We need to back up a verse and check out Paul’s motivation for his hope that he will never be ashamed but he will continue to exalt Christ.
Go read Philippians 1:18-30. Focus on vs. 18 through 20.
<> What does Paul say he is busy doing at the very end of vs. 18?
<> What causes you to rejoice? When was the last time that something happened in your life that caused you to well up with joy and praise Jesus with thanksgiving?
<> What does Paul say is the reason he is rejoicing and will continue to rejoice?
I love Paul’s HOPE. Read the last five words from vs. 18. Paul says, “I’m already rejoicing because Christ is going to preach, and I’m not going to quit rejoicing.” And as much as I love the hope evident in Paul, I love even more the reasons he lists for his hopeful rejoicing.
We haven’t even gotten out of chapter one yet and we’ve had four entire posts about the nature of the relationships we have and need to have with other followers of Jesus. Let’s add a new characteristic. Paul says that his rejoicing stems from two places: the prayer of other believers and the help of the Holy Spirit. For far too many of us, we value both of those too little. If I was honest, they seem imbalanced. “Holy Spirit helps me out; AWESOME! My friends are praying for me . . . who cares?”
<> Why does Paul care so much that his friends in Philippi are praying for Him?
<> Who cares that people pray? Why does it matter?
<> Write a brief description of how you pray. How often? What are the circumstances? What does it reveal about your trust in God?
Go read Matthew 7:7-11.
(A quick disclaimer: If your response to this passage is “Nuh-uh, I prayed for something and it didn’t happen.” Then there are a few things to consider. First, Hebrews 3:12 says “take care brothers, lest there should be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.” Second, Matthew 7:11 says “. . . how much more will your Father who is in heaven give WHAT IS GOOD to those who ask Him!” The implication is that He knows better than you do and sometimes you pray for DUMB stuff that would destroy you, even if you think it is good.)
There are so many texts on prayer that we are not going to go into. It’d be a good study to do on your own. (James 1:5-8, 4:1-3, Matthew 6:1-34 are good places to start and you can just biblegateway.com search for pray or prayer to keep going for about the next two years.)
Here’s the deal; being surrounded by people who are willing to pray for you faithfully is a huge encouragement for a few reasons: 1.) God listens to the requests of His children. 2.) If Satan’s goal is to create in us a faithless unbelieving heart, then knowing that someone else has enough faith to pray for us can be the most encouraging thing possible.
<> Do you have people in your life who you now would stop everything and pray for you if you asked them to?
<> What kind of encouragement is it when you are going through something hard and someone tells you they’ve been praying for you?
The Help of the Holy Spirit
We don’t talk about the Holy Spirit enough. Too much of the time we get weirded out by people who claim the Holy Spirit makes them fall backwards or yell out impossible to understand noises. The truth is the Holy Spirit is awesome. Seriously.
Read John 14:25-26
<> What does the Holy Spirit do in our lives?
(The word Counselor also means Helper. It’s the same title God gave Eve in the garden when He said, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” [Gen. 2:18] Dudes, if you want a wife, you want the Holy Spirit.)
Read Romans 8:26-28
<> What does the Holy Spirit do for us?
<> How humbling and encouraging is it to realize that even when we don’t know how to say what we want the Holy Spirit is interceding for us?
Paul writes to the church in Philippi and tells them there are too reasons why I hope and rejoice and I’m not going to stop. First off, you guys are praying for me and secondly, the Holy Spirit is helping me. In other words, even isolated in this prison cell, I’m not alone. I’m never alone. I’m not fighting this battle on my own strength. Your prayers are advocating for me and so is the Holy Spirit of God. I’m doing alright.
<> How much and in what ways do you actively rely on the Holy Spirit in your life?
<> What gets in the way of trusting the Holy Spirit and asking for prayer?
<> How can you combat these distractions/hesitations?
<> Are you starting to see how Paul’s joy is founded, structured and defended?
<> What is the foundation of joy in your life?
<> Do you have good structures and defenses for your joy?