The questions in this small group guide relate to the sermon from Sept. 27. If your group has not had a chance to listen to the full sermon related to this discussion guide, they can find it in our sermon library. Rev. Adam Hamilton preached this week’s sermon.
Lord Jesus, as we study the final chapter of Paul’s letter of joy, we once more open our hearts and minds to your Spirit. Help us to grasp how a seemingly powerless prisoner, a traveling preacher with no official position, can be so much more influential almost 2000 years after his death than the “mighty” Roman emperor who ordered his execution. Teach us, like Paul, to be consistently grateful to one another, and to you, for the gifts of life and love. Amen.
- Pastor Adam said, “Here’s one of the first most important keys to finding joy in adversity and in all of life–expressing gratitude to others for their help and support…. Expressing gratitude to others actually brings us joy.” Why do you think that is true? Why does gratitude for “small” things seem to matter as much or more as for “big” things?
- Philippians 4:2-3 began this chapter with an appeal for two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to come to agreement (about something—we don’t know the details of their quarrel). At Resurrection, we have and value both male and female pastors. This follows the apostle Paul’s example—he praised Euodia and Syntyche as “coworkers in the ministry of the gospel” (cf. also Romans 16:1, 3 and 7). How have female pastors and teachers enriched your faith journey?
- Pastor Adam put it in simple, practical terms, “Can I ask, have you written a thank you note recently? Have you told the people who support and care for you how grateful you are for them? Do you regularly say thanks?”
- Is there anyone you need to thank that you have been taking for granted?
- At the same time, if we only express gratitude for material gifts, we may need to assess our motives. Long before greedy televangelists could cause scandals, Paul said (verses 17-18) that he wasn’t doing what he did for the money (in case being in prison didn’t make that clear). He used Old Testament language to depict what the Philippians sent him through Epaphroditus, saying “those gifts give off a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice that pleases God.” Discuss how to distinguish a ministry that uses your giving to serve God from one that just uses what’s given to line its own pockets?
- We may forget to be grateful for “little” things. But at times we forget to be grateful for the very biggest things, what Pastor Adam called “a recognition that our very lives, each day, the world around us, are all a gift. This kind of gratitude is an orientation in life–a basic posture of wonder, awe and appreciation for life…. I think this orientation to gratitude is what Paul means as he calls the Philippians to ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!’ He didn’t say to rejoice in the Lord sometimes, or on Sundays at church, or when life was going great. From a prison cell he writes, ‘Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.’
- And the path to that kind of joyous living begins inside us, in what we give our attention to. As the pastor said, “Paul seemed to think what we focus on, what we think about, had power in our lives. That’s why, in Philippians 4:8 he writes, ‘Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things’…. Is your self-talk, the things you focus on, the mindset you are carrying one that sees life as a gift, that is grateful for all you have (not focused on what you lack), and filled with thoughts of what is good and noble and lovely? That changes you.” How have you, or can you, train your mind to focus on the things Paul talked about? Consider a group commitment to follow the pastor’s invitation: “I encourage you to pray five times a day, at least the words, “Thank you!” Use your fingers to remind you, when you wake up, at breakfast, lunch and dinner and when you go to bed—'Thank you.’”
For deeper study read through all of Philippians 4, observing the Paul’s compelling picture of living with joy in all circumstances, depending on Christ’s presence to help him face any conditions he found himself in.
Lord Jesus, thank you. Guide us to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—anything excellent or praiseworthy.” Amen.