In All Things: A Nine-Week Devotional Bible Study on Unshakeable Joy
:This accessible and practical Bible study of the book of Philippians invites you to discover a joy and contentment that will carry you through every circumstance of life. With warm teaching and perspective-shifting insights, Bible teacher Melissa Kruger...
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:This accessible and practical Bible study of the book of Philippians invites you to discover a joy and contentment that will carry you through every circumstance of life.
With warm teaching and perspective-shifting insights, Bible teacher Melissa Kruger walks you through the power-packed words of the apostle Paul to believers in the early church to discover what he knew about the secret to unshakeable peace--and how his insights can help any woman discover a secure and satisfying contentment no matter what life may bring. With the Scripture passages printed right in the book for handy reference, this is an ideal resource for busy women of any life stage who want to deepen their spiritual life and increase their daily joy.
Melissa Kruger serves on staff at Uptown Church, PCA as Women's Ministry Coordinator. She regularly teaches women in her community and speaks at women's conferences around the country. She is the wife of Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary-Charlotte. Together, they are busy raising their three children. Melissa is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood.
We Need More Than a Spiritual Experience
Joy in Salvation
If ever the world needed the witness and testimony of Christian people it is at this present time. The world is unhappy, it is distracted and frightened, and what it needs is to see stars shining out of the heavens in the midst of the darkness, attracting the world by rebuking that darkness, and by giving it light, showing how it too can live that quality of life.
Day 1: Observation
What Does the Text Say?
For four very long years (it felt like an eternity at the time), my husband and I dated long distance. He was in seminary in California, and I was in college at the University of North Carolina. We lived about as far from each other as we could and still be in the same country.
Email was yet to be invented, and long-distance phone calls came at a steep price. So we wrote letters back and forth to each other. He saved every letter I wrote him, and I did the same. Currently, they’re stored up in our attic, treasures of the early stages of our relationship.
Perhaps you, too, have a treasured collection of correspondence. The words of loved ones are important to us. We read them time and again, and we save them, keeping them as reminders of relationships that matter dearly.
When we read the New Testament, it’s easy to forget that many of the books were letters. Of course the writers were inspired by God through the Holy Spirit, but these letters also are historical documents, exchanged between actual people in an actual time and place.
For that reason, in this first week of study, we’re going to begin in the book of Acts, which reveals some key details about the life of Paul (the author of Philippians). We’ll also meet a few early members of the Philippian church.
As we read the book of Philippians in the days to come, it will help to keep in mind that Paul was a real individual, writing to a real congregation. His words are rooted in a historical context and have been saved for two thousand years.
The letters my husband and I wrote to each other might survive a generation or two. I hope my grandchildren find them and enjoy reading the words we wrote as our relationship developed. However, I doubt they’ll last much longer than that. In contrast, Paul’s words have been preserved all these years for you and me. These words are still relevant because, ultimately, they are written by a God who is eternally relevant. While historically the book of Philippians records a conversation between Paul and his beloved brothers and sisters in Philippi, all of God’s Word is a letter between God and His people, as He reveals Himself throughout the ages.
What a gift! The God of all the universe speaks to you and me. He invites us to come and learn from Him. We have an amazing opportunity before us today and for the next nine weeks. We get to hear from the Lord through His messenger, the apostle Paul. I cannot wait to dig into these truths with you.
I encourage you to open your time in prayer, asking the Lord to speak to you as you read and to give you joy in this time with Him.
We’ll begin today by looking at Paul’s arrival on the biblical stage. Known initially by his Hebrew name, Saul, he first appears in the book of Acts just after Stephen, a man full of grace and power, preaches and testifies to the Jewish rulers about Jesus, a message that sparks their anger.
Read Acts 7:58–8:3.
Then they cast [Stephen] out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
1. List two or three things you learn about Saul from this passage.
2. Thankfully, Saul’s story doesn’t end there. Read Acts 9:1–9 and answer the questions that follow.
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
a.         Why was Saul going to Damascus?
b.         Who appeared to Saul along the way, and how did Saul respond?
c.         What happened to Saul afterward?
3. The story continues in Acts 9:10–19.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.
a.         Who was Ananias? How did he feel about visiting Saul?
b.         What specific ministry did God plan for Saul (verse 15)?
c.         How did Saul respond to Ananias’s words?
4. Continue reading Paul’s story in Acts 9:19–30.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
a.         Once Saul believed in Jesus, what did he begin to do (verse 20)?
b.         What challenges did he encounter (verses 23–25)?
c.         How did many of the disciples feel about Saul?
d.         Who brought him to the apostles?
e.         How do you think Saul’s past affected his ministry to others?
Notice the abrupt transformation in Saul’s life. The persecutor had become the preacher—and then the persecuted. Only a divine meeting could produce such a metamorphosis in Saul. He changed from being an enemy of the church to being willing to suffer for it. He went from being devoted to destroying the church to risking his own life to build it. Meeting Jesus changed everything.
The turmoil that began with Stephen’s message continued to affect followers of Jesus, as well as Saul’s ministry.
5. Read Acts 11:19–26 and answer the questions that follow.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
a.         What happened because of the scattering that occurred after Stephen’s death?
b.         Where was Barnabas sent? How long did he stay there? What significant thing happened there?
c.         How does this passage demonstrate the truth of God’s words to Ananias about Saul in Acts 9:15?
Saul’s salvation is a miraculous story. Not only did God change his heart, He also set him apart as an apostle, giving him the special calling of authority in the church and, later, the privilege of writing the very words of Scripture. God intervened and transformed this man’s life in an amazing way, setting him on a course to share the good news of Jesus with those outside the Jewish faith, who knew him by his Greek name, Paul. God prepared a ministry for Paul and prepared Paul for the ministry.
While we are unlikely to experience a blinding light on the road to Damascus, each of us has a story of faith that’s a miracle in its own way. Your story may be just as dramatic as Paul’s, or you may have experienced a slow awakening to faith. God calls each of us to Himself in different ways. Whatever way He worked in your life, the good news is that the scales that once blinded you to faith fell from your spiritual eyes! God has prepared a ministry for you and has prepared you for a ministry to others.
Close your time today by thinking about how you came to faith. Write down how you learned of Jesus and the ways you’ve seen your faith grow throughout the years. What particular moments, if any, stand out to you? Take time to praise God for the people and ways He used to call you to Himself.
If you’re not certain you believe in God or Christianity, write down your questions. Do you have doubts? Are you fearful or distrustful of religion? What keeps you from believing in Jesus? Take time to pray that God would meet you in your doubts and that Christ would become real to you.
Day 2: Observation
What Does the Text Say?
Yesterday we observed the amazing transformation that happened in Paul’s life after his encounter with Jesus. He went from persecutor to preacher to persecuted. In the course of his life, Paul traveled around the Roman Empire bringing the good news of Christ. Paul spent the majority of his time preaching to Gentiles (non-Jewish people). Accompanied by various other disciples, he made a total of three missionary journeys.
Today we’ll consider Paul’s second missionary journey, which eventually took him to Macedonia, a region that included the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.
We’ll begin our study in Acts 15 and 16 to gain helpful insights about the people Paul wrote to in his letter to the Philippians. We’ll divide it into smaller sections so you can reflect as you read.