Today’s Scripture Focus: Philippians 1:20-30
Have you ever been really embarrassed? All of us have had moments in life that cause us to cringe when we remember them, even years after they happen. Sometimes those moments turn into funny stories; other times, they become painful emotional wounds. Lately, it seems more and more celebrities, professional athletes, and even prominent pastors have faced public embarrassment as skeletons have jumped out of their closets—sometimes skeletons so serious they lead to arrest and imprisonment. Few things in our culture are more humiliating than going to jail. In our culture, prison is a shameful place to be.
However, if you are an ex-con you are in good company. Paul wrote the letter of Philippians from prison. Being imprisoned in Paul’s day was just as humiliating as it is today. Prison, however, served a different purpose in the Roman Empire. Prison was not a punishment—it was a placeholder. You were only put in prison for three reasons: 1) to extort money from your family, 2) to await execution, or 3) to keep the peace. Paul’s preaching often caused a disturbance of the peace, so he was most likely under house arrest until things settled down. Execution remained a real possibility for him, though.
Paul’s circumstances were meant to disgrace him, but Paul expressed confidence that he would not be shamed (v 20)! Because Paul had been imprisoned, he had been able to preach to his guards, and the Christians in his city have been empowered to proclaim Jesus (Phil 1:12-19). Remember, Philippians is the “joy” letter. Paul wants the Philippians to be encouraged and rejoice that the work of spreading the good news of Christ is continuing, unhindered. Even when Paul’s enemies tried to use his circumstances to discredit him, the end result was that the gospel was still proclaimed. Paul rejoiced in his humiliating circumstances!
In today’s scripture focus, Paul is torn between his personal desire to die and be with Jesus and the greater good of remaining alive and continuing his fruitful labor. Paul concludes that remaining alive to build up the Philippians’ faith is the better choice, and expresses confidence that he will do so. Therefore, he encourages the Philippians to keep working together to proclaim the gospel. We can be encouraged by Paul’s example. We do not have to let our circumstances humiliate us or divide us. Instead, if we are servants of Christ, God can take our tough circumstances to take us from “disgrace” to proclaiming “His grace”!
- 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.
Look at Philippians 1:20-26. What are the reasons Paul gives for wanting to die, and the reasons he gives for wanting to remain alive.
What are some ways that society “shames” people today? Have you ever been purposely embarrassed by someone, a victim of “shaming”, or been in a situation in which you felt everyone looked down on you?
Paul had such a deep relationship with God that no matter what his circumstances, he maintained a joyful, thankful, encouraging attitude. Can the same be said of you? Pray as a class that it will be so.