A "how-to" study for finding joy in authentic relationships and community
Women long for healthy, deep relationships with those around them. Knowing what those look like can be tricky, however. Where do we go to seek them? How can we approach them? How can we maintain those relationships, despite our own weaknesses?
Sue Edwards is happy to lead the way through Scripture to discover and maintain beloved, organic friendships. Paul's letter to early Christians is an ideal place to find these answers. This short letter highlights the skills that strengthen authentic connectionsskills like trust, humility, healthy self-sacrifice, a generous spirit, and more. It also sheds light on how to overcome toxic connection-killers like envy, comparison, and critical attitudes.
Philipians: Discovering Joy Through Relationship works its way through Paul's words as a model for deep, authentic community and healthy relationships between believers. When readers reach the end, they'll have a thorough sense of the content of this ancient letter, and of its relevance for today. Although Paul was under house arrest, he was able to draw joy from his relationships, and we can do the same, no matter our circumstances. Edwards strives to ensure that this Bible study will do more than transfer intellectual information; it will also transform hearts and inspire practice and application.
About the Author
Sue Edwards (MA, Dallas Theological Seminary; D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is associate professor of educational ministry and leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has more than twenty-five years of experience teaching, pastoring, and directing women's ministries. In addition, Sue speaks at retreats, conferences, and seminars across the country, and is author of the Discover Together Bible Study Series.
Read an Excerpt
Discovering Joy Through Relationship
By Sue Edwards
Kregel PublicationsCopyright © 2015 Sue Edwards
All rights reserved.
I love people, but that hasn't always been true. If people hurt us, we often struggle to trust them. That's what happened to me. But when I was in my mid-twenties, a neighbor invited me to a women's Bible study where a team of godly Christian women introduced me to Jesus. They also loved me and taught me what true friendships look like. Those relationships changed my life. And ever since, God has blessed me with dear friends who point me to the Lord and make me better than I could ever be without their prayers, encouragement, and guidance. The letter we are about to study was written by a man who loved and valued his friends too. Paul was relational.
I've heard several pastors define what's really important in life this way: only two things on earth will last for eternity, the truth of God's word and people. I think Paul would agree. Most of us desire enriching relationships in which we can be real and give others the same freedom. Do you want to experience those kinds of relationships? Watch Paul and the Philippians. As we dig into the Philippian letter, we will observe beautiful friendships, up close and personal. Those relationships model how intimate, authentic friends treat one another, even when relationships turn messy and complicated.
Joy Through Relationship (13:00 minutes).
But before we dig into the letter, I want you to see how God sovereignly connected Paul with his friends in Philippi. These people worked with Paul to birth the church there. How did God supernaturally bring them together? What kinds of people were they? How did Paul woo and win them to Jesus? What experiences gave them a common history that made their lives together richer, more productive, and sweet? Our story begins in Acts 16:6–40.
Read Acts 16:6–10.
TRAVELING TO TROAS
Paul, Silas, and Timothy are revisiting churches that Paul planted on his first mission trip. His desire was to encourage them and to see how they were progressing. Many of the churches Paul planted on his first missionary journey were in Asia Minor, now Turkey.
1. Their plan was to visit churches in that region, but why did they abandon their original itinerary (16:6–7)?
2. Name some ways God redirects people today. Can you think of specific examples? (No names, please.)
3. Has "the Holy Spirit" or "the Spirit of Jesus" ever rerouted your own journey? How did you know it was God guiding you in a different direction?
4. Where did Paul go instead (16:8)? Who sought his help? How (16:9)?
What was Paul's response (16:10)?
5. To guide Paul into Europe (Macedonia), God had to close a door to the south and to the north. Has God ever closed doors for you? If so, when? How did you feel? What did God have planned instead?
Read Acts 16:11–15.
On to Philippi, a Roman colony and leading city of Macedonia on the continent of Europe. Philippi was named after Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great's father.
6. Paul's practice was to search out a synagogue and explain the gospel there first. Since apparently there was no synagogue in Philippi, where did Paul go to begin his ministry? Who was there? Describe the first convert in Europe. (16:13–14)
7. How did the first convert in Europe express faith (16:15)?
Read Acts 16:16–40.
