Thinking And Thanking

By Tom Wacaster

Someone once said, “Thanksgiving is a state of mind, and not necessarily an expression of thought.” Was he implying that one could “be” thankful while failing to express that thanks in so many words? If so, he would be wrong. No doubt thanksgiving begins in the heart. It starts with thinking about those who have blessed our lives in so many ways. It includes thinking about the different ways in which they have blessed our lives with a word of encouragement, a pat on the back, financial aid in time of need, or just being there when needed. In the first two verses of this epistle we are struck with the realization that Paul, though in prison in Rome, was thinking about his brethren in Philippi. From that prison cell in Rome Paul reflected upon their spiritual status. He refers to them as “saints.” They were separated from the world, set aside for service unto the Father. As he thought on those brethren in Philippi, he also thought about their spiritual state. They were “in Christ,” wherein are located all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). As he thought on those brethren, he mentions their spiritual stature. That little congregation had matured to the point where they had appointed “bishops and deacons.” Finally, Paul thought about their spiritual source of strength, namely “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” I wonder how many times Paul had thought about those brethren in Philippi. When Epaphroditus arrived from Philippi bearing news of the situation back home, one can only wonder how the memories of Lydia, the unnamed jailor and others must have flooded his Paul’s mind. When he penned this letter and placed it in the hands of Epaphroditus to carry back to them, he was thinking about them (1:1-2).

His fond memories of the brethren in Philippi drove him to his knees in thanksgiving. He was thankful for their fellowship in the furtherance of the gospel (1:5). From the “first day” of their conversion they were involved with Paul in the greatest work on the face of the earth – spreading the gospel to lost and dying humanity. Reflecting upon those good brethren, Paul was thankful for their faithfulness “from the first day until now” (1:5). Their past record provided Paul with confidence that the Lord would “perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6). How many times have we expressed our thankfulness to our brethren for their faithfulness in determining to do what is right in the sight of God? Next, Paul was thankful for their fearless involvement in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (1:7). Finally, Paul was thankful for their friendship “in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus” (1:8). These brethren had stood at Paul’s side through “thick and thin.” They were, above all, his friend – and that speaks volumes of the saints in Philippi. Years ago, when speaker of the house Sam Rayburn heard that he had terminal cancer, he shocked everyone when he announced that he was going back to his small town in Bonham, Texas. Everyone said to him: They have got the finest facilities in Washington, D. C., why go back to that little town? Rayburn’s words have been quoted so often that some of you have probably heard them. He said: “Because in Bohman, Texas, they know if you’re sick and they care when you die.” We need our friends; and it was for his friends in Philippi that Paul gave thanks.

Now let me ask you: Is thanksgiving merely a state of mind, or is it not also, and perhaps more importantly, an expression of appreciation? Ask the brethren in Philippi.

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