3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Thanks for Partnership
The link between thanksgiving and joy is strong in the book of Philippians. Paul’s desire for church unity is rooted in an ‘attitude of gratitude’. It is impossible to be grateful without humility. Gratitude must first admit that I am limited and incapable of providing everything for myself. Secondly, gratitude must accept things from people who are able to do things that we are not. Thirdly, all gratitude eventually is directed to God who is ultimately behind all the essentials we receive to stay alive, and all the blessings that we receive through creation.
The word ‘all’ is repeated in this section. The continuous nature of Paul’s thanksgiving is emphasized, and what is the source of this continuous thanks? Paul is thankful because this church, despite its problems, has partnered in the gospel. This means that they actually sent finances for his work and also for the new churches that Paul founded. They would have prayed for him, too. In short, they get it. They understand the importance of his work and put their money where their mouth is. When he remembers this support, Paul is overwhelmed with gratitude.
I work with Nancy Kane. I am very grateful for her fellowship because she sees potential in me and has invested time and energy into me. I have read books she has recommended and asked myself the questions she has posed. Perhaps the greatest gift she brings to our place of work, though, is the genuine gratitude she expresses for me. It empowers me to do my work and helps me not to pick away at myself and others.
We can apply this passage in two ways. We can take the position of Paul, or we can take the stand-point of the Philippians. Paul wanted to dissipate the tension and dysfunction in the church. If our church, home, or work has disunity or dysfunction, it is good policy to enter into the situation with gratitude rather than add to the complaining. This is done by looking to God and seeing what he has provided or is doing in the situation. God gives us opportunity for growth through the most difficult situations and we should respond with joy and gratitude as our character, which is worth more than gold, is refined. More obvious cause for thanks is the remembrance of kind words or gestures that have happened over time. It takes our minds out of the present situation and to somewhere more positive. However, remember that the good we have received in the past is only possible because there is a God. Secondly, if we are to be like Paul, we might remember those who have partnered with us in the work of God. With whom have you partnered to promote the true faith? Maybe it is time to drop them a note and encourage them.
We can learn from the recipients of the letter by looking to the letters of encouragement that we might have received in the past. If we have received encouragement from someone recalling our work for God, looking over such a letter can lift us out of a present funk and remind us of our high calling. If we are in a church, it should not be hard work to find those who are thankful for us. Let them know that you are struggling and see how God uses them to build you up. If you can’t think of any reason why anyone would be thankful for you, make yourself a partner with those who work for God. It is god to support a missionary, give financially to the church, or invest in the local Christian school. Ministries are rarely flush with cash, especially if they are honest and hard working. I know I receive constant encouragement from the Christian school that Daryl attends, the church leadership at The Chapel, the church I am supply preaching for, and Moody Bible Institute, where I teach. Invest in others without seeking reward, and sometimes God uses it to affirm you in times of difficulty and discouragement.
May I give thanks today for those who work with me in ministry. May I see beyond these present burdens of work, home, or church. May I see that you are working through all things and you bring unity when we humble ourselves and are grateful to forces outside of ourselves.
- For what is Paul thankful?
- Why is ‘all’ emphasized?
- How does Paul want the Philippians to respond?
- How might you be more like Paul in this section?
- How might you be more like the Philippians?