This evening we looked at a passage from the Book of Philippians, a letter Paul wrote while in a Roman prison. Obviously, a Roman prison was lousy place to be confined and Paul had no desire to be there anymore than any of us would want to be in that situation. Yet, Paul finds reasons to be joyful even then. All of us either at present or in the recent past have probably found ourselves in situations at work, with family, finances or relationships that make us cry out “I don’t want to be here.” As we read Phil 1:12-26 the members of the group were instructed to think about those situations that you are in which they really do not want to be in.
After the reading we shared what those situations are. Some mentioned work difficulties with colleagues or employees that need to be addressed and will be difficult to confront. Another mentioned ongoing issues with their children and another their difficult relationship with an extended family member. Some are dealing with elderly parents. All of these can feel like desperate situations with no great answers and can drag us down and affect the rest of our daily lives.
We then looked at what good Paul sees in his incarceration. He states that his suffering is making his brothers in Christ even more courageous. We discussed how this would come to pass, why they would be even more direct in their preaching and faith in the Gospel. Paul says that even though he is confined he is still able to preach the gospel. The members of the group discussed how this would have occurred. It was mentioned that Paul would certainly be able to explain the Gospel to his guards and his visitors. His imprisonment also gave him the opportunity to write the “Prison Letters” ( Philippians, Corinthians, Ephesians and Philemon) which have instructed countless millions throughout the centuries. Paul also mentions that sometimes the Gospel is being preached without the best of motives. We discussed modern day examples of this. It was then mentioned that Paul’s response to this is that the motive does not matter – he is more interested in the fact that the Gospel be advanced. Therefore, despite his circumstances Paul rejoices. Once again we find that joy does not depend on a person’s circumstances but their inner attitude about one’s life and one’s faith.
So the main question of the night is how to apply this to those circumstances we mentioned earlier. We discussed how we might each find the good the the circumstances we are facing. We also discussed how to stay joyful in our own ‘fires.’ We ended the evening by reading Phil 4:11-13 which nicely sums up this lesson. In this passage Pauls talks about the ability to remain content no matter what your circumstances. We then talked about the ways contentment can help us to face the troubles of life.