be worthy of the gospel.
What would it look like in your own life if you aimed to live worthy of the gospel? What would it look like if as a camp team we focused less on ourselves and more on the gospel?
These were some of the big things that stood out for me. I put my scribbled on passage notes below if you are interested in seeing what that looks like.
Questions to explore further:
- Paul is in prison. Why do you think he is writing this letter?
- Who are the people in your life that you would want to write to and encourage? What makes those relationships special? What would you tell them?
- Have you ever experienced what happens when unity falls apart in church, at camp, or in another Christian community? How easy was it to fix or move past?
- Why do you think unity matters to Paul?
- What does it look like in your life to “be worthy of the gospel?”
I want to hear from you your thoughts and ideas surrounding this passage and I hope you will continue to read along and study with us as we go through the book of Philippians. We are excited for how God is growing you and we are honoured to have the chance to work with you as you develop into a better leader. If you haven’t: you should fill out an application to serve with us this summer. We need you and want your help.
If you ever need anything you can reach Pat by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are growing into the kind of person that is worthy of Christ’s gospel. It is my fervent prayer that you can live into that calling every day. And til next time keep being awesome.
This post is part of our Leap of Faith Audio Check-ins. We want to encourage you to leap into your faith and continue to grow at home, at school, and in your church. These audio check-ins are meant to encourage you as live out your faith every day.
Want to keep growing?
There are more episode of Leap of Faith and other resources for you to grow in your leadership and faith here.