8. Who made ministry in Philippi difficult for Paul? How? (16:16–17)
9. According to verse 18, what did she do that caused Paul to stop ignoring her? How did Paul respond?
10. How did the owners react when they realized their business enterprise was ruined (16:19–21)?
11. Specifically, what did Paul and Silas endure in 16:22–24? Imagine this happened to you. How would you feel? How do you normally react when you are treated unfairly or suffer unjustly? How do you think you might react if you found yourself in Paul's and Silas's stocks?
PRISON IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT
12. How did Paul and Silas respond (16:25)? How did their response affect the other prisoners (see 16:28)?
13. How did God supernaturally rescue them? What happened to the prison and the other prisoners as a result? (16:26) How might typical prisoners respond if this occurred?
14. What was the jailer going to do as a result? Why? (16:27) 15. How did Paul stop him (16:28)? Why do you think the prisoners had not tried to escape?
16. The jailer then fell trembling before Paul and Silas (16:29). In your opinion, why (16:30)? Why do you think the jailer knew that he needed to be "saved"?
17. If someone asked you to answer the jailer's question — "What must I do to be saved?" — what would you say?
18. Who was converted that night? How did they express their newfound faith? (16:31–34)
19. Consider the ways God used Paul to win converts to his church in Philippi. How do you think Paul felt as he looked back over his first few days in Philippi?
20. Share an experience, if you can, when God's ways were unexpected in your life.
21. How did the jailer's treatment of his prisoners change after his conversion (16:24–33)? Do you know anyone who changed dramatically after coming to faith? Share their story if appropriate.
22. In the morning, the jailer probably brought Paul and Silas back to the prison. When the magistrates ordered their release, why do you think Paul insisted upon an apology (16:37–39)? How might this have affected the status of the church that Paul would soon leave behind?
23. Instead of leaving town as the officials requested, where did Paul and Silas go first (16:40)? In your opinion, what was their purpose in staying?
24. Look back over 16:16–40. Which of the people described in these verses definitely became Christians? Which do you think probably accepted Paul's message of love and redemption and joined the new church Paul founded before he left?
25. How were these new converts different? Compare their backgrounds, experiences, and the way God worked in their lives. What is the lesson for us?
26. Consider some of the challenges these different converts probably experienced as they attempted to worship and work together in the First Church of Philippi. What enables Christians from varied backgrounds and perspectives to thrive as the Body of Christ?
27. About ten years after the experiences recorded in Acts 16, Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians that is recorded in our Bibles. He wrote the letter as a prisoner in a Roman jail. Typically, letters would be read aloud to the entire congregation. Keep in mind the people and circumstances you studied in Acts 16. What do you think might have run through the Philippians' minds as they heard that Paul was in prison again?
28. As we will see when we study the Philippian letter, Paul and the Philippians shared an intimate bond of friendship. Consider how these relationships began. What do you learn about friendships that might help you thrive in relationships that God brings into your life?CHAPTER 2
An Endearing Prayer
Nothing we can do, think, or say is more powerful than prayer. Prayer unleashes the armies of heaven. Prayer enables us to see as God sees. Prayer blesses others far more than anything we can do for them. Yet many of us spend more time trying to manipulate people and situations than we do praying. I get this. Prayer can feel inactive and unproductive — until we understand its beauty and power.
For the first ten years of my Christian life, I gave lip service to prayer. I knew prayer was important. I tried to pray faithfully, but I wasn't willing to wait on God or put myself in his hands. I wanted results right now. As I've grown in my walk with Jesus and experienced more of life, I pray more and fret less. I realize that I'm not in control, and neither are you. Prayer is my lifeline to the God who alone is sovereign. He is active in our lives. Praying keeps me centered on him and connected to him, bringing peace and joy.
Praying alone is one thing, but praying out loud with others is another. For me, corporate prayer did not come easily or quickly. But I kept at it. I stopped trying to impress people and I just talked to God, simply and directly. Now I love praying with others. It's a bonding experience and a gift we give our friends.
