One of the things which are most notable by non-believers is the joy of the believers – the joy of being closely to God and certain that He is close to us. This joy can be expressed in a countless number of ways. One of them is by giving thanks to God for everything He has done, is doing, and will do for us. Apostle Paul is one of the examples in the Bible from which we learn (1) how important it is to be thankful and (2) how this affects our life, faith, as well as our relationships with others around us. Let’s have a brief look at several passages from Paul’s writings and try to apply what we’ll learn from there – both in our everyday living and especially in our prayers.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…
– Philippians 1:3-5
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:4-7
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
– Colossians 3:15-17
Paul’s message to the Philippians is well known as the one filled with joy. The word joy itself appears 14 times – more than in any other letter of Paul. This is pretty much enough to get the point that he has joy… and for this joy to be encouraging to us. However, how much stronger is this message once we know that Paul is writing it from a prison, knowing that the physical death itself isn’t too far away from him! This is why one can say that joy is not a mere feeling (because feelings depend and are highly influenced by the surrounding environment), but it is an attitude, a mindset (which depend on our faith and values).
From apostle Paul we can also learn something about being thankful for the people around us. Nearly all letters of his begin with thanksgiving for the people he is writing to, as well as words of joy because they have believed in God and have answered His calling. This is a testimony for Paul’s love for those he is writing to. It’s obvsious that his letters contain a significant amount of directions and corrections concerning the behaviour of the people, but in spite of this he always begins by giving thanks and expressing his joy. When we prayer we don’t always know each other in person, nor do we know about each other’s mistakes in life. But as we pray for our needs let us always begin by giving thanks and be filled with joy because one (or more) has chosen to trust God by lifting up their need and also sharing it with the other believers. And may this thanksgiving and joy lead us towards unity in Jesus’ name – no matter how different we are from each other.
Thanksgiving is also in the foundations of the passage from the letter to the Colossians that we began with. This passage is a part of the conclusion of the letter in which the apostle is giving directions to his brothers and sisters from Colosae, as well as to us. He is giving directions for holy living – living which is in accordance with God’s will. It is not surprising that thanksgiving and joy also appear here. This time the stress is upon our response to God’s work in our lives. When we are filled with thanksgiving for God’s work we can remain focused on what does matter – namely, our relationship with God. Should we choose the other option – to not be continually reminded of God’s blessings, His salvation, His daily care and protection… Then it becomes much easier to turn all our attention towards the things we don’t have – be it money, cars, job positions, friends… And Satan is not going to give it a second thought, but will use this to pull us astray from God. This is why it is important to always pay close attention to the things we ought to be thankful for. And then, Paul says, God’s peace, which surpasses all human understanding will guide our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus.
So, as you are sharing your request do not hesitate to share what you are thankful for. Let’s share with each other prayers of thanksgiving more often, so that we can also encourage each other. In the coming days – think about the things you’re thankful for and share with someone a prayer of thanksgiving, or a testimony of how God has touched your life.
And whatever we do, whether in word or deed, let us do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.