Today’s Scripture Focus: Philippians 1:1-11
Have you ever received a “thank you” card? Though not as common as they once were, it is still customary to send cards of thanks after receiving a gift at a shower or upon a special occasion. As a pastor, I have often received notes and cards of thanks when something in a sermon was of particular help to someone. Everyone likes to hear the words “thank you”, but it extra special when someone takes the time to handwrite a note and put a stamp on it. The book of Philippians is a “thank you” letter. Paul wanted to express to a group of people how much he appreciated their effort in caring for him.
Philippi was at one time the westernmost of Paul’s churches. The city mostly consisted of retired soldiers. Paul had traveled there after receiving the “Macedonian Call” in a dream (Acts 16:6-10). Upon sailing to Macedonia, Paul and his traveling companion Silas decided to start their ministry in Philippi, the largest city in the region. Unlike most of Paul’s places of ministry, there was no synagogue in Philippi, so Paul preached on the river banks. It was in Philippi that Lydia was converted, the slave girl had a demon cast out of her, Paul and Silas were arrested, and the jailer and his family were saved and baptized.
Though he wasn’t there long, Paul enjoyed a very special relationship with the church at Philippi. Philippians is a joyful, happy book. The words “rejoicing” or “joy” appear sixteen times in its four chapters. The key verse of Philippians is 4:4— “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” This is remarkable, considering Paul wrote Philippians while in prison! Upon hearing of his imprisonment, the Philippians sent a gift to Paul with a man named Epaphroditus. This man worked so hard along side Paul that he ruined his health and nearly died. Once he recovered, Paul sent Epaphroditus back home with this letter, his “thank you card”.
Philippians begins with the traditional format of a Pauline epistle—a salutation identifying the sender and recipients, a greeting identifying all as servants of Christ, and a thanksgiving. The theme and tone of the book is conveyed in the thanksgiving section (verses 3-11) as Paul reminds the Philippians that he never forgets to thank God for them. Paul takes time to remind them that God is still doing the work begun in all of them, but that the work will eventually be finished when Christ returns. Until that time, Paul’s prayer is that the Philippians continue to grow in love, and keep doing the good things they are doing, “to the glory and praise of God.” (verse 11)
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
What are the different things Paul prays for the Philippians in verses 3-11?
Can you think of a time you received thanks from someone (either a card or verbally or some other way) that was especially meaningful to you?
Though he was in prison, Paul had a thankful, joyful attitude in Philippians. Have you ever struggled with a bad attitude? As a class, pray God helps you focus on the many reasons you have today to be thankful. Then, tell somebody “thank you” this week who has blessed you!