These small group studies of Philippians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Philippians 4:1-9 Inductive Bible Study – Rejoice, Be Thankful, and Pray
I. Stand firm (1)
II. Encouragement to individual believers to live in harmony (2-3)
III. Rejoice in the Lord and take everything to Him in prayer (4-7)
IV. Meditate on pure things (8-9)
I. Stand firm (1)
- What is the “therefore” there for?
- What is Paul’s joy and crown?
- What does it mean that the Philippians are his joy and crown?
- In what way are they to stand firm in the Lord?
- Why does it say stand firm “in the Lord” and not just “stand firm”?
1. Therefore – The instruction in verse 1 to stand firm is linked to the previous passage. That section describes the onward push of the believers’ lives, the danger of false teachers, and the knowledge that our citizenship is in heaven. Because of these things believers are to stand firm in the Lord. Any one of the world, false teachers, or complacency could cause believers to fall away. In other words, standing firm is a key application from what we have learned in chapter three.
2. The two phrases “whom I long to see” and “my joy and my crown” both act as adjectives to describe Paul’s brethren, the Philippians. He already has expressed his hope to see them throughout the book. They are his joy because they are doing well and growing. The fruit Paul sees in their lives encourages him. They are his crown because they are a success of his ministry. He can and did “give them” to God as his work for God like we will give our crowns to God one day.
3. Stand firm in the Lord – This command is often given in the Word. It shows the solid foundation that we have. Because of our foundation on Christ we can stand firm. In stark contrast the one without faith is tossed about by the waves of the sea (James 1:6) and the foolish builder’s house on the sand will collapse (Matthew 7:24-27).
4. In this way – Paul says to stand firm “in this way” or in some translations “thus.” In what way? By setting their minds on the things above, forgetting the past, and pushing forward to the future to press on for the prize of the upward call. They are to emulate Paul’s example in this. This kind of forget yesterday (its hurts, failures, sins, and achievements) and push on toward the future attitude is what allows believers to stand firm in their faith and continue growing day by day.
5. In the Lord – We have no hope to stand firm on our own by sheer will power. Though a person may be able to give the appearance of following the Lord on the outside by his own strength, if it is not from a reliance on God it will be short lived. Our only hope for spiritual success is to rely on the Lord.
II. Encouragement to individual believers to live in harmony (2-3)
- Who are Euodia and Syntyche?
- Why do you think Paul felt it necessary to specifically encourage them to live in harmony?
- Why again say “in the Lord”? What does this phrase mean?
- Who is the true companion Paul refers to?
- What did Paul want him to do?
- In what way do you think this individual could help Euodia and Syntyche live in harmony?
- What does this personal section show us about our own responsibility in the church?
- Why did Paul often use the term “workers”?
- What does this show us about our responsibility as believers?
1. Paul encourages two sisters in unity – This is one of only a few cases where Paul singles out individual believers in his letter. It seems clear that he had heard some news (maybe from Epaphroditus) that Euodia and Syntyche were having some issues getting along.
For whatever reason friction or conflict had developed between them and they weren’t living in unity. Such kind of factions are so dangerous to a church’s well being Paul considered it necessary to single them out to exhort them to resolve the issue before it grew any bigger.
Application: It is all too common for believers to divide and hold grudges against each other. Satan wants to promote disunity. You must be vigilant and work hard to maintain unity (Ephesians 4:1). Part of that is being alert to any issues and then dealing with them quickly. Jesus instructed the people that unity was so important they should even leave their gifts at the altar to seek reconciliation. Is there a brother or sister who has an issue against you or vice-versa? Contact them this week to resolve it and restore your relationship before it gets worse.
2. In the Lord – Here we see this phrase appears again. People have no hope to live in unity without the Lord. We have too many sins, too many differences, and too many different opinions. Yet with the Lord all things are possible and we can truly be one. God’s grace is enough to overcome. Ask Him for the love and compassion to forgive those who have hurt you.
3. True companion – Some scholars believe that the Greek for this should be translated as a proper name. Either way it is clear that Paul is referring to a specific person in the Philippian church. It could be an elder or perhaps someone close to Euodia and Syntyche. His job was to help these women and all the fellow believers to live in harmony.
From this personal reference, we should be reminded that all the principles in the Bible have practical applications. Paul realizes these principles are not just pieces of knowledge to put in our head, but they are to be applied to everyday life. He didn’t hesitate to exhort individuals to apply such principles to their own lives and he even encouraged others in the church to help the brethren put these principles into action.
Be careful not to focus on doctrine to the exclusion of practical application. Both are important. Without obedience to the Word, knowledge is worthless.
Application: You can like this “true companion.” A true companion is a friend who says what needs to be said to help others grow even when they may not want to hear it. a true companion comes alongside and spurs his friends to love and good deeds. Consider how you can encourage your Christian friends to obey the Word. When you do, try to encourage them in specific ways, not just general ways.
