lesson
5

Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

PAUL'S PURPOSE IN LIFE
Philippians 1:20b-26

warm up
  T or F There are never any times in a Christian's life when he or she is depressed.
T or F One thing that helps us pull through difficult times in life and enables us
             to put one foot in front of the other as we press on is our "purpose" for 
             living.
If you had a Christian friend who was depressed, what would you suggest as a  good and wholesome and unselfish purpose for living?
Read our lesson text: 

Which of the following best describes Paul's purpose for living::
[  ] To live for his own selfish gratification of the flesh 
[  ] To live in order to help to others  
[  ] To live in order to enjoy the company of others
wise up
I. Do our lives magnify Christ? Vs. 20

   1. Paul was facing a fearful, life threatening situation. He knew that his words and actions during such dark moments would not only be a reflection upon his own character, but also upon his Lord. In verse 20, he stated that his hope was that he would not shame himself or his Lord but be "bold" or courageous in such a way that whether he physically (bodily) lived or died, either way Christ would be "magnified" (enlarged) in the hearts of others by his conduct and character. How do we "magnify the Lord" in our lives today? Can you give an example of someone whose life or whose "death" actually caused others to see Christ in a way not seen before?

   2. Is it possible in the midst of some personal crisis, to shame oneself and even the Lord by what we say or do? Can anyone know for sure what they will do in a difficult moment? Can we, like Paul "hope" that we will not shame ourselves in such a crisis? Can we "hope" we will be bold and courageous? When such moments do come into our lives and we face difficult or even life threatening moments where does such courage come from? 

II. Do we live by the motto: 
           To live is Christ and to die is gain?
Vs. 21-26

   1. Verse 21, is not a philosophy of life, but it was a "way of life" for Paul. As far as Paul was concerned, to be alive was to live for Christ. Christ was the alpha and the omega of Paul's life and every thing in between. What kind of commitment is implied when one says "for me to live is Christ." What kind of character and values and morals should we try to possess if we also claim "for me to live is Christ?" Should such a statement be every Christian's motto? Discuss.

   2. What was it about death that made it "gain" for Paul? (cf., Vs. 23.) Will there be any suffering or heartbreak when we are with Jesus? Can you understand why someone who may be limited in what they can do to help others may begin to long more and more for what lies ahead? Look again at Vs. 23. Why could Paul be so confident about what awaited him on the other side of life? Can such confidence be ours? How? [cf., Rom 8:1 and note two things: No condemnation falls upon those who (1) are "in Christ" and (2) who "walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."]

   3. In verses 21-26, Paul feels like he is teeter-tottering on the edge of two worlds (the present world and that which is to come.) If he had "his druthers," as we say in the South, he wouldn't really know which he would choose (Vs. 22.) Paul is caught between "a rock and a hard place" (Vs. 23.) On one hand, he desires to depart this world and be with Christ. (From a selfish point of view that would be better for him.) But on the other hand, from a more Christ-like and unselfish point of view, Paul knew for him to abide in the flesh would be better for his brethren. (Vs. 24.) Discuss why would it be better for his brethren?

a.  Sometimes, those who are terminally ill, feel like they are being selfish in praying that they might live longer in order to be with their family and friends. 
b. Are they being selfish or just the opposite? Would this passage be of help in comforting them? Why? 
c. When our purpose for living is so we can be of help to others are we magnifying Christ or ourselves? 

   4. While Paul debated these things in his mind, was it really in his hands to chose between the two worlds? Since we really have no control over when will die, how could Paul be so confident that he would not in verse 25? Discuss the difference between being confident about something and certain. For example, you can may feel confident that certain people, because of their track record, will always show up for an appointment. But there is no 100% guarantee is there? Paul is confident that with their prayers (cf., Vs. 19) and God's help he would get out of the jam he was in and be allowed to minister again to the Philippians. But notice in Vs. 27, he shows humility when he states, "whether I come and see you, or else be absent..." There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. Can we, like Paul,  have confidence in the words, actions and prayers of others? Why or why not?

wrap up
1.  Let us resolve to live and die in such a way that Christ is magnified in the hearts and lives of others around us. 
2.
Let our purpose for living be summed up by one word: "Christ." When that becomes our way of life, then death will bring gain.
Assignment

  Please read Philippians 1:27-30 for next week   copyright 2001