In every great story of fiction we find a few key characters: there’s always a hero trying to head home, and there are always characters trying to help or hinder the hero. In the same way, our own choices can either help or hinder our journeys forward. Reliving the past makes us our own worst enemies––it keeps us stuck, often in shame or regret, and unable to progress! As 2020 winds down, if we look ahead and keep our eyes fixed on the one who holds our futures, we can move forward without anxiety. And that’s the journey we want to get going on, together as a family of faith!
1. We are all in process.
- The Apostle Paul, who wrote the epistle to the Philippians, was a Pharisee (a Jewish religious leader) and formerly zealously opposed to Christianity. He murdered Christians and did his best to halt the advance of the gospel, until he had an encounter with Jesus himself. The book of Philippians reminds us Jesus is King––a deeply offensive message both then and now.
- Paul confesses he is as much “in process” as the Philippians themselves. This comes from a healthy recognition of where we’ve been, as well as an acknowledgment that we are fully loved and accepted by Jesus. When we understand his love and acceptance, we don’t have to look like we’ve got it all together. We can admit that we are still in process.
What does it look like to be “in process” in your walk with Jesus? What has he delivered you from? What is he leading you toward?
2. We must be generous with God’s grace.
- Paul reminds his readers to give each other grace and space. There are times to bring correction to others, and there are times when we need to sit back and trust that Jesus will work with that person himself. We are all on our own journeys with Jesus.
- Discernment is knowing the difference between these two circumstances, and acting accordingly. Asking the Spirit for the discernment to know the difference between moments for gentle correction and for grace and space is part of how we protect the unity of our communities. That discernment is possible when we trust him to finish the good work he began.
Describe a time someone gave you grace and space. What effect did that have on you? Who do you need to extend grace and space to this week?
3. Jesus is the prize.
- Paul had the confidence in his own walk with Christ that he could tell the Philippians to imitate the way he followed Jesus. We have to ask ourselves the question, “Would it be a good thing if the people around me imitated the way I talked, treated people, and followed Jesus?”
- It’s hard work, but a mark of spiritual maturity is how we deal with difficult people. Paul had no shortage of difficult people in his life, and his attitude toward them was a clear sign of his closeness with Christ.
- To be gracious with others, we have to align our priorities correctly, with Jesus as our ultimate prize. Left up to our own devices, we dodge hard things. But when Jesus is our prize, we live for a higher calling in all things.
Would it be a good thing if the people around you imitated the way you talk, treat others, and follow Jesus? Why or why not? If not, what will you do about that?
4. Don’t settle. The best is yet to come.
- We don’t know the day or the hour Jesus will return, but we know the mile markers. We are on the way home to eternity with him. Just like children up past their bedtimes, the closer we get to Jesus’ return, or the closer we get to answered prayer, the harder it can be for us to hang on just a little longer. It can be tempting to settle and commit ourselves to things that aren’t God’s best for us.
- Often, settling comes from doubt in God’s goodness or in the wisdom of his timing. But if we keep our eyes fixed on eternity and on our confidence in his goodness, we can trust that the best is always yet to come.
How are you being tempted to settle right now? What aspect of God’s character are you distrusting in the process? What can you do about this?
Optional Follow-up Questions:
- What makes you say that?
- How do you feel about that?
- How would you explain your answer to a non-Christian friend or neighbor?
- Why did God design it to work that way? Why not just do (whatever else) instead?
- What would you say to someone who disagrees with that?
- Why do we really have to do it like that? Why can’t we just go (some other route) instead?