4. Workers – Paul often uses this word for believers. He doesn’t say fellow “waiters,” “watchers,” “sitters,” or “listeners.” It is a subtle reminder that all of us are to be God’s workers. Each of us has specific work to do that He has prepared for us.
Application: What work is God calling you to do for Him today?
III. Rejoice in the Lord and take everything to Him in prayer (4-7)
- What do you think it means to rejoice? Smile and laugh excitedly?
- When are we to rejoice?
- How can you rejoice even in the midst of trials or disappointments?
- How can we let our gentle spirit be known to all men?
- Is verse 6 a suggestion?
- Is worry something that you can control?
- Why are we not supposed to worry?
- What is one thing that sometimes causes you worry?
- What might be the difference between concern and worry?
- What is worrying good for?
- What does it mean to pray to God “in everything?”
- If God already knows everything that we are thinking and experiencing, why is it important to take everything to Him in prayer?
- Share an example of something you re thankful for.
- What is something about a trial that you are thankful for?
- Why does it say that this peace is beyond understanding?
- Have you ever experienced this kind of peace? When?
Verses on Worry:
Matthew 6:27-30 – Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
Proverbs 12:25 – Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.
Matthew 6:25 – Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Verses on Joy:
James 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Psalms 40:16 – But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!”
Psalms 28:7 – The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
Verses on Thanksgiving:
Psalms 31:19 – How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.
Psalms 107:1 – Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Verses on Peace:
Psalms 119:16 – I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 54:10 – Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
1. Rejoice in the Lord always –
God commands us to rejoice. It is not a suggestion. And He tells us to do it all the time. By God’s grace it is possible for us to rejoice even in the midst of great trials or difficulties.
In Acts 16 Paul and Silas were thrown in to prison. Prisons in those days were dirty and smelly. Their feet were put in stocks. Circumstances were not good. It was a serious trial for them. They were not in prison because of their own sin. They had been faithfully serving God and sharing the good news. And yet God allowed them to be wrongfully taken and thrown in prison. Some people would become bitter and angry and question God, “God, have you abandoned me? I was serving you! How can you let this happen?”
You know the story. Paul and Silas were singing hymns to the Lord in prison. Eventually the jailer and his family were saved. Although they didn’t know what it was at the time, God had a clear purpose in allowing this trial to happen. The lesson from Paul and Silas is simple, no matter how bad things get around us, we decide how to respond.
Because God commands you to rejoice, it means that you can choose whether or not you do. In other words, your emotions are under your control. While you will face circumstances outside of your control, you choose how to respond to those.
Joy is a decision.
Note what Habakkuk says in verse 18, “I WILL be joyful.” He makes a decision. He decides in his heart and before the Lord that no matter how difficult things become, he will respond with a good attitude and be joyful. True joy is not an artificial smile that we paste on to cover over our true feelings.
When I went through training for the teaching job I have, my school told all the teachers to “check our problems at the door.” In the classroom we are supposed to smile and pretend to be happy no matter how we feel. So in the office teachers might be complaining or upset, but in the classroom they smile. But real joy is not like this, merely a fake exterior we put up to show others.
Neither does joy mean there is no room for sadness. We are rather commanded to “weep with those who weep.” There is a time and a place for grieving. Was Habakkuk happy about all of the disasters the Babylonians would wreak on his people and nation? Did he hear about this and say “Woo hoo!” No. Happiness and joy are different.
Happiness is primarily a feeling that we have which is triggered by exterior things such as the people around us. It is not natural that we would be happy when for example someone around us dies. And yet, even in those situations, we can make a decision that we will not complain. We will not become bitter and angry toward God. We will not become grumpy and upset with the people around us.
Joy is a decision that from our heart we will keep a good attitude before the Lord and men. We will remain thankful and optimistic. We will remember God’s goodness and place our faith in the fact that the trial we face has a purpose.
Joy comes from the Lord. The closer our relationship to Him, the easier it will be to “rejoice always.”
Application: Perhaps you have not responded well to the trials in your life. Perhaps you have complained. Perhaps you have become short tempered and easily irritated. Perhaps you have even allowed anger toward the Lord to build up in your hearts. Will you decide today to be joyful even in the midst of difficulties?
2. The Lord is near –
- He is near because He is omnipresent.
- He is near because He is omniscient.
- He is near because He didn’t leave the world to go its own way after creation.
- He is near because He cares for us.
- He is near because He will come again soon.
3. Do not be anxious about anything – Here is another command. Simply put, do not worry. Wow, that is a difficult one! Since God commands us not to worry it means that worrying is sin. Why?
At its heart, worrying demonstrates a lack of faith (Matthew 6:30). It could be a lack of faith in God’s ability to take care of your needs or it could be a lack of faith in His goodness, believing that He wants what is best for you.
Worrying accomplishes nothing. It can cause you to lose sleep, become depressed, perform poorly, grow ulcers, and cause other health and mental problems.
