|Missions: God’s Heart for the World
The Ultimate Example
|October 19, 2014|
For the Week of October 19, 2014
Purpose: To present the incarnational example of Jesus Christ as our source of sustained motivation for endurance in the face of the loss of comforts and sacrifice of personal rights which accompany service.
General note. Philippians falls into the Prison Epistle category because Paul wrote it from some sort of captivity. This letter is distinguished by the word joy, with at least fourteen references to joy or rejoice. One commentator stated, “Joy is the music of Philippians.”
From this joy-in-spite-of-the-circumstances context, Paul exhorts his readers to imitate the example of Jesus. He quotes in chapter 2 from what was probably a hymn in the early church (2:6-11) about the kenosis (or “emptying,” “he made himself nothing,” [v. 7]) of Jesus.
Sermon Principle: “Could it be that we struggle with missions because we struggle with unity? The best soil for the seed of unity is our willingness to consider others better than ourselves (humility), and Jesus is the ultimate example of this principle. This is true for life in the church and the mission of the church.”
This Week’s Resources:
- The Compass Bible Study
- Word Search Answer Key
- Sermon Notes & Discussion Guide FFCA | FFCB
- Passage Guide (all the Scripture referenced in this lesson)
- Lighthouse Leader Study Guide
Our culture tells us to respond to a challenge with the comeback “What’s in this for me?” Yet outreach, missions and service involve communicating God’s love to our world in ways that will inevitably involve our loss of comfort and sacrifice of our personal rights. Where do we find the sustained motivation for such giving?
- Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
- When you think of self-sacrifice and selfless service to others, who comes to mind? Describe that person. What characterizes his or her life? Where do we find the sustained motivation for such giving?
- In thinking about your service to others, either in your own culture or somewhere else in the world, what potential losses do you fear most?
Read the Text (Philippians 2:1-11)
Paul wrote the book of Philippians while in some sort of captivity, either prison or, more likely, a type of house arrest that had him chained to a Roman soldier twenty-four hours a day. From this context he wrote the letter to the church at Philippi, which we have in four chapters. The letter is characterized by the word joy, which provokes readers to ask, “How could Paul find joy in the midst of such difficult circumstances?” Read Philippians 2:1-11.
- What do verses 1-5 reveal about Paul’s purpose in setting Jesus forth as our example? (Read Philippians 4:2-3 as well.)
- How would you feel about receiving a letter like this?
- Describe the progression downward and upward of Jesus’ service (vv. 6-8) and then reward (vv. 9-11).
- What did Jesus need to release in order to come to earth to serve humanity (vv. 6-8)?Why did Jesus release all this—even allowing himself to be taken to the point of death on a cross?
- No matter what the challenges described in this passage—servanthood, humanity, humility and even death—it seems that Jesus entered these sacrifices by choice: he “made himself nothing” (v. 7). How does this passage apply to times when we choose suffering?In what ways would you apply this passage to those living under hardships they didn’t choose (like Paul’s house arrest)?
- Notice in verses 6-8 that Jesus had to come into the world in order to reach lost humanity; he couldn’t reach them in the same way from heaven (vv. 6-7). What “worlds” might you need to go into so that others can know the love of God?
- In this passage, Paul writes of Jesus’ incarnation (vv. 6-8) and his glorification (vv. 9-11). Imagine that you are imprisoned with Paul for preaching the gospel. How might these realities serve to motivate you to endure prison hardships and to continue serving others?
- How do you think the phrase “made himself nothing” (v. 7) applies to our serving others?
- What does this passage teach us about God’s perspective on sacrifice in this life and rewards in the next (vv. 9-11)?
- What role do you think the heavenly reward (vv. 9-11) played in Jesus’ obedience in service and sacrifice?What role should the prospect of eternal or heavenly reward play in motivating us toward sacrificial service?
- Imagine that you’re contemplating a crosscultural service project to work with extremely poor people. You’re recruiting others to support you financially, and someone asks, “Do you mean that you’re actually paying to go and work in these squalid conditions?” How might you use this passage as your basis for responding?Ask God to lead you into a specific “world” this week—even at risk or cost to yourself—so that someone else might experience the love of Jesus through you.
To continue the study of the motivational example of Jesus, read 1 John 3:16-20. How does John exhort his readers to follow the example of Jesus (v. 16)?
- What form does this “laying down our lives” take in practical daily living (v. 17)?
- What are the characteristics of the love that God wants us to express (v. 18)?
- What effect on our consciences does God promise when we act out his love in this way (vv. 19-20)?