Paul opens his letter with a heartfelt prayer, a model for us to follow, and a window into his relationships in Philippi. He's writing from Rome. After his missionary journeys, he was arrested and ultimately transported to Rome to await trial. The year is around ad 60 and Paul is under house arrest (Acts 28:16). Nevertheless, his letter reflects a joyful spirit, even though at any moment he could hear the footsteps of executioners who will escort him to the stump and ax. His letter shows us that it is possible to live joyfully in Christ even in the midst of calamity and suffering. And it begins with a beautiful prayer.
Read Philippians 1:1–11.
Ten years have passed since Paul founded the church in Philippi. During these ten years, the Philippian church has grown into a vibrant, mature congregation.
1. How does Paul describe himself to the Philippian congregation? What does he call them? (1:1)
2. Quickly review Lesson 1. As Paul thought about his letter's recipients, who are some of the people he likely had in mind as he wrote?
3. As Paul writes this letter, Roman guards are confining him to a small apartment. How do you think this situation might have affected Paul's daily life? His attitude? Have you ever been shut in your house over a period of time? If so, how did you feel? What do you know about Paul that might have made this confinement particularly difficult?
In verses 3 through 11, Paul reveals his heart for the Philippian believers.
4. How does Paul feel every time he remembers and prays for them (1:3– 4)? Why? What do they share? (1:5, 7)
5. How do you think the leaders of your spiritual community feel about you? What do you think comes to mind when they pray for you?
6. Paul uses the term gospel more often in this letter than in any of his others. What is the gospel? What do you think he means by this term?
7. Paul says he prays "with joy because of [their] partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" (1:4). In what tangible way had they shared with Paul (see Philippians 4:15–16; 2 Corinthians 8:1–5; 11:9)? What do you learn about the Philippian Christians? What does this tell us about their devotion to him?
8. Have you ever financially supported someone in ministry? If so, describe the situation, how you felt, and how your support benefited the relationship. (No names, please.)
9. From your own life, does anyone specific come to mind when you read Paul's words, "I thank my God every time I remember you" (1:3)? If so, why are you grateful for them? How can gratitude for relationships enrich our lives? Make a plan to express your gratitude to them this week.
10. Who began this "good work" in the lives of the Philippian believers and in their ministry as a church? Who is responsible for carrying it to completion? What do you think Paul means in verse 6? (Note: The "Day of Christ" probably refers to the second coming of Christ.)
11. Has God begun a good work in you? If so, what changes have you observed? What changes would you like to see? Can you hinder God's work in you? If so, how? What are some ways you can cooperate with him as he works in you?
12. What kind of love and affection does Paul feel for the Philippians according to verse 8? See also John 15:9–12; Galatians 5:22; and 1 Corinthians 13:4–6. What are some characteristics of this kind of friendship?
13. As you think of friends you "hold in your heart," what is the basis of your friendship? What can you do to enrich the friendships God has given you or to extend the hand of friendship to others?
Now Paul reveals the content of his prayers for his Philippian friends (1:9–11).
14. What is the key request Paul makes on their behalf (1:9)? In what sense do love and knowledge complement one another?
15. What will result as believers grow in love and knowledge (1:10–11)?
16. What does it mean to be able "to discern what is best" (1:10)? Are you discerning? Can you make choices between what is good and what is best for your life? Share a time when you were required to do so.
17. There are no perfect people (1 John 1:8). In what sense can believers be "pure and blameless" (Philippians 1:10) and "filled with the fruit of righteousness" (1:11) in our lives (see Colossians 2:6–7; 1 John 1:9)?
18. Analyze the content of Paul's prayer in 1:3–11. What elements does it include?
19. Analyze the content of your prayers. Do they contain any of the elements of Paul's prayers for the Philippians?
20. What hinders you from experiencing a rich prayer life? If you are studying Philippians with a group of women, how can you help each other overcome these obstacles? If you are studying Philippians by yourself, who could help you overcome these obstacles? Make a plan to connect with them this week.
