We have finished our first week, and first chapter, of Philippians as we dug in to see how the Apostle Paul chose gratitude at a time of uncertainty and suffering.
In this first chapter we can't miss Paul's deep love and gratitude for the believers in Philippi. I keep thinking of how the church began there.... of Paul's imprisonment and how the doors of the cells were open but he didn't run away, he stayed. Not only that, but he and his companions sang hymns and prayed and their faith and courage were an example to the prison guards who, as a result, surrendered their hearts to Christ. [Acts 16]
I recall, as well, Lydia, a woman who was likely well off by way of her profession in selling "purple goods" yet her prosperity did not impede her faith. Acts 16 tells us she was already a "worshiper of God" and that, as Paul preached, "The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized..." (Acts 16:14-15) Many scholars have speculated that she was an integral part of the early church in Philippi as a result.
What faith and devotion the people of this region had. Not just by Paul's preaching, but also by his living testimony. His endearments in the book of Philippians seem to reflect this well. Unlike other letters he wrote (and are now preserved in our New Testament) this one does not appear to admonish the people, but rather, to simply encourage them.... to continue to stand strong in the face of adversaries, to not give up because the testimony of their faith and devotion is shining light beyond their own city walls, into the regions all around.
The repetition of HOW Christ is preached not just through word but through action, is a powerful example to us today. And not to be conflated with faith by works - no, not at all, rather, actions which pour from the overflow of a love and devotion to Christ.
By Paul's words, and with a bit of historical dig, it is easy to see this all-in kind of devotion was the heart of the 1st century Philippians church. Living in spiritually hostile times, occasionally frightened or unnerved by opponents to the gospel and false teachers, we can almost hear the rallying rise of Paul's assertion to, "...let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God." Sounds familiar - much like the faith which crumbled the walls of Jericho with a march and a shout... much like a young shepherd boy who fearlessly knocked a giant down with one smooth stone. To what end? To the glory of God.
We live in a time when society says to bring yourself glory. This mantra comes in many disguises but at the end of the day it all leads to one goal: put yourself and your image first. Fight and whine when you are uncomfortable and bull-doze those who dare contradict you. Yet, this short beginning chapter of Philippians has taught us:
- God is efficient and will use ALL situations in our life for His Good
- God is transcending and no matter the message out there, He can and will overcome with His Truth
- God is timely and HE will make a way when, where, and how HE deems it is best
- God is unmovable, standing firm on His promises and His Word
If God is all these things, I can be too... and not for some mode of self preservation or self glorification - quite the opposite - no, God calls us to follow in his footsteps so that others may see Him too and choose Christ. Our attitude of hope and trust and gratitude, even (and especially) in trying situations, could be the very thing God chooses to use.
I pray this study is helping you find new ways to Choose Gratitude.
Be sure to grab your FREE copy of this month's "Choosing Gratitude" Bible Study on Philippians. Come follow along on Instagram and be sure to return next Wednesday for some more thoughts on our study!
P.S. If you are looking for more Thanksgiving inspiration and an easy to use set of planning pages, be sure to come back on Fridays and Mondays this month as I share recipes, tips and even a challenge for holiday preparation.... and click the image below to grab your FREE Thanksgiving planner. I will be sharing how to use it this week.