Philippians 1:1-11 Remembrance

Remembering to give thanks

Notes from sermon preached on 13th November 2011

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for you?  I’m sure that the will of God involves many things.  However one thing we know it involves is found in a verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:18,

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” [1Th 5:18]

I am not as appreciative as I should be.  Even though God treats us so well, we often don’t remember to give him thanks.

I came across a little story this week, which for fun I have adapted.

One Thursday afternoon Jill, who goes to BH Baptist Church, was shopping in Maidenhead, and felt tired, so decided to have a coffee break at Costa Coffee.   First, to save money, she bought herself a small packet of biscuits at Tesco, and put them in her shopping bag.  Then she got in the queue for coffee, and ordered a large Latte.  She found a place at one of the crowded tables, took out a magazine, and began to sip her coffee.  Across the table from her was a man reading a newspaper.

After a minute or two she reached out and took a biscuit.  And as she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too.  This put her off a bit, but she didn’t say anything.

A few moments later she took another biscuit, and the man seated opposite reached out and took one too.  This made her a bit upset, but still she decided not to say anything.

After having another couple of sips of coffee and reading further in her magazine, she once again took a biscuit.  And so did the man!  This time she was really upset and annoyed by this, especially as there was only one biscuit left.  Apparently the man also realised there was only one biscuit left, and before she could say anything, he took it, broke it in half, offered her the larger half, and ate the other half himself. Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Jill was absolutely furious.  Her coffee break was ruined.  She was already thinking how she would tell the Bible Study group that evening about this awful man.  Then she got up from her seat, and opened her shopping to put her magazine in, and there to her amazement she discovered her own unopened packed of biscuits. 

Perception is everything.  We think we are being hard-done by, but really we are being blessed.   Instead of giving thanks, we complain or get angry.

On this remembrance Sunday I want to share about the importance of remembering to give thanks.  God is good and is will is for us to give thanks in all circumstances.   Paul’s letters in the New Testament are full of thanksgiving, especially in the introductions.  What can we learn from Philippians 1:3-6 about giving thanks?  I have three points.

  1. Giving thanks helps us develop an optimistic outlook (v3,5);
  2. Giving thanks creates in us an inner joy (v4);
  3. Giving thanks gives us a God perspective (v6)

Main Point

1.       Giving thanks helps us develop an optimistic outlook (v3,5);

v3,5 I thank my God every time I remember you … because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

You see, the big question is whether you see the donut or the hole; whether you see the glass half empty or half full; whether you see the potential or you see the problem; whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.  The word ‘optimist’ comes from a Latin word which means ‘best’; ‘pessimist’ comes from a Latin word meaning ‘worst’.  If you start looking for things to thank God for you will become an optimist because you will see the best in others.  It’s a matter of perception.

Paul had the knack of seeing the best in others, so he always had something to thank God for.  When he remembered the Philippians he immediately remembered their generosity in helping to meet Paul’s physical needs.  He nearly always begun his letters thanking God for something good in the people he was writing to.

To the Colossians he says, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.” [Col 1:3-4]

To the Corinthians – incidentally, a church with many problems – he begins, “I always thank God for all of you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” [1Cor 1:4]

Giving thanks improves our eye sight and how we see things.  This is the first reason why we should give thanks in all circumstances.  There is always something to thank the Lord for.  We should always be able to see good things in others and thank God.  We should be able to thank God for our parents, our spouses, or children, our extended family, our Christian family.   Thanksgiving changes us and those around us.

2.       Giving thanks creates in us an inner joy (v4);

v4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.

Paul says, I always pray with joy.

He can pray with joy because he is full of thanksgiving for the Philippians.  Giving thanks changes us.  It’s important to thank God because it’s a recognition the source all things.  But God doesn’t tell us to thank him because he needs it; it’s because we need it.

Think how do you feel when someone says to you “thank you!”?  When they appreciate you?  It makes you feel good (unless you are Dr Spoke.)  It makes you feel better about yourself and about the world in general.  Giving thanks blesses the one you thank.

