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Philippians Run the Race
By Bill Hybels Kevin Harney Sherry Harney
Zondervan Copyright © 1999 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter One SESSION ONE
Joy in Community
Over my years as a follower of Christ I have grown to put a great deal of importance on what I call "leadings from God." These spiritual leadings happen when you are in tune with the Holy Spirit and are fully devoted to Christ. These leadings come when you are growing in the Word, prayer, and fellowship. To hear God's still, small voice, you need to create a quiet center in your life that makes a place for Him. Through these leadings you gain guidance and direction from God.
These leadings are rarely audible. I have never had a leading from God that I have heard with my ears. I refer to them more as impressions on my spirit. When I journal, pray, and seek God, He will sometimes impress an individual's name on my mind. Then I know I need to give that person a call or send a note of encouragement. Or there might be some facet of my own growth as a follower of Christ that is out of balance. God, by a quiet leading of His Holy Spirit, will bring it to my attention and call me to confession and a changed life.
I remember a day I was walking to my office and had a very clear leading from God. I was in a hurry and had no intention of stopping to talk with anyone. On the way to my office I walked past more than a dozen doors that led to the offices of many of our staff members. As I walked by one particular door I had a strong prompting from God to stop and give a particular staff member a word of encouragement. He was offering strong and Christ-honoring leadership during a challenging time in his ministry, and I felt a deep need to drop in and affirm his gifts and effectiveness as a leader.
At that moment, for me to have walked by and not stopped would have been an act of disobedience. So I stopped, talked with him for about five or ten minutes, and then headed to my office to get to work. When I got to my office, my intercom line was ringing. I picked it up to discover it was the same staff member I had just left. He said, "You have no idea how important that few minutes and your words of affirmation were to me. I have been thinking and praying about my own leadership, and I have been facing some real challenges. You said exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time."
After we finished our conversation, I sat there amazed that God would use me in such a clear and wonderful way. This brother needed a word of encouragement, and God chose to use me in the process.
The sad truth is, too often I miss those opportunities. I get leadings, but I am too busy or distracted to act on them. But what a joy to know that when I tune in and am responsive, God can give me leadings that will bring honor to His name and uplift others.
Making the Connection
1. Describe a time God gave you a leading that you followed. What happened when you were obedient to His prompting?
Did you ever receive a leading but you were too busy or distracted to respond. how did you feel when you realized you missed a divine prompting?
Knowing and Being Known
Read Philippians 1:3-6
2. What is the spirit of Paul's prayer for the followers of Christ at the church in Philippi?
What are some of the specific thanks and petitions Paul lifts up in prayer for the Philippian Christians?
The Power of Prayer
Prayer is such an important power. In the concentration camp, seven hundred of us lived in a room built for two hundred people. We were all dirty, nervous and tense. One day a horrible fight broke out amongst the prisoners. Betsie began to pray aloud. It was as if a storm laid down, until at last all was quiet. Then Betsie said, "Thank you, Father." A tired old woman was used by the Lord to save the situation for seven hundred fellow prisoners through her prayers.
There may be days of darkness and distress, When sin has power to tempt, and care to press. Yet in the darkest day I will not fear, For 'midst the shadows, You will still be near. Thank You Lord Jesus. -Corrie ten Boom, Each New Day (Revell, 1977)
3. How can the spirit and content of Paul's prayer influence your prayer life?
4. Paul was certain that the work God had begun in the lives of the Philippian Christians would come to completion (grow to maturity). What is a work God is doing in you that you long to see come to completion?
How can your small group members pray for you, encourage you, and keep you accountable as you grow in this specific area of your life?
Read Philippians 1:7-8
5. In your own words, how would you describe Paul's feelings for the Christ followers in the church at Philippi?
The Value of Relationships
A relationship. It has more power than any nuclear bomb and more potential than any promising seed.... What matters most in life is not the ladders we climb or what ownings we accumulate. What matters most is a relationship.
What steps are you taking to protect your "possessions"? What measure are you using to ensure that your relationships are strong and healthy? What are you doing to solidify the bridges between you and those in your world? ...
Many wealthy people have died paupers because they gave their lives to things and not to people. And many paupers have left this earth in contentment because they loved their neighbors.
-Max Lucado, On the Anvil (Tyndale, 1985)
6. Tell about a fellow follower of Christ whom you love deeply and "carry in your heart." How has this person enriched your life?
7. Paul was in jail and could not freely visit or communicate with his friends. If you knew that you were going to be imprisoned tomorrow for your faith and not see your small group members for a full year, what would you want to tell them before the police came to take you away?
Read Philippians 1:9-11
8. What specific requests did Paul lift up for the followers of Christ at Philippi?
Choose one of the requests Paul lifted up and express why you think it is still important for Christ followers to pray this way for each other.
9. What does the life of a follower of Christ look like when their "love is abounding more and more" (v. 9)?
10. What is one practical act of love you can extend to another person in the coming week?
Why Pray for Each Other?
Prayer has as much power today, when men and women are themselves on praying ground and meeting the conditions of prevailing prayer, as it has ever had. God has not changed; and His ear is just as quick to hear the voice of real prayer, and His hand is just as long and strong to save, as it ever was.... Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God's infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that He has, is at the disposal of prayer. But we must use the key. Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent.
-R. A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer (Revell, 1924)
How can your small group members pray for you as you extend the love of Jesus through this action?
Celebrating and Being Celebrated
In Philippians 1:9-11 Paul prays very practically and specifically for the followers of Christ at the church in Philippi. Take time as a group to pray for each other using the core areas of prayer Paul lifted up in this passage. Look at your notes from question eight in this session. Use this as a guide to pray for each other by name.
Loving and Being Loved
In Philippians 1:5 Paul expresses great joy over those who have worked with him as partners in the gospel. These were followers of Christ who had labored by his side, encouraged him, and suffered with him. Make a list of all those who have been partners with you in the gospel of Jesus Christ through your years as a Christian.
Take time in the coming week to lift up prayers of heartfelt thanksgiving for each of these people. Also, drop a note, e-mail, or make a phone call to one or two of these people and remind them how much you appreciate them and their partnership in the gospel.
Serving and Being Served
Often as followers of Christ we can turn our focus inward toward those who are already part of God's family. Our acts of service can revolve around those who are Christians, and the majority of our energies can be invested within the walls of the church building. Pray for God to open a door for you to extend His love to a seeker-someone who has questions about God but is not yet a Christ follower. Commit to invest love and time in this person's life.
Excerpted from Philippians by Bill Hybels Kevin Harney Sherry Harney Copyright © 1999 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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