September 2, 2018
Philippi is one of the churches that Paul founded on his second missionary journey. On his first “journey,” he traveled around mostly in Asia Minor, that region of the world we now know as Turkey. On his second “journey” he traveled through Asia Minor, then he crossed over the Aegean Sea, and ventured into Macedonia, which we now know as the country of Greece. You can look at the maps in the back of your Bible and see where he went in those days.
We just finished up our study in Paul’s letter to another of these churches, the Church at Ephesus. And like the Church at Ephesus, the Church in Philippi was a beloved congregation to Paul. In both of these letters we find some of the loftiest and most insightful words, and some of the most loving, personal messages that Paul ever wrote.
I wanted to look today at Chapter 1 of Philippians. This is how Paul begins this letter. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you, making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:3-5) Right there we have a very warm and personal greeting from Paul to these people. He tells themhow grateful, how thankful he is, for his relationship with them and their “partnership in the Gospel.”
That’s what I want us to think about today. (And every day!) Gratitude. Thankfulness. Appreciation. Those things listed among the “Spiritual gifts” in the New Testament, and I think they are some of the most important things we can have as part of our Christian lives! Paul was very good about gratitude. And there is no doubt that he felt that for this congregation. He felt an overwhelming gratitude!
Paul would tell us, and I would agree, that these things, gratitude and thankfulness and appreciation fuel the spirit of the church! They upbuild people. They energize people. And hopefully, they are what other people will see when they look at us! Think about that. Would you rather spend time with someone who was grateful, thankful, and appreciative, or one who was upset, unforgiving, and unappreciative? I think that’s a no-brainer!
Well, I think it’s the same for churches! People would rather come into a church that has those qualities of gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation as part of the church’s “personality,” than they would a church where people were upset, unforgiving, and unappreciative of each other. Do you see how that works? Think about your life and the life of our church. Do we have the gratitude Paul is expressing here?
So many places in both the Old and the New Testament, we are encouraged to give thanks, and even more, to have a “grateful heart.” And that old song has been running through my head all week! “Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks with a grateful heart…” That is so important to our faith! Think about it. The bottom line is that God has given us the greatest of gifts! We need to take time and think about what it means, and be thankful! And when we do, when we are thankful, it changes us!
I Googled the phrase “a grateful heart” this week and among the things I found – including that song! – was this quote. “Gratitude changes who we are inside, and it enables the Lord to shine His love through us as we touch the lives of those around us.” Isn’t that great? Think about it. “Gratitude changes who we are inside, and it enables the Lord to shine His love through us as we touch the lives of those around us.”
We are different people when we are thankful people! Paul told the Colossian church, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:15-16)
Gratitude! Thankfulness! Those things are so important. Paul would tell us that. David would tell us that, as well. If you read the Psalms, there is so much in there about thanksgiving and praise. In fact, those two things almost go hand in hand. If you think about it, we cannot truly worship God without that most important element of gratitude! And if you’re not sure how to worship, and I think that’s a problem for many Christians, then start with thanksgiving to God! That’s an easy thing, and it’s a great place to start!
But don’t stop there. Have gratitude, have thankfulness, have appreciation in your “grateful heart” for each other. I have to say that over the years one of the worst things I have seen in Churches is “underappreciation.” Too many times God’s people forget to be thankful and appreciative of each other. (And too often they’re the opposite!)
And we have to know that that’s a natural thing! And here’s why it often happens. We become so wrapped up in our own world, our own lives, our own thoughts, that we cannot see beyond those things to see and appreciate the lives of other people. That’s it! That’s usually why we are underappreciative of others. Funny thing, though, we often can notice enough to criticize and complain! But that’s mainly because the lives of other people come in conflict with our understanding, our wants and needs, our sensibilities.
That is a completely natural thing! We need to do otherwise. We need to stop, and to notice, and to choose to appreciate others. That word “choose” was also in the same article that had the quote I read a few minutes ago! Oh, you need to hear the quote again? Sure! “Gratitude changes who we are inside, and it enables the Lord to shine His love through us as we touch the lives of those around us.” And we need to remember the word “choose” right along with that. We need to choose that gratitude! And it does touch, and change, the lives of those around us.
That’s what happens! Again, gratitude and appreciation changes us. But the other thing it does is to change the person to whom we are showing those things! It lifts them up. It builds them up. It “edifies” them. It encourages them! (And think about how it affects them when they are underappreciated!)
So then, as you go today, think about these opening words of this letter. Let this gratitude of Paul fill your thoughts. Let it change how you interact with others. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.” Think about how powerful those words are, how uplifting, how “edifying.” Think about gratitude! And choose to have a “grateful heart!” (Maybe even sing the song a couple of hundred times!)
Eternal God, we are indeed thankful for all you have done for us. Help us to be thankful to each other, that we may continue to be changed inside, and so show your love to those around us. We thank you and we praise you, in Jesus’ name, Amen!