21. How comfortable are you praying out loud for others? What are some of the benefits?
22. How much do you value intercessory prayer for others, and what has it meant in your life?
23. Summarize what you have learned from the first eleven verses of Paul's letter to the Philippians. What is the Holy Spirit asking you to apply to your life this week?CHAPTER 3
If a friend receives recognition that you desire, do you struggle with envy? What if a co-worker is promoted or given some special privilege that you think you deserve more? For many women, envy and comparison are natural responses, although we almost never talk about it. When was the last time you heard someone request prayer for the sin of envy? Yet Solomon points out the destructive nature of envy in Proverbs 14:30: "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."
Leadership expert John Maxwell distinguished himself in his denomination as the youngest pastor to be elected to a national office and to average more than a thousand in attendance at his church. Sadly, he writes that he was also the loneliest person in his denomination. When he failed, people were there for him, but when he succeeded, he and his wife celebrated alone (Winning with People, 209).
James instructs us not to "harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition" in our hearts, and he insists that envy is a source of "disorder and every evil practice" ( James 3:14, 16). Paul writes about envious people in our passage this week. They pitted themselves against Paul, and we don't want to be like them. Until we deal with our jealousy and envy, peace will evade us and conflict is likely.
While some women battle comparison and envy, other women battle a critical spirit. They lack a long-suffering heart toward people who disappoint them. Their judgmental attitudes can also weaken the church and cause strife and division. In our text this week, Paul counsels both groups, showing us how to work toward health and unity in our faith communities, despite various kinds of opposition.
Read Philippians 1:12–30.
1. According to Paul, what good is resulting from his imprisonment (1:12)?
2. What is one specific example Paul mentions in verse 13? Why do you think this has happened?
3. Are you in close proximity to non-Christians due to work, school, or family obligations? If so, what opportunities might these situations provide? How might you serve as Christ's ambassador there?
4. How have other Christ-followers been affected by Paul's imprisonment (1:14)? In your opinion, why? If you have ever observed or experienced a similar situation, please share.
5. When Christians find themselves in difficult situations, their admirable responses often make Christ look good. Can you recall a difficult experience in your life that God used to "advance the gospel"? If so, please relate it to the group.
6. Into what two categories do Paul's fellow ministers fit? What does Paul say are the motives of each? (1:15–17)
7. How difficult is it to discern other people's motives? Do you think it is harder to discern motives or to judge false doctrine? Support your answer.
8. What was Paul's attitude toward false teachers (see 2 Corinthians 11:13–15; Galatians 1:8; Philippians 3:2)? In light of his attitude, does Paul believe those who "preach Christ out of envy and rivalry" (1:15) are false teachers? Why or why not? What is the lesson for us?
9. Paul realizes that some Christians envy his position and prestige (1:15). How would you have felt if you were Paul? Why do you think he was able to ignore their envy? What are the lessons for us?
10. Why do you think Paul is more accepting of impure motives than incorrect doctrine?
11. What is Paul's attitude toward those who support him as well as those who want to discredit him? Why? (1:18)
12. What is your attitude toward modern-day ministers with questionable motives? Toward those who may want to discredit you? Discuss. (No names, please.) What can we learn from Paul?
