Bible Study: March 9, 2014
NASHVILLE (BP) -- This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.
This week's Bible study is adapted from the YOU curriculum.
Bible Passage: Philippians 4:10-19
Discussion Questions: How hard is it for you to focus on the fact that God owns everything? What can you do to rely more on God?
Food for Thought:
The Sea of Galilee takes in water from the mountains north of Israel and releases water to the Jordan River in the south. The Jordan then flows into the Dead Sea, which has no natural outlet. But while these two seas are in the same geographic area, they are very different. Because the Sea of Galilee receives and releases water, it has become a vital commercial resource for the region. Meanwhile, the Dead Sea -- which receives, but releases nothing -- has become a tourist spot only because nothing in it can survive.
What's true with water can also be true with our lives. If we receive and give freely, we have a chance to thrive. If we hold tightly to our stuff, we'll be lifeless -- maybe even toxic. Today's lesson challenges us to be givers, to display generosity and contentment whenever we can. When we live like that, we can find stability even in the midst of our economic instability.
In Philippians 4:12, Paul described in greater detail how he had learned to be content in three parallel statements. First, he knew how to have a little, that is, he had learned to cope when he was actually in need. Because he had the right perspective on God and his own circumstances, he had learned to trust the Lord and deal positively with want.
Second, he knew how to have a lot. The single Greek word for "have a lot" means overflowing or abounding. Paul had learned how to handle prosperity as well as adversity. Just as a shortage of life's necessities could not harm him, so an abundance of things could not spoil him. Often we worry about poverty, but don't see the dangers of prosperity. Other times, having abundance distracts our attention from our true Source of our provision. Paul had learned over time that he needed God in every circumstance -- possibly because any circumstance can change quickly.
The third parallel statement deals with "any and all circumstances." Whatever the situation, Paul had learned the "secret" of contentment. His use of the word "secret" literally means, "have been initiated." In Paul's day, it was common for religious sects to require certain rites of initiation. These groups emphasized secrets that could only be discovered through the initiation process. The secret Paul had learned, of course, was how to be content -- whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.
Paul never tried to portray himself as a self-denying superman who was able to discipline his desires to the point of contentment. On the contrary, he was empowered through Christ. Paul totally depended on His strength in facing every need he had. Today, a person who trusts in the power of Christ can overcome any obstacle and fulfill any task God calls them to complete.
The Philippians did not give in order to get. They gave from a sincere motive to bless Paul. Paul wanted the Philippians to understand that generosity is a vital part of the Christian life. God is a generous giver (John 3:16), and we are made in His image (Gen. 1:27). As such, we are called to be generous givers as well (2 Cor. 9:7).
We also need to understand that our giving relates to more than our money. When God says that He owns everything (Ps. 24:1), it also means that He has given us everything to use for His glory. While finances are part of that equation, we also should freely give of our time and our talents. We should be generous with every gift He provides, so we can support others and work toward expanding His kingdom.
"My God" stresses Paul's personal relationship with His provider through Christ. He affirmed that God would fully meet the Philippian believers' every need. God has used them to meet Paul's material needs; God would meet their material needs as well.
This is not a promise of riches only. Instead, Paul may have had in mind spiritual needs as well as material. God can and will meet all our needs according to the glorious riches of Christ. These words underscore the limitless resources that God has at His disposal. We also see that Jesus is the One through whom God's abundant supply is made available.
We please God when we demonstrate contentment and generously move to meet the needs of others. In fact, when we minister to God's people and support His work, we minister to God Himself (Phil. 4:18). The more we rely on Him, the more we understand that He can be trusted to come through during our times of deepest need.
Intentionally focused on African American, urban and multicultural believers, YOU is biblically based with culturally relevant and affirming lessons to help people connect, grow, serve, and ultimately be engaged in impacting the world for Christ. This flexible, non-dated all-in-one quarterly resource offers weekly Bible study for leaders and learners, devotionals, and teaching plans, as well as articles on hot topics and missions. For additional online teaching resources, visit [http://www.lifeway.com/n/Product-Family/YOU]LifeWay.com/YOU.
Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool.