Posted by Pastor Mark Erickson
While the apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome, he wrote a beautiful letter to a church in Philippi that was very important to him. In this short letter (it’s only four chapters, you should sit down and read the whole thing), Paul talks about how humility, gratitude, and devotion to Jesus can lead to joy and peace. The world could use a little more joy and peace right now, couldn’t it?
In chapter 4, he implores the Philippians (and us) to rejoice in the Lord always and to live in such a way that we allow the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds. Check it out:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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. 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.
Paul tells us not to be anxious, but to offer prayers to God with thanksgiving. I don’t believe Paul is giving us a prescription for a magic pill that will suddenly eliminate anxiety and worry from our lives. Instead, he is calling us to embrace Christ-centered values that will enable us to live peace-filled lives. Today and tomorrow, we’ll look at two actions Paul urges us to embrace – things that ultimately lead to peace. The one we’ll look at today is “thank.”
Gratitude is a big deal in the Bible. In fact, it is the 3rd most common command (the first two being “fear not” and “praise the Lord”). When we live as people full of gratitude, our default natures of entitlement and selfishness give way to the selflessness and humility that God desires for us.
Gratitude tills relational soil and uproots weeds of resentment. In our human relationships, it’s amazing to see what impact saying thank you can have on our ability to love and bear with one another. If you can cultivate a culture of gratitude in your relationships with those you live and work with, it will sow peace and place value on others as image bearers of God.
Gratitude reminds us of who we are before God: When we approach God with thanksgiving and “enter His courts with praise,” we remember that He is God and that we are not. When we realize that God owes us nothing, we are overwhelmed with gratitude for the things He has done for us. If we want to have a right relationship with God, thanksgiving needs to be a core value that is both an action and an attitude.
Gratitude leads to generosity: When we see the good things in our lives as gracious gifts from God that are not owed to us, we learn to hold them with an open hand and be willing to share with those around us. Gratitude helps us go from being recipients of grace to dispensers of grace. Without gratitude and generosity to keep us in check, the blessings we receive from God can turn us into spoiled and entitled people. When we receive with gratitude, we hold what we have lightly and don’t cling selfishly to it.
As people who are beneficiaries of God’s grace poured out on us through Jesus, Christians should be the most grateful people on the planet. As we are the recipients of amazing grace, let us be all about thanksgiving, even when life is challenging. “Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Hebrews 12:28
Discussion/Application: Even though life is challenging for us right now (as it was for Paul when he wrote this letter), what are the things you are giving thanks for today?
Bullet Prayer: God, please help me to take my eyes off the things that are causing me anxiety, and instead come to you with sincere gratitude. Thank you for loving me.