Think how do you feel when you thank someone?  For example, if a little child comes does the washing up, and they may do it really badly, but you praise them and say thank you, and they beam with delight, and run away happy.  How does that make you feel?  It gives you joy.  Thanksgiving transforms us. Paul says, I always pray with joy because his prayer is full of thanksgiving.

Giving thanks blesses the person who is thanked and it transformed the person who gives.  It creates joy.  A miserable person probably needs to learn to give thanks in all circumstances –it will change you, and change those around you, for the better.

Apparently, in a survey, rich and famous people were asked, “If you could be granted one wish that will come true right now, what would it be?”  Many answers were given, but one answer stood out: “I wish that I could be given an even greater ability to appreciate all that I already have.”   Perhaps behind this wish was actually a recognition that actually in the end material blessings can’t make us happy; but what can bless us and others is an inner appreciation.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” [1Th 5:18]

This brings us onto the third point:

3.       Giving thanks gives us a God perspective (v6)

v6 “being confident of this, that he who begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

Much of what I have said so far could be put down to good psychology.  But as Christians it’s not just the power of positive thinking.  Paul says, “I thank my God.”  His thanksgiving is a prayer, because he has a God-perspective.

If you travel in an airplane, when you get in and look out of the window, you can’t see very far, except the terminal buildings or a few trees.  But when you are up in the air you have a brilliant panoramic view, a new perspective.  Through our baptism we have died with Christ, and been raised up with him to new life, and this gives us a new perspective.  This is the gospel.  We must always remember to thank God for our salvation in Jesus.

In these verses Paul has a God perspective.  He’s not blind to reality or to the faults of the Philippians.  In fact he will address some of the problems in his letter.  But he is full of confidence,

I am confident of this, that he who begun a good work in you will carry it on until the day of Christ Jesus.

By faith in the one true and Living God he has a God perspective, and can see the big picture. God has started his work in them and he will carry it on until the Day of Christ Jesus.

These thoughts have a bearing for us today on Remembrance Sunday.  To whom are we giving thanks?  And for what exactly are we giving thanks?  Fifa got all upset as they interpreted the poppy as a political symbol, and wanted to ban it from England’s football team.  Mr Cameron insisted it was just a universal symbol of respect for all those who have died in war for our freedom, and the Germans backed him.

But where does our freedom come from.  At the time of WW2 the people of this country had much more of a God perspective, so thanksgiving was thanking the Lord Almighty, because we recognised that freedom comes from Christian values.  Today we have thrown out this God perspective from our politics, our schools, and just about every area of society and replaced it with secular humanism.

Paul talks about the Day of Christ Jesus – in other words he recognises Jesus is Lord.  Let me give you an example.

1940 was a significant year.  On 27th May 1940 the German High Command announced:  “The British Army is encircled and our troops are proceeding to its annihilation.”  Britain had already recognised the dire situation, and on Sunday 26th May, King George VI called the whole nation to a Day or Prayer.   The whole nation responded.  The King, the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury and large crowds went to Westminster Abbey; those who couldn’t find seats stood outside.  The Churches across the land were filled.  In our darkest hour, we turned to God, and called upon the Lord to save us.  Everyone was expecting the worst.  But then three amazing things happened, which you might call miracle, depending on whether you have a God perspective.   First, for an unknown reason, Hitler halted his advance towards the west coast of France; secondly a storm grounded the German air force; third a great calm settled over the English Channel.  The rest, as they say is history.  Churchill called the Dunkirk evacuation a miracle.   The newspapers had headlines such as “Saved!” “Rescued From the Jaws of Death!”  There was widespread recognition that God had answered the collective prayer of the nation with the “miracle of Dunkirk.”   The BBC history website says,

“The evidence of God’s intervention was clear for those who wished to see it; papers had written of calm seas and high mist which interfered with the accuracy of the German bombers.”

Conclusion

We should give thanks to God in all circumstances.

It develops in us an optimistic outlook; it creates in us an inner joy; it gives us a God perspective – hope for the future.

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