1 Peter 5:7 tells you that “God cares for you.”
Think about that thought for a minute. The Creator of universe, King of Kings and Lord of Lords cares deeply about you as an individual. He showed it through Christ’s death on the cross. God is not an impersonal force. He is not a distant observer. He is watching you closely. He has a plan for you. He wants the very best for a you, just like a loving parent wants the best for the kid. But the parent may not always know what is best for their kid. Even if they do, they may not have the power to see it happen. But God knows what is best for us AND He can make it happen. That is a good friend to have on our side!
The Bible is filled with commands to not do something, and many of those are followed by commands of what do instead. This verse is no different. Believers are not to just sit around telling themselves, “Don’t worry. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.”
4. Don’t worry. Pray. – Instead of worrying we are to proactively take our concerns to God and ask for His help. Paul says that we are to pray to God “in everything.” The attitude reflected here is a lifestyle of prayer. Nothing is too big or too small to pray about. You should pray to God about your work, your family, decisions you make, character, health, church, missions, hobbies, etc.
In some ways worry is almost the opposite of prayer. Great men and women of faith in the Bible were prayer warriors, bringing their petitions into the presence of God.
Application: We all know this verse already. The idea is simple. Pray. How can you develop a lifestyle of prayer? What is one way you can practice the principle of praying to God about “everything?” This week intentionally pray more, not just at meal times or before sleep or after church. Pray throughout each day. Talk to God about how you are feeling and what you are struggling with. Ask Him for wisdom. Praise Him when you are reminded of His glory. Your prayers don’t have to be long. But by praying throughout the day you will be able to keep your focus on the Lord instead of your circumstances.
5. With thanksgiving: Also a command. Our prayers are to be filled with thanksgiving, not only when we get something we wanted, but when we get something we didn’t want.
Do you remember when you were a kid and received a gift of socks or perhaps a sweater for Christmas? It may have been difficult to be thankful when you were hoping for the new latest and greatest gadget. But your parents probably trained you to be thankful anyway. And though you may not have realized it at the time, you needed those clothes. They were boring, but necessary.
In like manner, God wants us to be thankful in everything. Many times in our limited wisdom we do not recognize the “why” of what God allows to happen in our lives. Why do I feel such pain? Why did God allow me to be so hurt?
But we need to recognize the “who.” The who is God. He allowed these things to happen for our good.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
When you truly believe this verse you will be able to genuinely thank God even in the midst of life’s greatest trials.
Application: What is one difficult thing in your life that you need to decide to be thankful for?
6. He will give you peace – This peace cannot be understood by those who don’t understand God. They only know what they can see and feel, but this peace flows from the faith we have in God and the knowledge that He is sovereign and a good God who watches over us.
This peace protects us. It protects us from rash actions, from complaining, from fear, from anxiety, and from a lack of joy. It protects us from sinning.
Question for group sharing: What is one time you have experienced this profound peace from God?
IV. Meditate on pure things (8-9)
- What does it mean to dwell on these things?
- Why are we to dwell on these things?
- How might this affect our joy and thanksgiving?
- What kind of specific things can you think of that fit into this category?
- What are some examples of unhealthy things we shouldn’t spend time thinking about?
- Why does Paul give himself as an example to follow? Isn’t Christ our only example?
1. Direct your thoughts and don’t let them direct you – This passage tells believers we are to control the direction of our thoughts and not be controlled by them. You decide what you think; don’t just allow any thought to pop into your head and take over.
How is this possible? What should we do when temptations, worries, negative thoughts (like gossips or judgmental attitudes, boasting or pride) pop into our head?
We are to meditate on positive things that will enrich our spirit instead of tempting us.
It is important to pay attention to what goes in to your mind. What goes in will affect you.
Bull moose battle each fall’s mating season for supremacy. The toughest bull that wins the fights will get the girl. These magnificent beasts go head to head smashing each other will tremendous impact. Their antlers are their weapons and often they lose the fight because they are broken. The strongest animals with the toughest antlers wins. Although the battle appears to be fought in the fall, it is actually fought in spring. Whichever moose has the best diet and receives the best nourishment in the spring will win the fight in the fall.
Our spiritual battle against temptation is also like that. When you nourish your mind with positive spiritual food, you will think about these things and you will be less susceptible to temptation. The new you will grow stronger while the fleshly you will grow weaker.
On the other hand, if you feed your mind spiritual junk food, then you will think about these things and you will be more susceptible to temptation. The fleshly you will grow stronger will the new you will grow weaker.
Some positive things to meditate on include: Bible verses, Christian songs, Christian biographies, or God’s character. Other examples are: testimonies of other believers, things God has done in our lives, or things to be thankful for.
Some negative things include: gossip, scandals, celebrity news, immoral movies or novels, worry, and pornography.
The world finds sins and scandals fascinating, but deeds worthy of praise are often not nearly as popular.
Question for consideration: Why do gossip and scandals attract such attention compared to noble things worthy of meditation?
Philippians E-book: If this study guide is helpful you can get our whole Philippians study in one convenient e-book to view on any device.
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