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Philippians: From A Place of Thankfulness

Where Are You From? A Study in Philippians

From A Place of Thankfulness

Sunday morning, February 7, 2021

Text: Philippians 1:3-7, 15-18, 27-30, 21-26



It looks like everything is headed in the wrong direction.  Even as the numbers occasionally show hope, this virus that seems to have everyone in its grip continues to spread. Everyday we are confronted with even more deaths attributed to this, and not just this. We read of, or seem to sense, a movement afoot that certainly appears to be in direct opposition to the way in which God through Jesus continues to call. Yet we see it. We fear for the future for – not just us but increasingly for – the generations that follow. It seems that there is constant pressure to call evil "good" and good "evil."  We see hypocrisy. We see what God calls evil, not just being accepted and tolerated, but promoted. We find ourselves being looked at as strange, backward, hateful, closed minded, at best; dangerous and needing to be eliminated at worst.


A couple of weeks ago, we began this look a Paul's letter to the church in Philippi. It seems highly likely that these folks were facing many of the things we currently face, that God's people have always faced; they didn't fit in anymore. Disorientation. Paul reminds these folks that this is to be expected. We're not from here anymore. 3:20 "Our citizenship is in heaven." What does that mean? What about this new place, our new home, our new Kingdom is different than what we see around us? What about our language or our appearance – what is it about us that is different from the culture or context in which we find ourselves? There are plenty of things in this letter that Paul writes to this group of believers that I think helps us to identify some traits about those who live at citizens of heaven that we need to examine in our own lives. One of the attributes of the place where we are from is that it is a place where gratitude is expressed. It is a place of thanksgiving.


Thankful for partnership

There are people that come to mind, or at least I hope they come to mind, when we read this greeting from Paul. "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you." There are people from the past ("From the first day until now"). Maybe these are people who shared the Gospel with us. Maybe these are people who shared their lives with us, ones that we walked with and saw the way they related to living under the lordship of Christ. There are those who have loved and encouraged us along the way. Let me share some with you. I think of Howard Foster, a preacher in the congregation where I grew up who used to gather us boys early on Sunday evening and encourage us to lead singing or read Scripture. I think of Esther Richie, the retired school teacher who taught Bible classes in that cool and damp basement classroom and encouraged and even demanded that we learn. I think of the preacher who was in for a gospel meeting who cornered my teenage buddies and me to pay attention after we spent his entire sermon horsing around on the back row. I think of Jay and Alice Carr. Jay served as an elder in the church in Bolivar who gently chided me for not placing membership, but who hosted a going away gathering when Staci and I moved here. I think of Birchie Stokes who hosted a devotional in her home every week and kept insisting that Staci, the kids, and I join in. I think of Wayne Hill, with whom I disagreed on many stances, but always met us with a smile and encouragement.  I think of John Archer who taught what shepherding should look like as he played "Lone Ranger" with Josh while Staci went to ladies' Bible class. I think of Charles Cash, that big smile and heart to match. Take a walk down through the education building sometime and look at the pictures. See all of those who have walked with us, encouraged us, led us, and on whose shoulders we continue to stand. Thank God for his sharing them with us. Thank God for his wisdom in putting together family. Thank God that we belong to his Kingdom and be thankful for our fellow citizens. 


We don't have to wait until people are gone to be thankful. Like Paul we can say that we thank God for each and every remembrance of those who are currently walking with us. It is hard to put into words what you all mean to me, and the multiple ways you have led, encouraged and walked with us on this road. Sometimes we can feel like we're the only ones. We can feel like everything is stacked against us. We can be like Elijah who told God, "I'm the only one left." But God tells us differently. God says there are others. We need to remember and be thankful.

Also, we need to remember that it is possible that we are on one another's list of those fro whom they are thankful. Can we be the reason that someone else can be thankful?

Maybe it's not just people for whom we should be thankful. We can be thankful for our traditions. Tradition is one of those things toward which we sometimes have pretty negative feelings. It's a bit ironic that Paul is in prison when he writes this letter because of his preaching of a "new religion." Where we live in a culture that wants to get rid of any tradition in favor of whatever is new and improved.  We like change. We need to remember that traditions have carried us to this point. They may not be traditions that need to be kept and they should never be elevated to the point of ultimate authority, or that we don't do anything that might upset tradition. But, they have served a great purpose. Paul deals with this in Romans 11. We need to hear these words.


So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion2 mean!


Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.


But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Romans 11: 11-24



Thankful for what God has done and is continuing to do.  He began a work (Eden, Abraham, Israel, Jesus, Apostles) he will complete. We stand in that purpose. Be thankful.


