Welcome to November 2019! In honor of Thanksgiving (here in the United States), we will be focusing on Giving each week.
Before anything else we must remember to be grateful or show gratitude for all that we have and what we are longing for. We can get caught up in the every day stress or problems of life that we can often miss the things we have been blessed with.
When looking at giving, I believe the Apostle Paul is a great example of giving himself to God. Throughout his life he experienced many good and bad things for the sake of sharing the love and Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. He is someone who didn’t let the troubles of life get in the way of his gratitude. This is why we will look at one of his letters.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.
Throughout the letter of Philippians Paul expresses himself with a lot of gratitude and a lot of joy to the believers in Philippi. From this passage we can find 3 main ideas that have to do with giving your gratitude.
1. Bring your Worries and Requests to God.
Paul wants to instruct his readers to rejoice in the Lord. This is important to start with because when we are looking at living a life of gratitude we must always begin with rejoicing in the Lord. Whether we see it or not at this moment the Lord has provided for us. Paul goes on to write…
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
After encouraging and instructing the readers to rejoice in the Lord. He stops to acknowledge the fact that life is hard. Jesus said…
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33b
Always rejoice, but when our circumstances and surroundings do not reflect something we causes us to rejoice; Paul writes, do not worry or be anxious about those things. Pray and release those cares and worries to God. He is on our side. Peter writes it this way…
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7
There are many times in life when it is hard to rejoice in the Lord. The stress or worries of work, school, family, sickness, money, and many more things in life that influence our thinking.
When we allow those things to consume our minds and hearts we will forgive about rejoicing or gratitude we should have for God, even if it is in the small things.
Paul continues after instructing to give our worries, fears, and situation to God he throws in “with thanksgiving.”
The question here is why should we be thankful before the blessing?
Because with gratitude in our hearts we will fully rely on Christ to handle to problem we are having. This leads to the next thing we can learn about gratitude from this passage.
2. Trust and Obey in Contentment
Jumping to the end of the passage Paul writes…
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.
Paul told the church He was not in need. However, it is known Paul was in prison, most likely in Rome in the two years before he was martyred. This is how we answer the question of being thankful before the blessing. We must, like Paul, lean to be content in the good times and the bad times of life.
When those things seem to be piling up and we are drowning in our worry and fear it is our contentment, knowing that God will see us through that will give us the ability to live in gratitude.
However, Paul is NOT saying we must pray and be content, because no matter what it is it will work out in our favor; but that God will work it out in His favor!
Trusting and obeying in contentment is not living a life waiting for a better day when God will finally give me everything I want.
Contentment is looking at the difficult/stressful situation and acknowledging it is not good and presenting those things to God. Then going back into those situations with confidence knowing we can rejoice and be grateful for the things we Do have.
Paul tells that he knows what is like to live is wealth and in poverty. The sad fact is that living in poverty or wealth doesn’t affect your rejoicing or your heart of gratitude. If you are living in excess you will be worried about taking care of what you have and if you are living in need you will be worried about taking care of what you don’t have.
Contentment is the key to releasing our cares to God and allowing Him to be in full control of our lives. Doing this will make a heart of Gratitude grow in your heart and mind.
In the middle of this passage Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” In this context it is clear to see this verse is talking about living in contentment and gratitude no matter the external circumstances.
It is clear that having contentment in difficult situations is not easy. I can do all things (be grateful, rejoice to the Lord, not be anxious, and be content) through Christ who gives me strength (to keep the faith in joy in these hard times).
This leads to the last point about gratitude we can learn from this passage.
3. Turn Blessing into Gratitude
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
Paul, while sitting in jail, was not doing well. But as our example of contentment, rejoicing and gratitude; Paul was thankful for the concern of the Philippians. In his current circumstances he did not have much to rejoice about or be thankful for, but he had a heart of gratitude knowing the people were thinking about him.
In a world that is full of trouble we must see every blessing as an opportunity to be grateful no matter how big or small it is.
In Luke 17 we find another example of gratitude.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
These men who called out to Jesus hoped He would heal them. Just as Paul wrote, pray and give your anxiety to God. Then they obeyed with Christ instructed them to go to the priests. This is a very important part of our blessing. If we only pray that God will fix everything, but do not trust and obey we will stop and pick up our problems and not truly trust that God has it in His control.
In the story all ten of the men get healed from leprosy because they…First brought their requests to God, Second they trusted and obeyed!
This was a great blessing! We all desire to have from Jesus. It is a wonderful feeling when we receive the answer to our prayer we have been longing for (at times for a long time). These men had their prayers answered in a miraculous way.
Side Note – God is still in the business of answering prayers in miraculous ways…don’t lose hope!
The ending of this story is where we find the last point. 10 men were healed, but only one came back to thank Jesus. This man did not take his blessing for granted, but he recognized what he was given.
We must not forget to have an Attitude of Gratitude in life. These men experienced an enormous blessing through this healing. We may think, if we had that kind of blessing we would stop and thank God for it. This is hopefully true.
But what about the small…Everyday blessings?
Did you wake up this morning? Did you stay warm or dry while you were sleeping? Did you eat something today? Did you have something to put on today? Are you breathing air right now?
Each of these and so many more are our everyday blessings from Christ. When we take time like the thank God for the many blessings we have been given then we will create a heart or an attitude of gratitude in our lives. This will help us to recognize and value those blessings whether small or large in our lives.
Stop to do this will empower us to do what Paul writes in the middle of our passage.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
We will not be focused on the hardships in life, but will be able to think about the things that are blessings from God.
In doing this we create a cycle in our lives of joy, peace, and gratitude for everything and everyone in life. No matter how life around us looks we can have the “God of peace” with us and we can be content in the good and bad times.
If you need more help understanding how to create an attitude of gratitude in your life let me know and I would love to talk to you further.
God Bless and BETheLIGHT!