I’ve been reading Silver Linings Playbook as my daughter Annie recommended it, saying it was “so much better than the movie.” I liked the movie, but like the book better. The protagonist, Pat, has a bipolar disorder and, as is so often sadly true, refuses his meds. Though Pat is not well, I see myself in him when I get out of touch with reality, pursuing my idol with passion. Pat’s passion, which all the somewhat healthier people in his life know is unrealistic, is getting his ex-wife Nikki back. (He doesn’t realize or cannot accept that she divorced him long ago and has remarried.)
Because Nikki likes fit men, Pat works out most of the day, running thirty miles with a trash bag on (so he’ll sweat more), working endlessly in his weight room, and drinking four gallons of water every day. He is also reading, because Nikki likes men who read, memorizing lines from the books to impress her when “apart” time is over. He thinks “apart” time has been a few months, but it has been over five years, most of which were spent in a mental institution. He doesn’t like people who tell him to forget about Nikki because they don’t believe in “silver lining” endings. He is focused, with a searing focus, on his idol. There are times when his focus shows beauty too, even though he is confused. He is steadfast about being faithful to Nikki, about being “kind instead of right,” about being so good that God will bring Nikki back. He is focused, forgetting what is behind, forging forward to his misguided goal.
His family, in an attempt to distract him from this unrealistic goal, introduces him to Tiffany, who also has a mental disorder and also refuses meds. (I’ll step on my soapbox for just a moment to address Christians who discourage their brothers and sisters who have illnesses, physical or mental, from taking meds. Jesus said “the sick need a physician,” and there are advances in medicine that truly counteract or mitigate the effects of the fall, whether it is a physical or a mental illness. I thank God for antibiotics, insulin, and anti-depressants! Okay — I’m stepping off my soapbox.)
Tiffany chases Pat during his long, long runs, as confused as he is.
I saw myself in Pat. I lose touch with reality when I pursue an idol with a passion, thinking somehow there will be a silver lining ending this time. Instead, my idol cuts me to pieces, and, as Jonah says, causes me to forfeit the grace that could be mine.
But there is a goal worth pursuing, the only one that is in touch with reality. The world thinks it is crazy, for it is an unseen reality. So the world “runs after earthly things, making their god their belly, being enemies of the cross of Christ,” and their end, Philippians tells us, is destruction.
But our citizenship is in heaven, so may we make this our searing focus: the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.Those who do stand out. Paul was able to say, “Imitate me.” There are those who have gone before who have made the Lord their searing focus.
Consider Eric Liddell, He became famous through Chariots of Fire, but went on to be a missionary in China, who even when captured in a prisoner of war camp, helped the children through it by organizing sports for them, and helped his fellow inmates by teaching them Scripture and the great hymns like Be Still My Soul. He was focused, with a searing focus, toward the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. The world didn’t understand him, yet, in the end, admired him. N. T. Wright has a wonderful series of inexpensive commentaries on the whole New Testament that I recommend highly. In “Philippians for Everyman,” he illustrates the verse,”forgetting that which is behind,” and compares it to a famous incident in Liddell’s life when he fell during the race, and everyone thought he would be out. But he picked himself up, and with a searing focus, caught and passed the other runners. Watch the re-enactment of this in this You-tube clip from Chariots of Fire. We’ll discuss it this week.
Here is the clip:
This is a two week study because there is a lot of homework and the 2nd week includes the 4th of July weekend, when many of you will be traveling. So during Week 1 we’ll do the study, and during Week 2 you’ll listen to the corresponding Keller sermon — or pace yourself however it works best for you.
Week 1: Bible Study on Philippians 3:12-21
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Think about an idol you have chased. How has it caused your mind to be darkened, to lose touch with reality? How did you expect a “silver lining” end? What did you get instead?
Monday-Friday Bible Study (Philippians 3:12-21)
Read the whole passage: Philippians 3:12-21
THE NURSERY DOOR OPENS…
In the Keller sermon this week he says every great story, such as Peter Pan, shows something from the outside coming to change our lives. The nursery door opens…
Sara Groves puts it like this, “I don’t claim to have found the truth, but I know it has found me.”
The NIV translates verse 12 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
3. What are some ways that you see that God wooed you, that the truth found you, rather than you first finding God, you initiating your rescue? What are some ways that you see that Christ initially took hold of you, rather than you taking hold of Him? (Think back and share — it will encourage us all.)
4. Read Philippians 3:13-16
A. We are rescued from the penalty of sin the moment we respond to Christ’s wooing. But being rescued from the power of sin is a process. How does Paul articulate this in the opening of Philippians 3:13?
B. What helps you to persevere in the process? Share whatever you like, but also, what you see in this passage that could help you persevere.
C. Paul says, “Forgetting what lies bhind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” What must he forget, do you think? What must you forget?
D. Watch again the You-tube clip of Eric Liddell and comment on what you see.
N. T. Wright says: What would most of us have done has we fallen, like Eric? “I suspect we would have accepted from the moment we fell that we were out of the race, with no hope left.” Do you realize, that there despite the sins, poor judgments, or tragedies in your past, that God can still enable you to “win the race of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus?”
E. Contemplate what this means for you right now and share.
F. What is the upward call? (Colossians 3:1-4 is a parallel passage that may help.) It is not just “getting to heaven,” for we are already citizens of heaven. See if you can discern what this means.
5. Read Philippians 3:17-21
A. What does Paul tell us to do in verse 17? What comments do you have on this?
B. What do you learn about those who have their minds set on earthly things according to verses 18-19? How is this a warning to you?
In verse 20, we are told our citizenship is in heaven, rather than will be in heaven. N. T. Wright says “We naturally suppose Paul means “and so we’re waiting until we can go and live in heaven where we belong.” If someone in Philippis said, “We are citizens of Rome,” they certainly wouldn’t mean “so we’re looking forward to going to live there.” …The church is at present a colony of heaven, with the responsibility (as we say in the Lord’s prayer) for bringing the life and rule of heaven to bear on earth.
C. With Wright’s comment in mind, how are you fulfilling the prayer in the Lord’s prayer, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?”
D. What things will happen when our Savior returns to the heaven and earth that will one day be made one?
6. What is your take-a-way from this week and why?
Week 2: Keller sermon
7. How have you spied God in your life in that last week? (In The God Hunt, Karen and David Mains suggest considering:
1) An answer to prayer
2) Unusual timing or circumstances
3) Unexpected grace
4) God’s help to do His work in the world
8. What are your plans for the 4th of July weekend? Is there any way you could apply what you learned last week to this holiday weekend?
Monday-Friday Sermon (LINK)
9. Listen to the Keller sermon and share your notes
10. What is your take-a-way and why?