I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:4-6 NIV
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
Paul’s letter to the Philippians begins with, “I thank my God every time I remember you,” Philippians 1:3. He often began his letters to the various churches thanking their members for their faith, their steadfastness, and their partnership in sharing the gospel with others. In ten of Paul’s letters he thanks God for the recipients of the letter within the first few verses of the first chapter of each book. Sometimes he includes his thankfulness to God later in the book as well. Philippians is unique in that his main purpose for writing this particular letter was as a thank you letter to the Philippians for their care for him, for their most recent monetary gift to him, and for their past multiple monetary gifts to him.
Paul’s letters almost always contain thankfulness to God for the faith of the recipients and for their faithfulness in sharing God’s love with others around them. He often includes instructions to the church members to also make a practice of being thankful. An example is mentioned later in Philippians 4:6, “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.” Paul also wrote, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” I Thessalonians 5:18.
Paul has authority to tell us to give thanks in all circumstances. Prior to having written the letter to the Philippians, he had been beaten many times, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked, all as a result of sharing the gospel with other people (II Corinthians 11:23-33). Yet later in this letter to the Philippians he also says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:11-13.
Let us begin 2021 by establishing a pattern of gratitude. Thank God for others and write a note to someone who has impacted you.
By Grace Hunter