Paul’s letter to the Philippians is an interesting study in thankfulness. He was writing to his friends from prison. I guess you could say that life wasn’t going exactly as he had planned, but he found reasons to give thanks.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.
Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Philippians 1:1-21
Paul was thankful for the support and partnership of his friends in Christ in Philippi. And Paul was thankful that even his life situation had allowed him to keep sharing the gospel with all the people he was encountering. The letter that Paul wrote to the Philippians is drench with thanks and joy. I don’t always echo those themes in my own life. I often get caught up in focusing on the things that aren’t going as I would like, and ignore the reasons for giving thanks.
This summer, Teresa and I came across a little piece of wall art that we have put up in our kitchen. It reads:
“What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday”
Maybe there is a reason to give thanks to God today.
Open my eyes, dear Lord, that I can come to see how I can give thanks for what I do have, and how I have been loved by you in Jesus Christ. Amen.