A Life of Thankfulness

Philippians 4:4-9

A Christian is, by definition, a thankful person. The more we know about our salvation and the relationship we have with the living God as a result of our salvation, the more thankful we become. In the passage before us, Paul sets forth the normal life of the Christian, a person who trusts the Lord, is satisfied with his circumstances, and is permeated with joy, peace, and thankfulness.

Joy is such a part of being a Christian. Philippians 4:4 tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. Recall that when Paul wrote these words, he was in a Roman dungeon suffering humiliation, abuse, cold, and possibly approaching martyrdom. Yet, this letter to the Philippians oozes with joy. He tells us the secret of his joy, and challenges us to employ the same secret—which overcomes every obstacle.

His emphasis on joy is so profound and important that he repeats it, again I say, rejoice! He did not give any conditions for their joy—it was to be always present. No matter what our circumstances may be, no matter what horrible events we may face or be facing, we can—and should—have a countenance of joy that radiates Jesus Christ.

Another characteristic is gentleness. In Galatians 5:22-23 we find the fruit of the Spirit, which every Christian possesses. It is the eighth of nine evidences of the fruit of the Spirit, and one that governs our behavior to the external world. As you mingle with other inmates and corrections officers, your behavior as a Christian should be different from that of nonbelievers. You should be gentle, and the more severe your situation, the more gentle you should become. The reason for this is given in this verse: The Lord is at hand.

That phrase may seem out of place, for Paul is describing a life that bubbles with joy—but it is not out of place. As a Christian, we should always be aware that our Lord is near. He dwells in our hearts. He is suffering the very same things you are suffering, for He is here with you. But, you have an advantage over the other inmates, in that you know why you are here. I am speaking in the ultimate sense, not in the obvious sense. You obviously have been convicted of some crime, but that is not why you are here if you are a Christian. You are here either because this is where you were to meet the Lord, or where He could use you to bring glory to Him in this place. There are no coincidences with the Lord! A Christian has the right—and the obligation—to be content with his lot in life, because no matter where he goes or what his circumstances are, the Lord is at hand, that is, the Lord is right there with you. Isn't that comforting?

Likewise, the next characteristic of the Christian is that of not being anxious. Paul says, be anxious for nothing. Now, this is not just merely being fatalistic about the events of life. No, we are to be deeply involved and to live every moment with relish and thankful excitement. In fact, the admonition is, be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thankfulness, let your requests be made known to God. Here we come to the secret of a thankful life. To honor God in the way He expects us to honor Him, we are to, in all things, even the worst possible things, be interceding for others and receiving our events with thanks on our lips.

I have known Christians who do not pray very much. In fact, I went for many years without praying very much. Actually, I prayed much more than I thought I was praying, but not with a deliberate prayer on my lips. It is not easy to describe what I mean. However, I can say pretty much without exception that a Christian who does not pray is not much of a Christian. He may be very talented and have many abilities, but what he is doing is in his own strength and not in the strength of the Lord. Without prayer, we cannot possibly be prepared to face the battles and situations of the day. Without prayer, we cannot possibly be pleasing to the Lord. Our pastor has a statement concerning prayer that puts it all in perspective, true prayer is God, the Holy Spirit talking to God, the Father in the name of God, the Son and the believer's heart is the prayer room.

The next characteristic of a life of thankfulness is that of peace. What is peace? The world thinks in terms of a cessation of hostilities. The peace that is offered throughout the Scriptures is the only real peace that is possible. When a person has peace with God, it does not matter how much war and commotion is going on around him. This peace is beyond our ability to understand, which is why this verse says, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Is it possible to mine the depths here? I think not. I am reminded of a poem, a hymn actually, that conveys the truth of this verse:

When I can sit at Jesus' feet,
And He anoints my head,
Such peace ensues, so calm and sweet,
I think my foes all dead.

My simple heart then fondly dreams,
It will see war no more;
Too firm to shrink my mountain seems,
And every storm blows o'er.

While thus a queen in state I sit,
Self hunts about for praise;
Talks much of frames and victories great,
That you may hear and gaze.

Then Jesus sends a trying hour,
This lurking pride to quell;
My dead foes rise with dreadful power
And drag me down to hell.

Now faints my heart within me quite
My mountain disappears;
All grace is vanished from my sight,
And faith seems lost in fears.

At length my Lord, with sweet surprise,
Returns to loose my bands,
Brings kind compassion in His eyes,
And pardon in His hands.

I drop my vile head in the dust,
And at my Lord's feet fall;
His grace is now my song and boast,
And Christ my All in All.

As we pass through such trying hours that are beyond our ability to grasp or understand, the peace that Christ gives overwhelms us with His grace. This kind of peace give us thoughts that lead us to worship, for we cannot but worship a God that will make peace with us. Let us examine, for a moment, the characteristic thoughts of one who is at peace with his God&ldots;

Verse 8 lists a series of rising courses of praise and meat for meditation. True&ldots;noble&ldots;just&ldots;pure&ldots;lovely&ldots;of good report. And, indeed, any other things that are praiseworthy (only a mind that is at peace with God can discern things that are praiseworthy) are to be thought on (that is what it means to meditate).

What about you, today? What have you been thinking about? Have you been pondering things that are true? Only the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified is truth. Truth is not a concept. Truth is not a system of logic worked out by mulling over things in your mind. Truth is a Person! Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6). Thinking on Jesus is one way to think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, etc. It is when we think on our problems and our circumstances that we get into trouble, for those thoughts lead not to worship and peace, but to grumbling and discontent.

I urge you, today, to bring your mind under subjection and conquer your fears and frets. Turn to Jesus, the only One who can give you peace. Turn to Jesus the only One who can cause your heart to rejoice. As you think on Him, you will find a song in your heart, and spring in your step, a smile on your face. Your circumstances and problems will diminish in their importance, and you will have peace in your soul. It all comes from being thankful!

Perhaps you do not know the Lord in this way. You have heard of Jesus, and you have seen the change that worshipping Him has made in the lives of others, but you have never experienced this peace we have been talking about. You are at war with God, you may be angry with Him for bringing you to this place. You may have committed a terrible crime, and think that you are beyond forgiveness. My dear friend, there is nothing that you can do that is beyond forgiveness! You can have peace with God! You can be brought up to the mountain of grace.

The simplicity of the Gospel is difficult to understand. We cannot comprehend a God that will actually take us where we are and change us to what we should be. Religion seeks to find worthiness, but we know we are not worthy. O turn to Jesus today! The old hymn Just as I Am says it all.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, tho tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy pardon I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Oh, my dear friends, I beg you to come to Jesus and find peace, and then you will have a heart full of thankfulness. Let us pray and then we will sing together the words of that hymn I just read to you, Just as I am.

Copyright © 2002, by John E. LeHew, Sr.
Bible text is from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.

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