lesson
16

Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

What are you thinking about?
Philippians 4:8-9

warm up
 
   1. How would you describe an optimist? What kind of things would an optimist think? Do you think that optimism is something that comes naturally for most Christians? 
   2. Prov:23:7 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..." If we are what we think about, how important is it to think about wholesome and positive things? 
wise up

One of the keys to peace of mind (as mentioned in Vs. 7) is to focus our thoughts on positive things that will lift up our spirits and encourage us in stressful times. Equally true is the fact that moral living comes from keeping our thoughts out of the gutter and on wholesome things. When Paul says to "think on these things" he is not saying to just mull them over for a few moments or to just contemplate them. He is saying to think long and hard with great seriousness about these matters. So much so, that they will eventually shape our own conduct and attitudes.

I. Who do we think we are? Vs. 8 
   1. These "things" listed in this text can be applied to circumstances, relationships, and to people. In other words, even in the worst of circumstances there may be something true or lovely to think about. And the same may be found even in the worst of relationships because if we are willing to search we can find something honest or virtuous about anyone even ourselves.

It seems that preachers and lawyers are always being teased. A lawyer once asked me, "Do you know why they always bury us lawyers twenty feet under ground?" He said the reason is simple, "Down deep there is a little good in all of us"

 What does the way we think about ourselves have to do with our self-esteem?   

   2. As a class list some possible heartbreaking or discouraging circumstances and problems where it would be helpful to stop and think about positive things. After you make the list, discuss the "things" that might be:  "true, honest (or honorable), just, pure, lovely (attractive), of good report in each of the situations. Which of the things Paul lists do you think is the hardest to "think on" in times of difficult circumstances? Why? 
   3. Now do the same thing by making a list of relationships where things may be going sour or difficult. Can anything lovely or of good report be found in such relationships? 
   4. Finally, take a moment to quietly think about yourself individually. If someone were writing your biography or eulogy, what is there about you that could be remembered by others that is "true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report? What virtues do you possess that could be mentioned? What might others see in you that might be worthy of praise? While the purpose of this exercise is not intended to give anyone "the big head," it can be useful in helping us to appreciate who and what we really are. 
   5. Notice that Paul does not assume that in every circumstance or relationship or problem that there will always be something of virtue or praise, but he says "if" (and that may be a very big "if" at times) there be any virtue and if there be any praise... think on these things. Is it possible that we may have to dig deep to find such at times? If we applied this verse to each other and always tried to see the good and the best in one another and in our congregation as a whole, what would that do for our relationships with each other? If we applied this verse to those who are not Christians (neighbors, fellow employees, family members etc.) what would that do for our relationship with the world? 

II. Who do we act like? Vs. 9    
   1.
Most of us want the "peace of God" to flourish in our lives. But Paul takes the expression and turns it around. If we do as he said and did, we not only will enjoy the peace of God but we will have "the God of peace." 
   2. Sometimes it is helpful to have a spiritual hero or mentor. Because Paul was following Christ, he could use his own example along with his inspired instruction as a model. And because he had himself experienced the peace of God and knew the God of peace was with him, he knew from experience how others could do the same.
   3. What are some things that the Philippians must have "learned, received, and heard " from Paul that they could imitate or do? What are some things that they may have seen "in him" that they also could do? What are some things you have seen in Christians (no names please) that you thought were worthy of being imitated? What spiritual things would you like for others (such as your children or grandchildren) to be able to see "in you" that would be worthy of imitating?

wrap up

   1.  There is no doubt that Paul wanted his readers to aspire to their best in both thought and deed. As we do the same today we gain peace within and often peace without. Most importantly, we enjoy the presence of the God of peace in our lives.

Assignment

 Please read Philippians 4:10-13 for next week   copyright 2001