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 4:10-23 Inductive Bible Study and Questions – Be Content in All Situations

Outline:

I. The Philippians helped Paul financially (10)
II. Paul had learned to be content in all situations through Christ (11-13)
III. The Philippians generously supported Paul (14-19)
IV. Benediction and greetings (20-23)

I. The Philippians helped Paul financially (10)

Discussion Questions

  • Why was Paul rejoicing?
  • What does he mean that they had revived their concern for him?
  • Why had there been a lull in their giving to Paul?
  • Is that a good reason not to give?

Teaching Points

1. Paul was rejoicing – Paul’s joy was not because of the money he going to receive from them. He was happy to see them doing well, to see them willing to share.

My two year old daughter has a comfort blanket. She doesn’t want to sleep without it. It is her most cherished possession. It therefore brought a smile to my face when she offered to share this blanket with me and even pointed out her favorite corner that I too could suck. I was not joyful because I longed for the blanket, but because it was encouraging to see her so willing to share!

Likewise, Paul was joyful to hear that the Philippians were willing to share with him what god had blessed them with.

2. You have revived your concern for me – The Philippians had given financial help to Paul before about ten years before when he was in Thessalonica (15-16). Now they once again wanted to help.

Paul says that they had not given in the interim because they did not have the “opportunity.” It could be that Paul did not go near their region again or it could be that for other financial reasons they were unable to offer more support.

II. Paul had learned to be content in all situations through Christ (11-13)

Discussion Questions

  • What was Paul’s motivation for bringing this up with them?
  • Are you content?
  • Can you give any example where perhaps you were recently or any time you can remember not content? What caused this?
  • Was Paul content because circumstances were favorable? What kind of unfavorable circumstances did he endure?
  • What is the root cause of discontent? What are opposites of contentment (envy, coveting, complaining, etc.)?
  • Does Paul teach that having a lot is not good?
  • What was the “secret” of Paul’s contentment?
  • What is the world’s solution when they are discontent? What are common areas of discontent?
  • Verse 13 is often pulled out of context as a sort of super man verse telling Christians we can do anything. Looking at it in context what can we learn about what Paul is really saying here?
  • Can you think of any examples in the Bible of believers who lacked what they needed and God provided for them? (Israel in the wilderness, Elijah…)

Cross-References

Verses on Contentment:

Psalms 37:16 – Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.

1 Timothy 6:6, 8 – But godliness with contentment is great gain. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Ecclesiastes 5:10 – Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

Luke 12:15 – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Teaching Points

1. Paul had learned how to be content – Paul had many experiences in his life of service to Christ, most of them difficult. Shipwrecks, imprisonments, scourging, stoning, beating, and many more hardships were routine. So it could be said that it was his circumstances that taught him how to be content.

But this would not accurately show the whole picture because many people go through hardships and yet never learn how to be content. A more accurate statement is that God used the trials He faced to teach Paul about contentment. Yet Paul still had to learn this lesson.

What is the secret of contentment?

Paul already told us of his mindset in following after Christ.

Philippians 3:7-9 – But 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 consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

He counted all the things in this world as rubbish and set his heart completely on pursuing Christ. That is the key to contentment.

There are two possible outcomes when a person sets his heart on things in this world:

A. He gets what he wants. But then he finds out that it cannot make him happy and is therefore discontent. If a person chases after marriage, money, achievement, or fame (or any other thing in this world) he will find that it cannot satisfy him.

B. He doesn’t get what he wants. And then he is discontent because he doesn’t get what he hoped for.

Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Contentment does not depend on circumstances. It is a mindset. It comes from a relationship with and a reliance upon God. It is possible be content, and even joyful in every circumstance (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Application: Are you generally content? Is there something which you want, but don’t have, which you are unhappy about? Spend some time in prayer and tell God that He is enough for you. Ask Him to satisfy you and to change the desires of your heart to match His.

2. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – Philippians 4:13 is a great verse, but it is also frequently taken out of context. Verse cards often feature this verse and many people memorize it, claiming the statement that they can do anything by God’s strengths. It is not hard to see how this could give the wrong impression.

Free climbers could claim this verse and climb dangerous cliffs with no ropes because they can do “all things.”

A bank robber could claim this statement as God’s guarantee of success.

These extreme examples show us that clearly it doesn’t mean anything. One condition is that these things are enabled by God who gives strength. And since God would not enable sin, any foolish, reckless, or sinful action is not in line with this promise.

That is obvious. But Christians may also try to claim this promise for doing many other good things, which are also not covered by this statement. One important rule when interpreting Scripture is to pay attention to the context. The context quantifies the statement in verse 13.

What is the context?

It is learning to be content. Paying attention to the context it shows us that verse 13 means, “I can be content in any situation through him who strengthens me.”

