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Building a Foundation
When we added on to our home, the extra construction required strengthening the foundation. We live in California, where preparing for earthquakes is a way of life. New, reinforced concrete had to be poured. Steel rods had to be glued into the old foundation, tying old and new together. All this had to be fastened securely to the house through bolts and clips and metal straps. Now when the earth moves, the whole house will bend and flex as a single, strong unit.
People need strong foundations, too. That is why Paul begins this letter the same way he begins most of his other letters: by emphasizing fundamentals. His very emotional words emphasize his ties to the Christians at Philippi and speak of his frequent prayers. There is love here-love that, Paul prays, will grow increasingly intelligent. This loving fellowship, with Christ and each other, can hold these Christians together no matter how the world is shaking.
1. Think of someone who has had a big part to play in your spiritual growth or, conversely, whom you have greatly influenced. What emotions do you feel for that person, and why?
2. Read Philippians 1:1-11. The apostle Paul had an intense spiritual history with the Christians at Philippi. What words does Paul use to describe his attitudes when he prays for them?
3. What attitudes do you typically hold when you pray for people?
If you don't have Paul's attitudes, how can you become more like him?
4. Paul mentions his "confidence" that the Philippians will carry on in their Christian growth (v. 6). What is the root of this confidence?
5. What does Paul mean in saying that the Philippians "share in God's grace with me" (v. 7)?
Why does this sense of shared grace undergird their mutual love?
6. Often in our "share and prayer" times we concentrate on illness, jobs, and family problems. What does Paul pray for? How can we embrace this as a better model for our prayers?
7. What does Paul mean when he prays that "love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight" (v. 9)?
Where and how have you seen this kind of love exhibited?
8. We often build friendships on compatibility. We look for people who are likable to us and whom we admire. On what basis does Paul ground his love for the Philippians-on this, or on something else?
9. Suppose there was someone in the Philippian church whom Paul found especially difficult to get along with. What do you think he would do to gain a joyful and loving attitude toward that person?
10. What would it take for you to develop these kinds of attitudes and feelings for other Christians?
What difference would it make in your life if you did develop such attitudes and feelings?
This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. -Philippians 1:9
During the next week use Paul's prayer for the Philippians as a model for your own prayers. Think especially of a person with whom you have had an intense spiritual connection. (This could be a parent, a spouse, a relative, a friend, or a pastor.) Ask God each day to give that person a more knowledgeable and insightful love as well as discernment for what is really best in his or her life. Ask God to make that person "pure and blameless" and to fill him or her with "the fruit of righteousness." As you think of this person, try to personalize these requests to the circumstances you know he or she deals with.
Excerpted from Philippians by Tim Stafford Copyright © 1995 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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