Paul is nearing the end of his letter and is tying up loose ends. This section can seem disjointed, but Paul has the same problems in mind that he has been dealing with the whole book; the spread of the gospel, the unity of the church, the joy of those who walk with the Lord, and all this in the context of suffering for the gospel.
This is one of the most challenging sections of the book. Paul deals very sharply with issues that go beyond our outward behavior. He demands that on a heart level we experience joy, peace, and understanding. This is, of course, possible because of God’s grace to us in Christ. Jesus is the supreme source of joy, and since we are in him we have every reason for thanksgiving and endless excellent things to dwell upon.
In general, how do you make yourself feel good or happy? (let them respond)
How do you try and make yourself feel good or happy in response to moments of anxiety or depression?
1. Why do you think Paul makes such a public display of these women? Why is he so concerned for unity in the Philippian church?
2. What does it mean to “agree in the Lord”?
3. What is the basis of Paul’s appeal to these women? Why might it be significant that they each labored with Paul or that their names are in the book of life?
4. What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? Why do you think he specifies “always”? Describe how it might be possible to do this even in hard times.
5. Why do you think Paul is so serious about showing our “reasonableness” or “gentleness” and “being anxious for nothing”? Why would he mention this in this context? (Hint: Think back to Euodia and Syntyche. Are anxious people reasonable or easy to get along with? How would disunity in the church affect their witness to the outside world? How would anxiety?)
6. How does praying bring peace? Is it because God promises to answer our every request or is it something else? (Hint: Why would prayers that bring peace have to be done “with thanksgiving”? When you think about praying, why is it important to remember “the Lord is near”?)
7. What do our hearts and minds need to be guarded or protected from? How are we guarded “in Christ Jesus”?
8. How might it affect the lives of the Philippians to live out Paul’s command in verse 8? How might it affect the gospel ministry in Philippi? How might it affect the relationship between Euodia and Syntyche?
9. Try and come up with antonyms for each of these adjectives in verse 8. How does this clarify what Paul is talking about? Do any examples come to mind?
10. Why does Paul place such an emphasis on the life of the mind (1:27, 2:2, 2:5, 3:15, 3:19, 4:8)? How does the mind fit into our experience of God, or our ability to live a life worthy of the gospel?
11. What does it look like for the God of peace to be with someone? Why would this happen as a result of following Paul’s teaching and example? How could Paul be so sure?
12. What sorts of things occupy your mind? How does your preoccupation with these things affect your relationships? How does it affect your joy in the Lord? How does it affect your peace or your relationship with the God of peace?
13. Think back to the launch question. When you feel anxious or depressed what do you do to feel better? What would it look like for you to use prayer and your mind to fight for joy or peace like Paul is describing?
14. What about Jesus, his person or work, is most joyful to you? Share with the group. Where have you seen God at work in your life for which you are thankful?
15. What are the concerns you need prayer for right now? Share them with the group and the Lord. What are the things which occupy your mind which you need to give up? What would replace them?
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