Lesson 125: Philippians 4

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

Paul instructed the Saints in Philippi to be prayerful and to seek whatsoever is righteous. He also declared his confidence in the enabling strength of Jesus Christ. Paul concluded his epistle with another expression of thanks to the Philippian Saints for the support they gave him in his times of need.

Suggestions for Teaching

Philippians 4:1–14

Paul instructs the Saints in Philippi to be prayerful and to seek whatsoever is righteous

Before class, write each of the following statements on separate pieces of paper, and give each of the papers to different students:

“I am worried about passing an upcoming test.”

“I am worried about a family member who is sick.”

“I am worried about standing up for my beliefs.”

“I am worried about whether I can be a successful missionary.”

Begin the lesson by writing the word worry on the board. Point out that throughout our lives, we will experience challenges or circumstances that may lead us to worry. Invite the students who have the papers to stand and read their statements one at a time. Ask the class to think about times they have had similar worries.

  • What are other worries we might experience due to challenges or difficult circumstances?

Ask students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals about a challenge that they or someone they know is worried about. Invite students to look for a truth as they study Philippians 4 that can help them when they worry.

Remind students that in Paul’s epistle to Church members in Philippi, he commended the Church members’ faithfulness (see Philippians 2:12) and taught them about the eternal rewards that are available to those who sacrifice for and are faithful to Jesus Christ. Summarize Philippians 4:1–5 by explaining that Paul counseled the Saints to stand firm in faithfulness to the Lord, rejoice in the Lord, and let their gentleness (see verse 5, footnote a) be evident to others.

Invite a student to read the first phrase of Philippians 4:6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Paul’s counsel to the Saints. Refer students to verse 6, footnote a to help them understand that the phrase “be careful for nothing” means to not be overly concerned about anything.

Write the following phrase on the board: As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, if …

Invite a student to read the remainder of Philippians 4:6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul counseled the Saints to do instead of worry. You might explain that supplication is a humble, earnest request.

  • How would you summarize Paul’s instructions in verse 6? (Write students’ responses on the board as an “if” statement similar to the following: As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, if we pray with supplication and thanksgiving, …)

Add the word then to the statement on the board. Invite a student to read Philippians 4:7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the blessing Paul promised for praying with supplication and thanksgiving. Explain that the word keep in this verse means guard (see verse 7, footnote c).

  • How would you summarize the blessing Paul promised? (Write students’ responses on the board after then. Students should have identified a principle similar to the following: As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, if we pray with supplication and thanksgiving, then God will bless us with His peace.)

  • When we worry, how can expressing gratitude in our prayers help bring us peace?

  • What does God’s peace guard our hearts and minds from?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for additional ways God’s peace can help us:

Elder Richard G. Scott

“Because He respects your agency, Father in Heaven will never force you to pray to Him. But as you exercise that agency and include Him in every aspect of your daily life, your heart will begin to fill with peace, buoyant peace. That peace will focus an eternal light on your struggles. It will help you to manage those challenges from an eternal perspective” (“Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 93).

  • According to Elder Scott, how can God’s peace help us with challenges we experience?

  • When have you prayed with supplication and thanksgiving in a time of worry and been blessed with God’s peace?

Ask students to refer to the worry they wrote about earlier in the lesson. Encourage them to pray with supplication and thanksgiving instead of worrying. If students wrote about someone else’s worry, encourage them to share this principle with that person.

To prepare students to identify an additional principle that Paul taught the Philippian Saints, divide the class in thirds. Assign a third of the class to think about their favorite food item, another third of the class to think about a humorous image or story, and the remaining third to think about an image of or experience in the temple. Invite students to focus their minds on this thought for 30 seconds.

  • What effect, if any, did focusing on this thought have on you?

Point out that what we think about can influence our desires and behaviors. Invite a student to read Philippians 4:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul admonished the Philippians Saints to think on and do. You might explain that “think on” means to give careful, continuing thought.

Invite students to consider marking each type of thing that Paul instructed the Saints to focus their thoughts on.

  • In addition to thinking on these things, what did Paul counsel Church members to do?

  • What blessing did Paul promise the Saints if they would follow his teachings and example?

  • What principle can we learn from what Paul taught the faithful Saints in Philippians 4:8–9? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If faithful Saints focus their thoughts on whatsoever is righteous and if they follow apostles and prophets, then the God of peace will be with them.)

  • How can focusing our thoughts on whatsoever is righteous influence our desires and behaviors?