Thankful for Jesus being proclaimed

Paul's example Paul is in prison, whether it is in a Roman prison or under house arrest, he describes his position as being "imprisoned for Christ." He is awaiting a hearing before Caesar. Apparently there are those who know Paul, know of his situation, who believe that if they continue to preach Christ it may lead to more trouble for Paul. Instead of Rome thinking this is no big deal, maybe they see the continued spread of this "new religion" and want to take steps to stomp it out. That's one group. There is another that has seen Paul's situation and the way in which he is facing this and have been emboldened to speak and to preach Christ. Stop and think for a minute about how easy it might have been for Paul to wish that the group that seems to want to cause him more trouble would just be quiet. Just stop it! Do you know how much trouble you are causing me? But he doesn't. Listen to him.  (Philippians 1:15-18)

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. 


 Yes, and I will rejoice,

What about us? Are we thankful that this very morning Jesus is being preached? Are we thankful that the unique Son of God, the Way the Truth and the Life, the only hope that sinful humanity has, is being proclaimed? Even if it is in a gathering that doesn't worship the way we do. Even if it is in a place where the one delivering the sermon is in a robe. Even if the building where the gospel is proclaimed is much more ornate, or if it is a house church or just a group of followers meeting outside. Even if we believe that the system in which they find themselves is not one found in this book? Even if they have a different view of church leadership. Even if ….. and the list could go on and on. It doesn't mean that we have to agree with everything that a particular group does. Can we at least still be thankful that Christ is being preached? It seems that Paul could.


What is important? As people whose citizenship is in heaven, the values and agenda of the Kingdom of Heaven should be our focus. What is it that God is after? It seems as we look through Scripture that what God wants is to be known. He has revealed himself in creation. He has revealed himself in Scripture. He has revealed himself in Jesus. Paul says, "God's purpose is moving forward. I can rejoice in that. I can be thankful."


Who is important? Paul gives us an example of what it looks like to put God's purpose ahead of our own personal wants, desires or comforts. Why might we want those who were causing trouble by preaching Jesus to shut up? Maybe it is because our concern is more for ourselves than for the purpose of the Kingdom. 


Thankful for the opportunity to be used

We started this by looking at the world around us. It is hard for us, many times, to be thankful for the things that are happening. One of the things that I think we are seeing is the vast difference between humanism and the lordship of Jesus. In many ways what we see going on around us really shines a light on what we should be doing in response to God. It is revealing to us how much there is to do. It is giving us the opportunity to live as faithful called out witnesses. 

Read 1:27-30


Only 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. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.


Are we thankful for the opportunity to be used in God's service? I think of the disciples in Acts 5. They were arrested, miraculously released, rearrested, threatened and beaten. Then they gathered and gave thanks that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. They were thankful that they could be used in the service of the kingdom. 


Thankful for the win-win situation because of what God has done in Jesus

3:7-10

1:21-26

Why could these people be thankful in this situation? Could it be because they understood that as people who were from a different Kingdom they could not lose? I think Paul got this, didn't he. 

for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Phil. 1:19-26)

As citizens of the Kingdom we cannot lose. I was talking to a friend of mine this past week about the things we see in the world around us. He said, "Hey, I know where I'm going. God is good. Jesus has made the way for me to be with him. I'm not in a hurry to die, but I know where I'm going and I'm going to be just fine." How great to live in that kind of attitude. If we remain here, there is work to do. But ultimately faith will become sight and we will be home with the King who saved us. We can be thankful. We are citizens of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We cannot lose.



A thankful people

It looks like everything is headed in the wrong direction.  Even as the numbers occasionally show hope, this virus that seems to have everyone in its grip continues to spread. Everyday we are confronted with even more deaths attributed to this, and not just this. We read of, or seem to sense, a movement afoot that certainly appears to be in direct opposition to the way in which God through Jesus continues to call. Yet we see it. We fear for the future for – not just us but increasingly for – the generations that follow. It seems that there is constant pressure to call evil "good" and good "evil."  We see hypocrisy. We see what God calls evil, not just being accepted and tolerated, but promoted. We find ourselves being looked at as strange, backward, hateful, closed minded, at best; dangerous and needing to be eliminated at worst.


It's easy for us to get distracted. It is easy for us to join in with those around us worrying about what is going to happen next. It is easy for us to be critical of the world around us and to even let that bleed over into the church. But that's not where we're from. We are from a place of thankfulness. And with a little time, with a little focus, and with our eyes on the one who saved us, we can see all the things for which we can be thankful. When we are living from a place of thankfulness, we will stand out, it will be increasingly obvious that we are not from here. It may even be attractive. It may even prompt people to ask, "Where are you from?"


Invitation




Written By

Parker Willis

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