Summary: Paul is imprisoned, yet he is thankful. He doesn’t glory in his circumstances, but he does celebrate the relationship that he has with the Christians in Philippi and their partnership in the gospel with him. We too can celebrate this partnership.
Philippians 1:1-18a. “May the Circle be Unbroken”
The focus of our attention changes this week from the Book of Acts to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. With that change of focus comes a change of topics. In the Book of Acts we were focused on the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Apostle Paul. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul offers the followers of Jesus both encouragement and helpful instructions on how to live and abundant, grace-filled life.
THANKFUL FOR PEOPLE
Paul begins his letter with the words, “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you.” Paul is thankful for the Philippians.
There are times when we forget to thank the Lord for the people who are a part of our lives. Sure, we are blessed with our daily bread—food, clothing, and shelter. We are also blessed with the people around us—friends, acquaintances, those who are not friends, neighbors, co-workers, and people we bump into on only an occasionally basis. We have a rich tapestry of people in our lives. Our lives our so much richer because of all the people who are a part of our lives.
We are people who have been created to be part of a community. We are not designed to “go it alone,” nor are we able to do so.
Giving thanks for the people in our lives, helps us to be aware of all that we receive from them.
Giving thanks for others not only enables us to appreciate them more, but to hope for the very best for them. Paul wants that Philippians to overflow in love.
THANKFUL FOR THE SITUATIONS WE ARE IN
Paul is in prison when he is writing this letter to the Philippians. We would think that Paul would be feeling anxious about his situation. We would even allow him the right to complain about the food, the condition of his cell or a multitude of other items. Instead Paul is thankful.
Paul sees “behind the scenes.” He sees what God is doing through his imprisonment. God is working to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of what God is doing, Paul can be thankful.
We frequently say that we are “blessed.” Usually when we do this, we are referring to some piece of good fortune that has come our way. We have been blessed with good weather. Our tax refund was a blessing to us. We were blessed to escape the flu season without begin sick one day. To wish someone a blessed New Year is to wish them a year without troubles or heart breaks.
Paul expands our understanding of blessings. Blessings are not simply limited to good things happening to us.
Blessings are when God is present with us in good times and in bad.
Blessings are when God works in our circumstances to God’s glory.
Blessings are when others are touched by God’s love and grace through our lives.
THANKFUL THAT THE GOSPEL IS PROCLAIMED
When we read about the Christians of Paul’s time proclaiming the gospel, we might conjure up in our imaginations a picture of events like Billy Graham crusades. This is not what was happening.
The early Christians were telling others, at an appropriate time because it was still dangerous to be a Christian, the story of Jesus and his ministry of love and inclusion.
The early Christians were telling others about the impact Jesus had made on their own lives and how their lives had been changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The early Christians were ministering to the needs of the people around them and seeking justice, righteousness and equity for all people.
It was these actions and this style of life that offered others the opportunity to become followers of the way. The emphasis was placed upon becoming a member of the community of believers and a practitioners of the teachings of Jesus.
There was joy and thankfulness for how the Holy Spirit was moving, using the words and actions of the followers of Jesus and drawing people into a community and lives of faith.
At the core of the good news that Paul shared was God’s steadfast love and overwhelming grace. We respond to what God has done and is doing by faith—a trust in God: We have been reconciled with God and God is present in our lives.
Such faith produces thankfulness—an attitude of gratitude, which is as much a mark of the Christian as is love.