Fellowship of Joy

n03114_fellowship

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Age Group

Adult

Brief Description

This unit focuses on the experience of joy as revealed in Paul’s letter to the church at Phillipi. Even when facing difficulty and trial, Christians find comfort in knowing the truth about this world: it belongs to God. If we hold fast to our trust in God’s will, we can continue to live, work, and minister despite our circumstances. We can be joyful because we know that God is both with us and for us in a world that ultimately belongs to God.

Session One: Paul begins his letter to the Philippian church with a note of thankfulness both for their mutual remembrance of each other (1:3) and for their partnership in sharing the gospel (1:5). Between these two expressions of thankfulness comes Paul’s emphasis on joy (1:4). The Philippian community, like other faith communities, has a common memory of their story. Shared suffering is an integral part of that story, yet despite persecution that could understandably lead to despair, Paul encourages the Philippians by stressing that their joy should not be based on external circumstances. He urges them instead to take comfort in knowing that the God who began this partnership in the gospel will not abandon it.

Session Two: In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul addresses the nature of leadership in the community of faith. He notes that partners in the community are to regard each other equally. Likewise, no one should claim to be better than anyone else or exercise power at the expense of others’ well-being. Rather, believers should imitate the servant attitude of Christ.

Session Three: Paul urges the believers to follow his example by conducting themselves uprightly not only when he is present, but especially when he is absent. Even if Paul sacrifices his life for the sake of the gospel, the work that Christ began in the Philippian church will continue.

Session Four: Paul’s intimate relationship with the Philippians offers a refreshing view of community and commitment. The Philippians’ support of Paul extends to include not only emotional, but financial support as well, a tangible expression of encouragement to which many adults will relate. At the same time, however, Paul sets a cautionary example for our materialistic society by admitting that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstances he finds himself.

by Lawanda Smith

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