3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy,5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
You and I are blessed in various ways. We have food to eat and clothes to wear to sustain our lives. We have different talents and possessions that enrich our lives. We have jobs to do and ministries to serve that allow us to touch the lives of other people. Even the big planet of Jupiter is a blessing that protects us from meteors.
One of the great blessings of our lives are people. Each one of us have people in our lives that make our lives better and who we can love in return. God created us to be social beings, and therefore we need to be in relationships with other people in order to live out God’s plan for our lives.
In Philippians 1 the Apostle Paul told the Philippians that he prayed for them on a regular basis. In this passage we discover how to give thanks for the people in our lives.
- THE WHO OF THANKSGIVING (v. 3). Paul was thankful for the people who made up the church in Philippi. He knew some of them personally, because Paul started the church. He had also received reports about how the church was doing, and he was encouraged by their growth and ministry. Paul saw these people as a blessing, not only to his life, but also to the world. I think this example of Paul should cause us to examine our lives and evaluate how we treat people. Often we treat people as inconveniences who get in the way of what we want to do. Yet, we know that each person is created in the image of God and is someone Jesus died for, and that means they have great worth. It is a blessing to have other people in our lives, even when they are difficult people to love.
- THE WHEN OF THANKSGIVING (vv. 3-4). Paul offered his prayer of thanks whenever he thought about the Philippians. There are times when certain people, churches, or organizations come to our mind. From the example of Paul we learn that we should take a moment and say a prayer of thanksgiving whenever we think about another person. It could be that the Holy Spirit has brought them to our mind for a reason. Paul went on to write that when he prayed he included a prayer of blessing for the Philippians. Paul did not reserve his prayers for the Philippians only when they came to mind, but he had them on his prayer list. The example of Paul teaches us the importance of being intentional in our prayers. If we only pray for people when we think about them, then we will miss out on many opportunities to lift people up before the throne of God.
- THE WHY OF THANKSGIVING (vv. 5-8). Paul thanked God for the Philippians because of their fellowship. They partnered with him in sharing the Gospel. Paul thanked God for their faithfulness. The Philippians faith was seen in their work of proclaiming the Gospel. They had not given up, and because of that, Paul told them, that God would continue His work of transformation in the lives. Paul thanked God for their fondness. The Philippians showed their affection for Paul by partnering with him in the task of spreading the Gospel. This put them at risk of being persecuted, and it made Paul’s affection for the Philippians to grow. His thankfulness for the Philippians was genuine. It is easy to say the words, “Thank you,” but it is quite another thing to actually be thankful for other people. The example of Paul teaches us that when we thank God for other people we need to know why we are thankful for them, so our thanksgiving is genuine and not fake.
People are difficult. We like to have our lives go smoothly and according to plan, but people come into our lives and mess things up. Instead of being blessings they feel like inconveniences. That is why the discipline of thanksgiving is important, it forces us to evaluate our lives and to look at things from a new perspective.
Every day you are blessed by people. Take a moment and thank God for their presence in your life.
Questions to consider:
- Who is one person you are grateful for? Why are you grateful for them?
- Who is one person who is an inconvenience? Why is it hard for you to be grateful for them?
- How can you start to be more thankful for the people in your life?
Outline via Sermon Seeds.