Thanksgiving is a time for joy. It’s a time when our hearts are filled with gladness because of all the blessings we have received from God. As I celebrate Thanksgiving, I remember the helpful tips the Apostle Paul gives us in finding joy in his letter to the church at Philippi.
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.
The first thing we can learn from Paul is to be thankful for the people who are on our minds. Paul is thinking of others and not of himself. As he writes this letter, he awaits his trial in Rome. Paul’s mind goes back to the believers in Philippi; the recollection brings him joy. Now, if you remember Paul’s time in Philippi, you know that it was not all that great at times. He was illegally arrested and beaten, was placed in the stocks, and was humiliated before the people. I would not think those memories would bring anyone joy! But those memories brought joy to Paul because it was through this suffering that the jailer found Christ.
The second thing Paul teaches is to be thankful for the people in our heart. Those in our hearts are different than those on our minds. Those in our hearts are those with whom we have a deeper relationship. Paul’s sincere love for his friends was evident. Those on Paul’s heart were the ones who had come to faith in Christ. Christ was the tie that binds them. It reminds me of the song my home church would sing after every communion service. The first verse:
Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.
Christian love is “the tie that binds.” Love is the evidence of salvation: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:14) Paul’s love was evident to them because he suffered on their behalf. He was “a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—” (Ephesians 3:1, ESV). Paul’s desire was not something he merely talked about; it was something he practiced. He considered his difficult circumstances an opportunity for defending and confirming the Gospel, and this would help others everywhere.
Lastly, Paul teaches to be thankful in our prayers. Paul found joy in his memories of the friends at Philippi and because of his growing love for them. In addition, there was found joy in remembering them before the throne of God in prayer.
This Thanksgiving, you can find joy when you remember those who have impacted your impacted your life. There will be joy when you think of those who are on your heart. Finally, joy can be found when you pray for those around you.