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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
If asked the question “what do you think of when you think of average church-goers”, would joyful be at the top of the list? Pastor Rich read many verses that remind and command Christians to have joy, and to rejoice. Yet, when we often think about Jesus we forget that Jesus was fully “human” as well as fully divine. In fact, not many somber religious-types were attracted to Jesus but rather children, fisherman (blue-collar workers), farmers, and non-religious types. As followers of Jesus, let’s not lose this very human quality of joy, but possess it to the degree Christ and scripture command.
Peter reminds his hears in vs. 12 “don’t be surprised…[by trials]…as if something strange were happening”, and Pastor Rich began by speaking to our expectations. First, what do we expect from the world regarding our faith? The Doctrine of Total Depravity essentially says “every part of humanity has been stained by sin”. We will face opposition, even persecutions, when we align our lives with Jesus and His standards. Second, Rich asks, what do we expect personally? Our relationships may be strained because of saving faith in Jesus. Lastly, Rich asks, what do you expect as resident aliens? We will constantly face “a rub” (morally, materialistically, sexually, and ethically) with our present American culture when we genuinely live as followers of Jesus.
So why should we rejoice? Remember that joy does not equal happiness. “Hap” is the root of happiness and it means “good fortune or luck”, similar to happenstance. Joy can be present, no matter what happens. Pastor Rich said we can rejoice because we participate in Christ’s sufferings. Another way of saying it is we partake in “fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians). This practically means that through our active choice to yield and give away, ourselves as a sacrifice to Christ we connect to Christ in a new and profound way. We can also rejoice because we will see His Glory revealed – suffering is not the last word, in Christ or for us. Finally, we can rejoice because God is with us (v. 14). In the Kingdom of God, we can experience parts of Heaven, here and now through the Holy Spirit.
In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
• What are one or two things from this weekend’s sermon that really stood out to you?
• Can you name someone close to you who is an example of joyfulness in the midst of suffering or trials? How did they do it? Please share briefly.
• Is being joyful something you think is important? Why or why not.
Read Philippians 4:4-9:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Context: Remember that Paul is writing from prison. Read Chapter 3, especially 7-12.
• What should we always do (v. 4 is a highlight of Paul’s letter – cf 1:4, 1:18, 2:17,18, 3:1)? Is this a suggestion or an imperative? In what do we rejoice, our circumstances? What does that mean? What are some ways you could rejoice in the Lord always, even while in crisis?
• What should be evident to all (v. 5)? Why (v. 5)? What’s the opposite of gentleness (what do other versions say?)? Some versions say forbearance – how does joy relate to forbearance?
• Instead of being anxious, what should we do (v. 6 – cf. Matt 6:25-34)? What’s the antidote to worry? What’s your prayer life like when you’re in the midst of a trial, or experiencing pain? What may be missing from our petitions (a. thanksgiving)? Why would fostering a spirit of thankfulness, even amidst trials, be encouraged? What’s been your experience?
• Describe the peace of the Lord (v. 7). Understanding in Greek is the “thinking intellect and mind” – peace that passes all our own calculations and considerations – have you ever experienced that kind of peace? Please share briefly. How does your life prove the peace of God transcends all understanding?
• (v. 7b) From whom does this peace come? What does it protect us from – make it practical? In what realm will it work (a. “in” Christ Jesus)? Apart from Him there is no guarantee of peace – how do you live, day in and day out, in Christ so as not to become unplugged from His peace? Please share briefly.
• What are the things we should think about (v. 8)? Why does right thinking, make any difference whatsoever? What’s a practical list of things that fulfills the requirements of this admonition, what practical things might be excluded based on the requirements of this admonition? How do your thoughts get in the way of your ability to experience joy?
• Not only does Paul want us to think and ponder certain things, but what else (v. 9)? Why (v. 9)?
• Why do you think Paul describes two different ways to experience the peace of God?
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
• Which of Paul’s exhortations is most-needed in your life? Why? Ask Jesus for guidance and strength to embody this change.
• Are there places where you have only experienced your “own understanding” of how life works, absent of the peace of God which transcends understanding? Share with one or two others and ask the Holy Spirit to move your heart and mind.
• How does your group demonstrate joyfulness together? Think of one or two things you can do together to share this vital aspect of the Christian life.
• If you are feeling oppressed by your own thoughts, or feel disconnected from the peace of God, read and pray through 2 Corinthians 10:5. Talk with another group member and invite God to break in.