Pursuing God - thriving not surviving (April to June 2020)

By Andy O'Connell (on behalf of the Elders)

In our Streamed Sundays after Easter we're going to look together at the letter to Philippians. (Having got into the flow of streaming, we're also going to try a few new things, so watch out for those!)

As well as Sunday preaching, we plan to make resources available to support individuals, Communities and other groups to follow up on the teaching we will find in the letter.

Start here!

As we did for 1Corinthians in the Spring term, we're recommending the excellent Philippians resources over at The Bible Project. For our visual generation, these are a fab place to start, as we approach the Bible as individuals or in groups, to get a clear idea of the history and purpose of each book of the Bible. That way, as we start to read, we understand better the overall 'plot' of the book, as well as what lies behind the author writing it. That way, we get so much more from our reading!

What is the point of the letter?

Philippi was the first church Paul started in Eastern Europe (Acts 16). It was a Roman colony, full of retired soldiers and known for its patriotic nationalism. Paul sent this letter from one of his many imprisonments. Both the church and Paul were under pressure by their circumstances. 

The exhortations and teaching of the letter centre on 'the Messiah poem' in chapter 2, retelling the story of Jesus' incarnation, life, death, resurrection and exaltation. 

In other words, how do we pursue a Jesus-centred life - despite hardship? How do we thrive under pressure, instead of just surviving?

Pursuing God

We're going to work through the letter in 9 chunks, and through each chunk draw out how we get to pursue Christ-like lives and indeed, Christ himself. 

  • Pursuing God, 1:1-11
  • Pursuing Christ, 1:12-30
  • Pursuing character, 2:1-11
  • Pursuing salvation, 2:12-18
  • Pursuing community, 2:19-30
  • Pursuing grace, 3:1-11
  • Pursuing the goal, 3:12-4:1
  • Pursuing peace, 4:2-9
  • Pursuing provision, 4:10-23

[Check out the series recordings here]

Great soundbites!

As we work through the letter we will come across many well-known soundbites, showing just how much this short letter has meant to the church down the ages. Here are just a few to whet your appetite!

  • "This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ."
  • "To live is Christ and to die is gain."
  • "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."
  • "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
  • "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that … you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life."
  • "Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."
  • "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. … But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus."
  • "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
  • "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things."
  • "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

That all seems very relevant today, doesn't it! We were going to do this series in autumn 2020 - it’s a great letter to study in any season, but also to help us as we seek to pursue God more as a church - but have brought it forward to this term, in light of the season we are living in.

We trust it will do us all good as we chew on God's word together in the coming weeks.