30 Days of Gratitude – A Victor of Circumstance
November 3, 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. 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 1 (NIV)
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. 12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you from this passage?
What were Paul’s circumstances at this time?
What do you think Paul was wrestling/struggling with?
What is the attitude of Paul in this text?
What was Paul hoping to see happen?
How do you like the flavor of Paul’s writing to the followers of Christ in Philippi? His tone is warm, inviting, and uplifting. This letter is one of the most uplifting letters that Paul wrote. He was thanking them for their support and care of him while he was in his present state. Remember, at the time of this letter, Paul was sitting in Rome in prison, alone. Throughout his ministry, Paul had been beaten on numerous occasions, judged by his old religious colleagues, and placed in jail. Jail time during Paul’s life was barbaric. What did Paul do to deserve such treatment? He was simply preaching the Good News of Christ, calling people to salvation in Christ, and exhorting believers to live for Christ. His old colleagues, the Jewish religious leaders who praised him for beating and killing Christians, were now angry and judging him for converting to Christianity, and for convincing Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The Roman government was angry at Paul for leading people out of emperor worship, to being subversives by following Christ Jesus. Each group saw Paul and the Christians as dissenters and disrupters to the old scripts of religion and politics. For Paul, the script that he was using proclaimed the love and grace of God found through the life and activity of Christ Jesus. How terrible is that (being sarcastic)? Sadly, Paul sat alone in Jail. Yet joyfully, he had the affirmation of the broader Christian community in the sharing of God’s love. The Philippian Church’s concern for Paul, gave Paul the encouragement to “Look up” with positivity! Paul’s positivity developed into thankfulness. Living with a heart of thankfulness can help all of us view our circumstances differently.
Paul responded to his situation with a “look up mentality.” You may ask, what is that type of mentality? “Look up mentality” is in contrast to a “look down mentality.” The “look down mentality” can be a way to describe someone who is overwhelmed with situations and is looking down in disappear. To “look down” can be another way to express a sense of defeat, sadness, shame, and surrender. Instead of being defeated, Paul, looks up to the positive. Paul sees that the Gospel of Christ Jesus is being advanced. The guards around him see he is in jail for the cause of Christ Jesus. The church in Philippi has sent him support while he is in chains. The Christian community is growing with new converts.
To “look up” in your circumstance means to follow the words of Psalm 121:1,
“1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
Your circumstances can either kill you, or strengthen you. Because Paul looked up to God, he found the power to overcome the challenge of his circumstances. Remember the old saying, “the only thing you can change is the way you respond to what happens to you.” Paul chose to respond with a “look up” mentality as he saw the positive through the negative things that surrounded him. That kept Paul going with a sense of victory!
Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:
In the context of this lesson, what does it mean to “look up”?
What can lead you to look up, or look down in a situation?
How can the Christian community that surrounds you help you to look up?
How can you, as a part of the Christian community, help others to look up?
What does being in a thankful mood do for you?
How does someone’s thankful mood affect you?
Where do you find victory in your rough circumstances?
Activity of for the life of a disciple:
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.