Summary: After Thanksgiving sermon. You can have that magnificent gratitude for fellowship, for suffering, for grace, and thus learn to live and to serve at your fullest for Christ.
Grounds For Gratitude
Philippians 1 (830)
Sometimes, we have a way of forgetting Thanksgiving as soon as the turkey is cold, and we start looking forward to Christmas. Let’s hold onto this thanksgiving idea at least twenty minutes longer. In searching for a thanksgiving statement in God’s Word, I made one of those discoveries that people who read the Bible regularly know about. So often we read a certain passage, and we may read it over and over again, and yet one day find some truth never before noticed, a diamond never before discovered in those oft-traveled pages of God’s Word. This is it:
The whole New Testament is bathed in an atmosphere of thanksgiving and gratitude.
The story begins in thanksgiving. The first chapter of Luke records the praise song of Mary when she learns that she is chosen of God to bear the Christ child.
This praise to God is offered in an attitude of joyous thanksgiving.
The life of Christ was savored in gratitude. Often the Master would begin His prayers saying, "I thank You, Father." Even the cross, with all its injustice and agony, was borne by a Savior who was grateful to have the privilege to save our souls. The Bible states, "...Jesus...who for the joy set before him endured the cross..." (Hebrews 12:2).
The thanksgiving theme in the New Testament does not end with the earthly life of Jesus. It continues through the Acts of the Apostles. The gratitude that radiated from the lives of these people of action was amazing. Acts 5 is an example. The closing verses record that God’s men were captured, beaten, imprisoned, brought before the highest Jewish court, and threatened with their lives if they continued to preach about Christ. Upon their release, they did not hide or leave town. They went back to the same place they were first arrested and told the same people the same story about Jesus Christ who could save their souls. The Word states, "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41).
In the writings of the apostle Paul, there are statements of constant gratitude to God for His grace, His peace, His power, and His people. He constantly expressed thanks for friends whom God had used to bless his life.
It is the same with all of us. Whatever we have done and whatever we are it is because of others who have paved the way for our liberty and our usefulness, and God has used them to help us. Whatever we do today, we do because of friends who stand by our side in the task.
One of the choicest of all possessions is friendship. We can be thankful for that. Paul reminds us that we can be grateful for our church. In Philippians 1:3-6, he says to the church at Philippi: "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
The sweet fellowship of Christian service is a strategic part of Christian growth. The church is the gift of Christ to you and to me as an outlet to express through deeds of service our gratitude and love to God and our fellow Christians.
To the church at Philippi, Paul says, "I am grateful for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now." The word is fellowship, the very heart of the meaning of a New Testament church ... a fellowship of Christians in love with Christ and with each other.
Paul expresses the thanksgiving of an humble man. They had needed him, and he had needed them. Theirs had been a fellowship. This is the most precious possession of a church. Be so grateful for it that it would be as unthinkable to disturb it as it would be to carve your initials on the pulpit. Because of it, have gratitude in your heart. You and I are sustained by Christian friends and by the church.
Another ground for Christian gratitude is the trials of life. In Philippians 1:12, 18, Paul says: "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense of in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice."
Paul is actually thankful for the privilege of suffering for Christ. James said quite emphatically, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials..." (James 1:2). We can hardly believe our ears. Thankful for troubles? How this statement cuts deep and exposes the shallowness of our present-day brand of Christianity.