Today I have been working on being thankful. I decided to make this my focus after reading Philippians 1:3-4, where the Apostle Paul writes, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy.” I’ve read those verses more times than I can remember, but today as I read them, I was reminded that Paul wrote them while under house arrest; chained to a Roman soldier; waiting to stand trial for something he didn’t do. Yet in the midst of all of that, he states that he’s “thankful” and “full of joy”.
It was a bit of a challenge to my own level of gratitude, especially as I thought of all the ways Paul could have responded. For example, Paul could easily have spent the time being angry with God for the situation he was in - because after all, Paul gave up a lot of status and power to serve God. Or, he could have spent the time worrying about what might happen to his ministry and to the churches he was shepherding if he was convicted and was unable to go back and work with them. Or, he could have simply spent the time worrying about his own well-being because he was facing the death penalty for what he was wrongly accused of doing.
However, Paul didn’t respond in any of those ways. Instead, Paul was “thankful” and “full of joy”. It’s this response that challenged me today, because I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t take very much negative stuff popping up in my life to make me lose my “joy” and “thankfulness”. But God calls all of us to have the same attitude of thankfulness that Paul had. That's the challenge.
Which brings up the natural question of, “How?” How was Paul able to be truly thankful with all that was going on in his life?
Well, I think Paul himself gives us a glimpse of the answer in Philippians 1:6, where he writes, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Instead of focusing on his situation, or on the possibility of what might happen - Paul chose to focus on God, and on what he knew about God. And what Paul knew about God is that He’s always at work, and He’s going to continue that work until the job is done.
What was true for Paul, is true for us as well. Which means that instead of worrying about the problems and challenges that come up in our lives (and quickly losing our thankfulness), we need to do what Paul did. We need to keep our focus where it should be: in the confident hope that God is at work, and will be faithful to meet our needs. It’s the necessary first step we need to take in order to build consistently thankful hearts.
So today, let’s do this. Let’s remember who God is, and let’s remember what He’s promised us. Then let’s allow those truths to keep us thankful, no matter what obstacles or circumstances we face.