The contentment does not come from his own will power, but from trust in God. God is the one who gives the strength to respond to trials with a steadfast joyful contentment.

III.The Philippians generously supported Paul (14-19)

Discussion Questions

  • In what way did the Philippians share with Paul in his affliction?
  • What distinction did the Philippians have in verse 15? What does this tell us about them?
  • How many times had they given to Paul? Why? Shouldn’t Paul make money on his own?
  • Why was Paul so happy about their generosity?
  • How did their generosity profit them?
  • Does God also want us to give today?
  • To whom or what? Why? When? How much?
  • What are the most common reasons for not giving?
  • Are these good reasons?
  • What bout if we are on a very tight budget?

Cross References

Verses on Generosity

Proverbs 22:9 – The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

Matthew 6:3-4 – But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Romans 8:32 – He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Acts 20:35 – In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

1 Timothy 6:18 – Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

2 Corinthians 9:7 – Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Teaching Points

1. It was kind of you to share my trouble – Paul does not seek to minimize their contributions by talking about contentment. He simply wants the focus to be on God. We can simultaneously hold to both the truth that God is good and wants us to be content in all situations and the truth that believers should generously support God’s workers.

2. No churches gave to me except you – It is a sad statement. Paul was appointed by Christ to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He established churches, made disciples, trained leaders, penned Scripture. It could accurately be said that with exception to Jesus no individual had more influence on the church than Paul.

And yet there were long periods of time in his ministry when churches did not support him. Certainly Paul’s own ministry philosophy contributed partially to this. He very seldom asked for support, instead choosing to work himself so as not to be a burden on the churches (2 Corinthians 9). In addition, he did not want too be accused of greed.

But even so churches should have been more zealous(like the Philippians) to take initiative to try to support Paul than they were.

Many modern day churches would do well to learn from the example of the Philippians. A very substantial portion of every church’s budget should go to missions, outreach, and discipleship. But many churches focus on facilities, buildings, robes, and programs instead of supporting those who are advancing the gospel. A percentage cannot be placed on it, but the church’s priority should be on missions.

Application: Consider if you can be an influence in your church to support missions. Perhaps you can recommend a specific person or ministry to support. You can be a voice to encourage your church to be outward focused.

3. I seek the fruit that increases to you – Paul clearly states that his pleasure at this comes from his knowledge that it is good for them to be so generous.

Note that we should not go around begging for money and saying “I just want to bless you by taking your money!” Unscrupulous tele-evangelists may do this. Becoming rich, they purchase more private jets and up their already luxuriant lifestyle. All the while they say, “I don’t want to deny their gifts and therefore deny them a blessing.”

4. Verse 18 – A generous gift is a “sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” When we show love by supporting God’s workers, we show love to God Himself. In the Old Testament the Israelites gave to the priests and Levites as a way to give tithes and offerings to God.

Today we give to missionaries, Bible teachers, church planters, evangelists, and disciple makers.

Application: Take some time to evaluate your own giving. Are you being generous? Prayerfully consider if God would have you add to your regular giving. Consider where your money would go the farthest to fulfilling the Great Commission. And practice sacrificial giving, which will be pleasing to God.

5. My God will richly supply every need of yours – A generous person does not need to fear the future. This verse applies not only to the Philippians, but to all believers who generously support God’s work. God will richly take care of the needs of the generous.

Note that this is not a promise of prosperity. It does not say “if you give X amount then God will give you back X amount more.” It does not say that God will give you want. And it does not say that God will make you rich. It simply says that God will take care of your needs.

When the Shunammite woman gave her last bit of food to Elisha God took care of her and her family. She didn’t become rich. But she had enough to eat.

God is rich and He delights in giving good gifts to His children. In the Old Testament Israelites were to give of the “first fruits” of their crops. It meant giving the best to God, but it also meant giving first before they forgot or used it all up. They gave to God first because it was a priority.

Some people are worried to do this because they are scared that they will not have enough. Stop worrying. Trust God. He will take care of you.

IV. Benediction and greetings (20-23)

Discussion Questions

  • How does Paul end this book?
  • What lessons can we learn from his conclusion?

Teaching Points

1. Benediction – Paul ends with a benediction. He gives all the glory to God. It is a good way to end! The ending is a reminder that everything Paul said was from God and for His glory and the purpose of all of his instruction to them was so that they could glorify God more.

2. Greetings – Paul ends with greetings. His letters often end in this way. Chances to see each other were few and far between in the ancient world. Distances were long and roads were not good. It therefore was natural to add on greetings in his letters as a brief way to show love and concern among the brethren.

One interesting note is that he mentions the saints in “Caesar’s household.” Remember that Paul was under house arrest in Rome. While there he actively shared the gospel. And it was making an impact! Even members of Caesar’s own household had come to Christ right under his nose! This simple statement is a reminder that all things (even Paul’s imprisonment) work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

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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