Ask the class to turn to the Articles of Faith in the Pearl of Great Price. Invite a student to read aloud the thirteenth article of faith. Ask the class to follow along, looking for similarities with Philippians 4:8.

  • What similarities do you notice between these two verses?

Point out that when the Prophet Joseph Smith cited this “admonition of Paul” from Philippians 4:8 in the thirteenth article of faith, he changed “think on these things” to the more active “we seek after these things.”

  • Why do you think it is important for us to seek after things that are honest, true, chaste (or pure), virtuous, lovely, and praiseworthy?

  • How would seeking after such things help us focus our thoughts on such things?

handout iconDivide students into groups of three or four. Give each group a copy of For the Strength of Youth (booklet, 2011) and the following handout. Assign each group two of the following topics from For the Strength of Youth: “Dating,” “Dress and Appearance,” “Education,” “Entertainment and Media,” “Friends,” “Language,” and “Music and Dancing.” (Adjust the size of groups and the number of topics depending on the size of the class.) Instruct students to follow the directions on the handout.

Philippians 4:8–9

Write your assigned topics here:

For each of these topics, discuss the following questions:

  • How can we use Paul’s instruction in Philippians 4:8–9 to guide our choices relative to this topic?

  • As we strive to follow Paul’s instruction, what challenges might we encounter relative to this topic?

Then discuss the following question:

  • Why is having the God of peace with us worth the effort of seeking righteous things and following the apostles and prophets?

© 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

After sufficient time, invite a student from each group to report to the class what his or her group discussed for each question.

  • As you have focused your thoughts on righteous things, how has the God of peace shown He was with you?

Encourage students to write in their scripture study journals or class notebooks one way they can improve their efforts to focus their thoughts on righteous things and follow God’s apostles and prophets.

Summarize Philippians 4:10 by explaining that Paul thanked the Philippian Saints for the support and care they had offered him during his trials.

Invite a student to read Philippians 4:11–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul told the Saints he had learned.

  • What had Paul learned to do in all circumstances?

Invite a student to read Philippians 4:13–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for who the source of Paul’s strength was.

  • Who did Paul say was the source of his strength?

Explain that Paul’s statement in verse 13 pertains to his ability, in the strength provided by Jesus Christ, to do all things that were pleasing to or required by God, including being content in any circumstance.

  • What truth can we learn from verse 13? (Using their own words, students should identify the following truth: We can do all things through Jesus Christ, who gives us strength [see also Alma 26:12].)

  • What can we do to access the strength that Jesus Christ provides?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for what this strength can enable us to do:

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“God pours out blessings of power and strength, enabling us to achieve things that otherwise would be far beyond our reach. It is by God’s amazing grace that His children can overcome the undercurrents and quicksands of the deceiver, rise above sin, and ‘be perfect[ed] in Christ’ [Moroni 10:32]” (“The Gift of Grace,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 108).

  • In what ways might we experience this strength or grace? (Possible answers include increased resilience; resolve; courage; patience; perseverance; and physical, mental, or spiritual stamina and power.)

  • When has Jesus Christ given you strength to do something good? (Consider sharing a personal experience as well.)

Philippians 4:15–23

Paul closes his epistle to the Philippians with an expression of thanks

Summarize Philippians 4:15–23 by explaining that Paul again thanked the Philippian Saints for supporting him in his times of need. The Saints’ gifts were a pleasing offering to God, and Paul promised that God would meet their needs as well.

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths discussed in this lesson.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—Philippians 4:13

Help students memorize Philippians 4:13 by writing the verse on the board and saying it aloud together. Erase one word and say the verse aloud again. Repeat this until all the words have been erased.

Commentary and Background Information

Philippians 4:6. Expressing thanksgiving in the midst of challenges

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught about how having an attitude of gratitude can bless us in any challenging circumstance we might encounter, which includes those that might cause us worry:

“Most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude. …

“We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.

“This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. …

“When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace. …

“Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision” (“Grateful in Any Circumstances,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 70, 75, 77).

Philippians 4:6–7. The peace of God

President Thomas S. Monson taught about the peace that can come if we pray:

“There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith.

“When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer. I love the words of President Ezra Taft Benson concerning prayer. Said he:

“‘All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any other advice I have … received. It has become an integral part of me—an anchor, a constant source of strength, and the basis of my knowledge of things divine. …

“‘… Though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life’s greatest blessing’ [Ezra Taft Benson, ‘Pray Always,’ Ensign, Feb. 1990, 4–5].

