Peninsula Community Church
The Power of a Grateful Life
November 27, 2016
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Last Saturday at our men’s breakfast I shared this passage briefly. When I left the breakfast I felt the push of the Holy Spirit to share this for thanksgiving Sunday as well. As I continued to pray and meditate on the passage, I felt encouraged even more to do so.
I think the reason for this in part is that there is so much around us that can rob of us of a grateful heart. We are faced with economic issues. So many are being overworked with little return on their investment. Sin is being manifested it seems without any boundaries. People and relationships are being tested beyond measure. There are health issues, job problems, spiritual issues, addictions, and moral failures that all lend themselves to an ungrateful heart.
Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi details for us how we can maintain a joyful, grateful heart. It exemplifies those things we are to focus on to create an atmosphere and a attitude of gratefulness. We should note that Paul does not write this from the advantage of a problem free life. In fact, his life was anything but problem free. Paul had been beaten. He had been left for dead. He was on board a ship that crashed. He had friends turn against him. His ministry had been rejected. The Jewish leadership did not accept him and in fact they had great disdain for him. He had been thrown out of several cities and towns because of his ministry and lifestyle and upon the occasion of this letter to the church at Philippi, Paul now found himself in prison. He had been thrown in prison because of his ministry and his work associated with the kingdom of God. He did not choose this way of living but instead he was forced into prison because of what he stood for and how he lived his life. Based on his circumstances, he should have been the most ungrateful person in the world but he was not. Instead of ungratefulness the theme of the book of Philippians, is joy.
As we read this passage, we find four key items that lend themselves to developing a grateful heart. First of all, we are called to celebrate what God has done. Paul calls us to rejoice and then he emphasizes that call by repeating himself. As we have noted on a number of occasions, when something is repeated in Scripture it means that it is important. Paul instructs us that we are called to celebrate what God has done because in doing so we will exhibit a lifestyle of joy and gratefulness. Paul states that we are to rejoice in the Lord Always. This means that our rejoicing in the Lord should be an ongoing process of worshipping Him and recognizing the place of God in our life.
Here is the rub for us, however. How can we rejoice when the events of life are not going well? Does that not seem impossible if not at least very strange. The point Paul is driving home is that we do not rejoice in the events or circumstances of our life but rather we rejoice in Christ. The fact is life is not fair and life is certainly filled with problems and difficulties. That is why our rejoicing is not in the events, circumstances, or even the people in our life. Our rejoicing should be focused on the Lord, who is Christ.
There are a couple of things about the Greek word used here for rejoice that bears comment. First of all the root of the word CHAIRETE, to rejoice, is the word for “grace.” This is important because at the root of our ability to rejoice is grace. We recognize that He, God, has done so much for us and when we recognize this it ushers us into place of praise. So the first way to maintain a grateful heart is to rejoice in God even when we do not feel like it.
A second idea expressed in this word is that the command to rejoice is in the present tense and the active voice. That means that it can be translated: “Go on being glad in the Lord.” In other words rejoice and keep on rejoicing in the Lord. Do not stop. Our rejoicing and celebration is not conditioned upon what we do or what happens to us. It is a work of grace within us. It is a gift and a gift worth receiving. It is a gift worth grasping and taking as our own.
A third comment worth noting is that there is a difference between earthly happiness and spiritual joy. Earthly happiness is produced and maintained by events, by things, by experiences, and these often involve money, moods, and materialism. Spiritual joy is a product of one’s relationship with God through Christ and is a constant in our life. Earthly happiness on the other hand fluctuates greatly as things happen or do not happen.
The second item that lends itself to having a grateful heart is that we are called to respect others. Paul calls us to let your reasonableness be known to everyone. What Paul is saying is that we must treat people with respect. When we have a grateful heart we tend to treat others in a more reasonable way. When we are grateful, emotions like jealousy, anger, and distrust are diminished. As I was preparing this, I came across this statement, Gentleness breathes grace into the midst of tension. Remember the truth of Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Here is the point, grateful people tend to be patient people. Grateful people tend to be gracious people.
The third item to consider for having a grateful heart is that we are not to stress over things, events, or people. Paul calls us to not to be anxious for anything. Wow! Can you imagine that Paul would dare say such a thing? Do not be anxious for anything is the command of Paul. How can Paul even think such a thing? Does he not know what we are dealing with? Does he not know the problems we have? For Paul this is not just a passing statement, it is a commitment to trust God. This is a reminder of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 6. Do not worry! Do not be anxious. It is a matter of trust in God’s ability to supply our needs, take care of the problems we face, and help us with those in our life that are hard to be grateful for. Once again, this call to a life without anxiousness is only possible as we focus on God and what He has provided for us. A lack of anxiousness also flows from a heart that is grateful because we recognize that God will supply our every need.
Listen to the words of Christ in Matthew 6. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Do not be anxious! God will provide all that we need.
The final item needed to have a grateful heart is that we are called to be focused on a heart of gratefulness. Paul calls us to prayer and supplication with a thankful heart. Being grateful is a matter of focus and where we place our affections. We are less grateful when we focus on ourselves and what we don’t have rather than on what God has already given us and provided for us. We are less selfish when we pray with an attitude of gratitude. From a heart of gratefulness we pray with expectation but not a selfish heart. Instead, we pray with the amazement of all God has provided.
At the end of this passage we see God’s response to a grateful heart. Paul states And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. In this, Paul describes two outcomes of walking in gratitude and thankfulness. The first response from God is that He will give us a peace that surpasses all understanding. Have you ever experienced that kind of peace? Have you experienced a peace that is almost indescribable? It is a peace that overwhelms us when we are overcome by the difficulties of life. It is a peace that controls us when what we want to do is explode and lash out. It is a peace that comforts us and establishes a patience and control in us that does not come from any other source.
How valuable is living at peace? I don’t know about you but to live in peace with myself is critical. I can live at peace because I live content in the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that I do not desire things or want things, it simply means that my desire for things never exceeds my ability to give thanks for what he has already been given. Think about this. When I live a grateful life I am less likely to want what I cannot have as I am so fully grateful what God has already given me and what God has already done for me.
The second response of God is that by living with a grateful heart God will guard our hearts and minds. Think about this, by having a grateful heart God protects our hearts and minds against the onslaught of negativity and the lies that are so often propagated by the enemy of our souls. Gratefulness transforms our heart and our mind.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be negative? We begin to look at the negative things around us and soon we sense we are becoming even more negative. A number of years ago we had a fellow that worked with us. He was always so negative and he was a bit of a hypochondriac. One day one of his buddies had enough of his negativity and decided to make a bet with his friends that he could get him to go home before lunch because he was sick. The bet was on and sure enough he was headed home by lunch. When questioned, the fellow who made the bet said it was simple. I continued to tell him that he did not look good and that there was a major stomach bug going around. He believed the lie.
The enemy loves to magnify the failures and difficulties of life but a grateful heart magnifies the glory of God. The enemy magnifies the problems but a grateful heart magnifies the good of life. We must be careful here because this never means that we deny the problems we face but rather they are always defined within the context of what God has done for us and a grateful heart.
As we close today I would like to do something a bit different. Instead of praying for anything I would like for us to take a moment and give thanks to God for what we have. In giving thanks we are motivated to gratefulness and praise. So, let us give thanks today!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom