Gratitude, in Phil. 1:3-11
Warren E. Berkley
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. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. – Phil. 1:3-11
One of the attractive attitudes God wants to see in His people is gratitude. It should not be a challenge to nourish, cultivate and express gratitude, when you consider how richly God has blessed us. Especially, when the gift of His Son and the revelation of the gospel is seriously and personally encountered, gratitude should be a natural product of such consideration.
In this passage and its’ historical context, Paul – with each thought of the Christians in Philippi, reacted to those thoughts with gratitude to God. He was thankful to God for the good brothers and sisters he knew in Philippi. The text conveys to us the impression, Paul could not think of these people without saying thanks to God, over and over.
This ought to be real for us. Each time we remember people who serve God and encourage us, those memories should lead us to gratitude. That gratitude can cleanse us of unconstructive memories and temptations to bitterness. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”
This good-memory-gratitude was not a singular thought or an occasional thought. “…always in every prayer of mine for you all, making my prayer with joy,” (v.4). Paul had developed – through Christ – this healthy attitude of thankfulness to God for good people. It was a constant with him. Once this good-memory-gratitude is created within us through the discipline of God’s Word, it becomes a part of us, not just something we do occasionally. It is a pattern. Thoughts of good people cause us to be thankful to God.
In Paul’s experience with the Christians in Philippi, he remembered specific gestures and actions of their kindness toward him. “Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” A friend sticks closer than a brother; relationships that are based on fellowship with God continue to the end. The Christians in Philippi had helped Paul, to the best of their ability, throughout his life’s work. This enriched his joy, strengthened his sense of closeness with them and was the basis for continued, unbroken gratitude toward God. When you find Christians who help you – not just once – but are always there, ready to help and encourage and enrich your life – stop now. Thank God for those folks. And tell them that you thank God for them.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul was certain. He wanted the Christians at Philippi to be certain of this: God doesn’t start something in people that is good, then walk away or just stop! When you obey the gospel, God begins a good work in you. As you continue to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, God continues that work (see Phil. 2:13). As we trust in God and let that trust find expression in obedience, we can say what Paul said: “I am sure!” We have this blessed certainty, that what God started in us when we were baptized – is continued to perfect completion – so long as we live in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27).
Paul’s certainty of faith led him to add: “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” What a good example of a refreshing, peaceful and joyous relationship in God’s family. No matter what happened to Paul, what risk or danger or location, the Christians in Philippi stood by him as they partook with him in the grace of God. It was right for Paul to have these warm feelings about these people, considering the specific interchange of their good relationship. This is one of the reason why Christians should never seek isolation from other Christians. We need each other. We help each other. We encourage one another and foster long term relationships of value, pleasing to the Lord.
“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” It was not ordinary, worldly sentimentality. Paul’s attachment to these people was “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” That is to say, Paul’s affections were learned and modeled after the Perfect, Jesus Christ.
What did Paul want for these Christians in Philippi? He wanted their already valuable love, to “abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” When we have true Christian friends, we never want them to stay the same or stagnate! We want them to grow, to abound, to do better and help us do better. Love, as God defines it in His Word, is something within us that is guided by the knowledge and discernment of the Word. I pray this for you and ask that you pray this for me – that we might abound in love, but “with knowledge and all discernment.”
“…so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Everything before this verse (v.10) lead to this. That is to say, gratitude to God for good people; praying that good people become better, etc. – all of this is “so that” we may all be daily approvers of what is morally excellent. Ultimately, “so that” we may be “pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”