Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

SOMETIMES THINGS HAPPEN Philippians 1:12-20a

warm up
  T or F Bad things only happen to bad people.
T or F Fellow Christians never disappoint us.
When are we most likely to be disappointed in people? Explain why?
[  ] In times of trouble when we are already down
[  ] In times of happiness when we are on top of the world
wise up
I. When bad things happen...
            Do we look for the silver lining?
. 12-14
Sometimes when bad things happen to good people we have a difficult time understanding why? Our sense of justice and fairness tells us that this should not be happening. Yet, we see good folks suffering. The brethren at Philippi must have felt this same sense of outrage, confusion and perhaps a tinge of fear over what had happened to Paul. How helpful it is when those that are the victims of such injustice are the ones who wisely seek to console loved one and friends. Paul wants those who love him to know that yes, bad things can happen to good people but something good can come out of it. This attitude of Paul is reflected in Romans 8:28. (Discuss.) 
    2. List some of the positive things that were happening as a result of Paul being in prison. 
a. Paul noted the advantage of publicity in Vs. 13. Those who are involved in civil rights and political agendas know that a martyr for a cause is a powerful opportunity to get one's message out to others. Paul was not a martyr by self infliction in order to get public attention. What was happening to him was truly an injustice. Yet, this event had opened the door for the message of Christ to be shared in ways not before seen. When bad things happen to good people today, what kind of doors are opened? How helpful would it be to consider the "possibilities for good" that may come out of our situation?

b.  Paul also noted the advantage of being a roll model for others in Vs. 14. When we see someone who is brave enough to even go to prison for their convictions it motivates us to also want to stand up and be counted. The battle cry might be to "Remember the Alamo" or in this case, "Remember Paul!"  Our spiritual heroes are often those who make sacrifices and who suffer injustice for the faith. What is it about their efforts that make us more bold in speaking the word without fear? List others mentioned in the Bible that serve as such roll models? (cf., Hebrews 11.)

Is there someone in your personal life that has given you courage as you watched them face adversity? Can you become someone's roll model of faith and courage?

II. When others disappoint us...
            Do we look for the silver lining?
Vs. 15-20a
In Vs.15, Paul indicates a great truth. Sometimes bad situations bring out the heroic best in others but sometimes it brings out the worst. Why do you think that happens? Why do you think some were envious of Paul? What are some ways that some added "emotional" affliction to Paul's bonds? (i.e., Do you think it was painful for Paul knowing that the cause of Christ was being promoted by insincere people?)

a.  Discuss some "reasons" why people today might preach Christ out of contention or rivalry. 
b. Do some people enjoy a good fight? Do some like playing the devil's advocate and stirring things up? Can a person be right in what they say but wrong in their attitude and motive in saying it? When we get involved in a discussion that becomes heated perhaps we would be wise to pause and ask ourselves, "Are we truly sincere and full of goodwill or just being contentious?" 
Those who preached out of love and goodwill (Vs. 15b, 17a) did so because "they knew" that Paul's imprisonment was not for crimes or to create a public forum for the gospel, but because he was "set" (appointed for the purpose) of defending the gospel. (Vs. 17.) Can we defend the gospel without being contentious? What will become of those who are contentious? Rom 2:8. 

   2. There is little doubt that Paul was disappointed in some of his brethren which used his affliction as an opportunity to become self-serving. It was not the content of their message he differed with but their motives. However, he found joy in the fact that at least Christ was being preached, even if the motives of some were far from sincere. (Vs. 18). How do we respond when others disappoint us by their attitudes? Do we try to see some good in what they are doing? Do we look for the silver lining? What wrong attitudes "on our part" might keep us from doing so?
Read Vs. 18-19 again. When the bottom seems to fall out from under us, do such difficult moments make us "better" or "bitter?" Could that depend in part upon the power and benefit of prayer? Why? How would the "prayers" of others and the "supply of the Spirit" (cf., Romans 8:26-28) help bring about joy (Vs. 18) and justice (or salvation Vs. 19) for Paul? For us? Discuss as time permits.

wrap up
1. Paul was not ashamed of his situation. (Vs. 20a). Others may have been ashamed of Paul (an accused felon), but Paul and those who knew him, knew he was a victim of injustice. 

2. Paul also knew that God had providentially used this bad situation to open up many doors. Let us learn to also look for those silver linings in our lives.


  Please read Philippians 1:20b-26 for next week   copyright 2001