“The Apostle Paul admonished:

“‘Let your requests be made known unto God.

“‘And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’ [Philippians 4:6–7].

“What a glorious promise! Peace is that which we seek, that for which we yearn.

“We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us” (“We Never Walk Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 121).

Philippians 4:8. The admonition of Paul

“Paul admonished the Saints to ‘think on’ (to give careful, continuing thought to) things that are true, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Philippians 4:8). When the Prophet Joseph Smith … cited this ‘admonition of Paul’ in the thirteenth article of faith, he changed ‘think on these things’ to the more active ‘seek after these things’ (Articles of Faith 1:13; italics added). Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed the admonition to ‘seek after these things’:

“‘The word seek means to go in search of, try to discover, try to acquire. It requires an active, assertive approach to life. … It is the opposite of passively waiting for something good to come to us, with no effort on our part.

“‘We can fill our lives with good, leaving no room for anything else. We have so much good from which to choose that we need never partake of evil. …

“‘If we seek things that are virtuous and lovely, we surely will find them. Conversely, if we seek for evil, we will find that also’ (“Seeking the Good,” Ensign, May 1992, 86)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 437–38).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles likewise counseled members of the Church “to look for that which is good and edifying in all things. …

“In view of all that prevails in the world, it might be easy to center our attention on negative or evil things, or to dissipate our energies on causes and enterprises of doubtful worth and questionable productivity. …

“I think the Latter-day Saints have a great obligation pressing in upon them to rejoice in the Lord, to praise him for his goodness and grace, to ponder his eternal truths in their hearts, and to set their hearts on righteousness. …

“There is an eternal law, ordained by God himself before the foundations of the world, that every man shall reap as he sows. If we think evil thoughts, our tongues will utter unclean sayings. If we speak words of wickedness, we shall end up doing the works of wickedness. If our minds are centered on the carnality and evil of the world, then worldliness and unrighteousness will seem to us to be the normal way of life. If we ponder things related to sex immorality in our minds, we will soon think everybody is immoral and unclean and it will break down the barrier between us and the world. …

“On the other hand, if we are pondering in our hearts the things of righteousness, we shall become righteous” (“Think on These Things,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 46–48).

Philippians 4:13. Jesus Christ gives us strength to do all good things

The strength Jesus Christ gives us to do all good things is referred to as grace (see Bible Dictionary, “Grace”). President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught the following about this strength Jesus Christ gives us to do all good things:

“A powerful expression of that love [of Christ] is what the scriptures often call the grace of God—the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now into exalted beings of ‘truth and light, until [we are] glorified in truth and [know] all things’ [Doctrine and Covenants 93:28]. …

“… God pours out blessings of power and strength, enabling us to achieve things that otherwise would be far beyond our reach. It is by God’s amazing grace that His children can overcome the undercurrents and quicksands of the deceiver, rise above sin, and ‘be perfect[ed] in Christ’ [Moroni 10:32].

“Though we all have weaknesses, we can overcome them. Indeed it is by the grace of God that, if we humble ourselves and have faith, weak things can become strong [see Ether 12:27].

“Throughout our lives, God’s grace bestows temporal blessings and spiritual gifts that magnify our abilities and enrich our lives. His grace refines us. His grace helps us become our best selves. …

“Do we understand our indebtedness to Heavenly Father and plead with all our souls for the grace of God?” (“The Gift of Grace,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 107–9).

Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy shared an example of how God gave a faithful man strength that enabled him to accomplish a righteous task (see “The Lord’s Wind,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 26–28).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Philippians 4:6. Replacing worry with prayer

After students identify the principle that as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, if we pray with supplication and thanksgiving, then God will bless us with His peace, consider doing the following to help them understand a practical benefit of applying this principle rather than worrying:

Draw on the board a picture of a car or another vehicle your students are familiar with. Ask students to name the different gears of the vehicle (reverse, neutral, and driving gears). Remind students that if the gas pedal is pressed while the vehicle is in neutral, the car doesn’t move even though fuel is being used.

  • How is pressing on the gas pedal when the vehicle is in neutral like worrying? (When we worry, we expend our emotional fuel and energy in an unproductive way.)

  • How is prayer an effective use of our emotion and energy? How can the peace we receive by praying help us move forward in challenges or circumstances instead of worrying?