Excerpted from Philippians by Sue Edwards. Copyright © 2015 Sue Edwards. Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsHow to Get the Most Out of a Discover Together Bible Study, 7,
Why Study Philippians?, 9,
LESSON 1 Beloved Friendships, 11,
LESSON 2 An Endearing Prayer, 19,
LESSON 3 Sacred Perspectives, 27,
LESSON 4 An Inspiring Example, 35,
LESSON 5 More Inspiring Examples and a Warning, 43,
LESSON 6 The Courageous Pursuit, 51,
LESSON 7 A Harmonious Peace, 59,
LESSON 8 A Contented Generosity, 67,
Works Cited, 75,
About the Author, 77,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sue Edwards in her new book “Philippians” A Discover Together Bible Study published by Kregel Publications helps us Discovering Joy Through Relationship. From the back cover: Discovering Joy Through Relationship. Paul's brief letter to Philippi highlights what strengthens authentic connections -- skills like trust, humility, appropriate self-sacrifice, and generosity. It also sheds light on how to overcome toxic connection-killers like envy, comparison, and a critical spirit. Join Sue Edwards on this inductive study of Philippians, where you will discover how to find and maintain beloved, organic, healthy community. Sue Edwards' book is not an in-depth analysis of the whole book. Rather "Philippians" is eight studies focusing on the main topics Paul presented and are designed to provide a better understanding of just what the book is all about. By looking at what Paul had to say to the believers at Philippi we can apply what he was teaching them to our lives today. It is worth the time to sit and study this book and Sue Edwards has given us a marvelous tool in this study book. I recommend this book highly. Completing each lesson requires about one-and-a-half hours. Readers still receive in-depth Bible study but with a minimum time commitment. For those who desire a more thorough study, including an opportunity to learn more about the history, culture and geography related to the Bible, Ms. Edwards has provided “Digging Deeper” questions. Answering these questions may require outside resources such as an atlas, Bible dictionary or concordance and challenge readers to examine complex theological issues and differing views more closely. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I have been working through this Bible study and I really am enjoying it. Sue opens with "How to Get the Most Out of a Discover Bible Study". Then "Why study Philippians?". Each Lesson has an Optional memory verse in the chapter you are studying. She begins the lesson with an introduction, a passage of Scripture to read and then lots of questions to get you into your Bible. There are some illustrations. Also a section off on the margins called Digging Deeper in which you can spend more time if you like studying different content that relates to the lesson. Sue also includes quotes from other authors or herself that apply to the lesson. There is also plenty of room for journaling and answering the questions. Randomly throughout there are video sessions you can watch at Discovering Together Series. In these videos which last from 10-15 minutes, Sue talks and explains details related to the lesson or the book of the Bible. The book consists of 8 total lessons. These can be done as quickly or as slowly as you like. You can take your time and meditate in depth on each lesson as God leads or do a quick question and answer session. The videos are free but also optional. Paul's joy in spite of his suffering and chains is evident throughout as well as the unity he has with other believers. How does he remain joyful? Deep study will help you understand Paul's secret to contentment. I really have enjoyed this study. And would like to do some other ones that Sue has to offer. She has plenty of the available. This can be done as a personal study, or a small group study if preferred. Sue will get your wheels turning and your thinking cap on, and hopefully you will emerge from the study with a better knowledge of the book of Philippians, Paul's life, and also a little more mature in your Spiritual walk. I was blessed with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to review it positively and no other compensation was provided.
Sue Edwards' Philippians Discovering Joy Through Relationship led me to start a Bible study. I haven't done a Bible study for quite a while. This one is great because it involves a whole book of the Bible. I especially like the fact that it will help me grow in my personal relationships. At the moment, I am studying "humility and self sacrifice." I thought of foot washing services my husband and I use to attend annually. I am happy to have attended these services because there was an intimate involvement with the congregation of the church. There is a quote in the Philippians lesson book. It is taken from Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. "Community is, of course, central to Christianity at every life stage--after all, the very life of the Triune God tells us that we are persons only when we are in communion with one another." Along with the quotes and scriptures, there are personal experiences from the author. She talks about her friends, her marriage and her professorship. I couldn't find anything to take lightly in this study book. I am reminded gently of my spiritual growth through Jesus Christ's help and my shortcomings as well. Sue Edwards also shares facts about the city of Philippi: the Romans, the women and Paul's life in jail. I am happy to have the back page with the works cited. There are books about our emotions, hearing God's voice and the beauty and wonder of learning about God. There is a temptation to write that the questions are too hard. Not so. It's just that my mind is a bit rusty. I would like to make it my goal to do each book of the discovery series. How coincidental, serendipitous or primarily God knowing my needs, this book came first. It is the perfect topic for me. I must also mention there is a helpful guide to Bible study at the beginning of the book. It gives a small list of Bible Help Companions. The author comes across as a sweetly chirping bird, like one of those on the cover and pages who wants you to love God's word and the people in the Bible. discovertogetherseries