30 Days of Gratitude – Gratitude, not Grumbling
November 10, 2019 (click here for PDF version)
Overarching theme: Living a year in God’s presence through the practice of following Jesus.
Instructions: When using this material as teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.
Core Point: A life of gratitude develops a mentality of victory.
Start point: The scripture focus is found in the letter to the church at Philippi. Paul is acknowledged as the author of Philippians, as found in 1:1. The letter was written sometime between the years of 60 to 62 A.D., when Paul was incarcerated in Rome. It appears that Paul first encountered Philippi on his second missionary journey around 52 A.D., after his vision of the man of Macedonia (Acts 16:6-40). Philippi was named after Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, in 368 B.C. It was a city nestled in the range of hills that divide Europe from Asia in the area of Kavála, Greece. The hillside city overlooked the coastal plain and the bay at Neapolis (Kavála). Effectively, the city was a gateway between east and west. Before being named Philippi, the city was named Krenides, which meant fountains, or wells. Obviously, the city was associated with important resources being close to water, gold and silver mines, and a fertile coastal plain. Even though the region had some very good resources, and many citizens had wealth, the church in Philippi was particularly poor. So to send of a gift to Paul would have been a particularly praise worthy event. Philippi was known for the battle of Philippi which marked the start of the Roman Empire. This city became a prominent residence for the growing Christian community.
Reflect on this Scripture:
Philippians 2:1-16 Common English Bible (CEB)
1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, 2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself by taking the form of a servant and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honored him and gave him a name above all names,
10 so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, innocent children of God surrounded by people who are crooked and corrupt. Among these people you shine like stars in the world 16 because you hold on to the word of life. This will allow me to say on the day of Christ that I haven’t run for nothing or worked for nothing.
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you from this passage?
What do you think Paul is trying to do in verse 2?
What does it mean to be united and agreeing with one another?
What is the attitude of Jesus in this text?
What do you get out of verses 6-11?
What do you think Paul is trying to do in verses 14-16?
What is grumbling? What do you think grumbling does to an organization?
What is the opposite of grumbling?
The focus this week, in the scriptures provided, seems to be Paul’s call for unity in the community of faith. Paul encouraged the Philippi church community to live in unity together and demonstrate love, while living in agreement with one another through the Spirit of God that drew them together. It is interesting the illustration that Paul uses, the unity of the Godhead found in verses 6-11. Paul pens a beautiful illustration on how the Godhead worked to touch the world. It reads like a poem, and was most likely turned into a song for the early church. The illustration is teaching the pre-existent nature of Jesus Christ, the unity of the Godhead, the loving activity of God, and the inevitable response of the community of faith. Verse 6, describes that Jesus was in the form of God. The Greek word, Morphe, means “form and fashion.” So from the beginning, Christ Jesus was in the form and fashion of God, pre-existent. In verse 7, Christ Jesus emptied himself to take on the Morphe, form and fashion, of a servant with in humanity. How does this really happen? Who knows, it is a mystery. The main idea is that the Godhead worked together to help humanity come into relationship with God. The covenant had been broken and sin lead humanity away from God. So Christ Jesus emptied himself, did not hold on to the Morphe of God, but did what was best for humankind. No selfishness! No holding back! No grumbling! Just “Agape” love for a fallen creation and an agreement that something needed to be done. Obedience to the hope found through love. Obviously, Christ Jesus did not think of himself as being too lofty, or too good for what needed to happen. Christ is the example of humility. Christ did not fight with the Godhead, but was obedient. In the end, after the death of Christ Jesus, the resurrection happened. God in heaven raised up the one who gave his life as an atonement for humanity’s sin so that humanity could be right with God. How this really happened in the Godhead, I really don’t know. It is a mystery for which we all can be grateful. The activity of God through Christ Jesus gave us the ability to be in covenant relationship with the God of creation through the demonstration of sacrificial love. In the aftermath of this life changing event, Jesus was raised up in glory again, resulting in the whole world having the availability to be in personal relationship with God by following the way of Christ Jesus.
Paul use this image to focus us on how we need to be. I think that the Philippi church probably had some struggles with unity and people were grumbling about certain things. The dictionary defines “grumbling” as, “complain or protest about something in a bad-tempered but typically muted way.” This type of complaining is one that is quiet, “under the table”, and insidious. When grumbling starts, the loss of unity, vision, and direction usually ensues. Paul calls the community to rise above the grumbling and be encouragers for the followers of Christ. Followers of Christ are to be servant leaders who help serve humility. Followers love humanity and want to help others be in the best situation they can be. Followers are to be obedient to the ways of Christ as a witness to the world. Finally, followers are to do all with love, unity, and no grumbling. Grumbling is like a cancer that slowly under minds the movement and activity of God that works in us through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. So don’t grumble, be thankful for what God has given you in Christ Jesus and for what you have. An attitude of gratitude will lead to a better view on life.
Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:
Do you grumble? When?
What do you see happens when there is grumbling in a group or church?
What is the result in a church when there is a sense of unity, encouragement, and humility?
How can you work on encouraging and uplifting others and the church?
Activity of for the life of a disciple: Continue in the exercise of last week.
1. Read the daily devotional from FUMC on gratitude.
2. Each morning this week, take 5 minutes to write down five things for which you are thankful.
Afterward, say a prayer of thanksgiving for what you wrote.