Friday, March 2, 2018
Philippians 1:3-4 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,
Today’s joy principle from Philippians 1:3-4 is this – Be thankful!
I am deeply concerned about the minimized emphasis we place on thanksgiving in our lives, and the comfort we seem to find in complaining. What is it that makes us believe that we are better off by talking about what’s wrong with life rather than what’s right with it? Why do we believe that it feels good to focus our attention on the bad? What strange kinds of rules are dictating our behavior when we think we can lift our spirits by looking down on our situation? It could be jealousy over someone else’s success, or it could be pride trying to inflate itself at the expense of others. Maybe it’s an expression of insecurity that somehow gives us a sense of temporary control. But whatever we use as our justification for complaining, God doesn’t recognize it. We are commanded to rejoice and be thankful.
On our journey to joy, we must make a stop at the twin cities of prayer and thanksgiving. When I was a boy, I was commanded to say thank-you to people for anything I received. But simple obedience to a command does not create a thankful heart. Without the intentional intervention of grace into our hearts, saying thanks for things becomes nothing more than a polite response, or a tool we use to gain more benefit for ourselves. But when God’s grace overwhelms us with salvation and the gift of eternal life, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of joy in our hearts, which causes us to rejoice in the Lord always.
I will admit that there are things about life that warrant complaining, but none that warrant the loss of joy. I am not so concerned about the immediate and spontaneous negative reactions to tragedy and loss. I am more concerned about the overall attitude of gratitude that seems to be lacking in many of us.
I remember the day years ago when my car was struck on the side by another vehicle. My initial reactions were, “What was that guy thinking?” and “Oh great, I can’t afford a new car.” But within a few seconds I was saying thank-you to God that I was not hurt and that the other driver was not hurt.
Upon further reflection, I later realized that I still did not understand true thanksgiving. My thanksgiving was simply a response to a positive outcome in a negative circumstance. I could have been rejoicing in the faithfulness of my Father regardless of the outcome of the circumstances.
If we are going to truly become people of joy, we must learn to rejoice in the Lord, not simply in the positive outcomes of our daily life experiences. We need to learn to be thankful that we are in an unbreakable relationship with Jesus, even when relationships with people are being broken. We can be thankful that we have every need supplied by our God who deeply cares for us, even when it appears that the world is taking everything from us. We can be thankful that nothing can separate us from God’s love, even when the world alienates us because of our love for God. We can be thankful that our hope has been firmly planted in the promises of God that cannot fail, even though the earthly promises of people do fail.
So, when you pray, be thankful. When you tell God your needs, be thankful for His love that expresses itself in the meeting of those needs. When you complain to God about things that are wrong, be thankful for His justice that makes all things right. When you ask Him to fix a problem, be thankful that He has the power to accomplish all things according to His purpose. When you are so distraught that you don’t know what to ask for, be thankful that the Holy Spirit knows your heart and intercedes on your behalf to the Father.
And when you pray about anything, be thankful that through Jesus Christ we are the children of God with unconditional access to the throne of grace.
Philippians 4:4 – 7 4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.