Speaker: Rev. Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: September 11, 2016
Text: Philippians 4:4–7
PRAYING UNDER PRESSURE
Discipleship doesn't just happen on Sundays, it's the all-week activity of following Jesus individually and in families, and groups. To resource you for the journey, each Monday we will provide a Groups Guide based on the sermon series. It can be used individually, in family worship, or with your group.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In this sermon series we're being invited to bring the biggest things in our life-what we think about most, care about most, and worry about most-to God in prayer. Many times we try to manage the difficult parts of our lives. And we forget God. We forget that He is beside us. And, waiting to hear from us. He knows the things that are deepest in our hearts. He knows that keeps us up at night. He longs to sustain us, to provide for us, and to care for us. When we pray our big prayers to our big God, God works in us in a big way.
This letter is written to the church in Philippi-a city in modern day northern Greece. Paul writes from prison-probably in the city of Ephesus in modern-day western Turkey. Despite writing from a prison cell, Paul stresses the theme of joy. Paul writes that his prayers for the Philippian believers were marked by joy (1:3). He also implores them to "complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (2:2).
The reason for Paul's joy is the on-going work of God in the lives of the believers in that city. Yet, there is also a gravity to the letter since Paul knows that these believers faced persecution, even as did Paul himself (1:27-30). In order to remain faithful-to resist the pressures from within and without-the church must remain committed to one another and stop fighting with one another (4:2) and unite around the Apostles' teaching and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. The sermon text begins with a command (imperative): "Rejoice in the Lord" (4:4). For emphasis Paul repeats himself: "Again, I say, Rejoice." Notice that Paul has a specific type of rejoicing in mind: rejoicing in the Lord. What might that phrase mean? How is rejoicing in the Lord different from, say, rejoicing in your circumstances, or in the Eagles, or in your luck?
2. Can you recall a time in which you were able to rejoice in the Lord despite being in a difficult situation or a challenging time in your life? What was it like?
3. As they are "rejoicing," the Philippians are also to manifest "reasonableness" (4:5). The word translated "reasonableness" suggests a generous spirit that rises above offenses. Such a person does not insist on ensuring his rights are respected. Recall that Paul is writing to Christians who are experiencing persecution, and that he is doing so from prison. Does it make sense that Paul should ask others and himself to be willing to be mistreated? Why?
4. Can you think of a time in your life when you were willing to give up a right or something that you could demand? How did it make you feel? Did it hurt or was it freeing?
5. Paul reminds his readers of Jesus' proximity-"The Lord is at hand" (4:5b). This could refer either to Jesus' abiding presence in the life of the believer today, or to the future return of Jesus? Which one makes more sense to you?
6. Marnie commented, "When you know who's with you, you experience pressure differently." Can you recall a stressful event in your life that you were able to navigate more peacefully because of the presence of an expert, a coach, or a guide?
7. The section began with the command "Rejoice" and it concludes with a command-"Be not anxious!" The same word that is here translated "anxious" is translated "concerned" earlier (2:20). This distinction helps us to see that there is a difference between concern for another's welfare, and the sort of anxiety that is not God-honoring. What might be the difference between these two concepts? Is the difference one of extent? Is a persistent anxiety and worry inconsistent with trusting God? What do you think?
8. The antidote to the anxiety Paul describes is prayer. We are to actively do several things according to verse 6-what are they?
9. Notice that Paul says to do these things, "in everything" (4:6). There is no part of your life or experience that cannot be offered to God in prayer-of thanks, of request, etc. Pressure can drive you to God or away from God-which one has been more common in your life?
10. The promise of prayer is the coming of a "beyond-understanding" peace (4:7). Things that we cannot understand, events that we wished we had not experienced, can be also be accompanied by peace for those who are in Christ. Can you think of time when this was true for you?
Gracious God, thank you that you are at hand when we experience the highs and the lows, the joys and the sorrows of life in a fallen world. Help us to cast our cares upon you and in return to experience a beyond-understanding peace.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
If you aren't currently involved in a group or if you'd like help with resources, guidance on leading a group, or would like to start a new group, please contact me. We have a team of experienced group leaders who will be glad to resource you as you follow Christ.