The Power of Thank You
Written by Denise J. Hughes (First 5 Ministries)
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
As I sifted through the pile of mail on my kitchen counter, a small, blue envelope caught my eye. It had my name on the front, so I carefully tore it open. Inside was a thank you note, handwritten, for something I had forgotten about. I tucked the note inside my Bible to serve as a reminder of how meaningful it is when someone takes time out of their day to say, “I saw what you did there. Thank you.”
In a similar way, the letter to the Philippians is really a thank-you note, or perhaps we could say “a thank-you letter.” In today’s passage, Paul wraps up his letter the same way he started – by saying thank you. (Philippians 1:3-5; 4:18) He thanks the believers in Philippi for their generosity. He appreciates the way their gifts exemplify how deeply they care for him. Not only have they provided for him in a practical way through their gifts, but they’ve also shown how grateful they are for the spiritual investment he has made in their lives. Their gifts are an outward expression of their deep appreciation. And Paul takes notice.
Many have rightly observed how the theme of joy pulses throughout Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is no coincidence then, that the joy he speaks so much about is bookended with a word of thanks. As Paul begins and ends his letter with thanksgiving, he demonstrates this simple truth: A heart of thanks precedes a heart of joy. Put another way, joy begins with gratitude, is sustained by gratitude, and continues through gratitude.
Joy. This is the power of thank you. Gratitude begets joy.
As we finish our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippian believers, we are invited to examine our hearts. How are we doing in the area of gratitude? Does a heart of thanksgiving underscore our thoughts and words and deeds?
I know I want to say, “Yes, of course it does!” But I have to admit, while I am sincerely grateful for the many blessings in my life, I still struggle with gratitude occasionally. Okay, maybe more than occasionally. But this is a normal part of the Christian life – learning to live with a heart of gratitude. Because it doesn’t come automatically. It is something we must actively cultivate in our lives.
To cultivate gratitude, we can start small, by focusing on all the little things in life we are grateful for – like a beautiful sunset or a fragrant bouquet of flowers or a small child’s tender hug. But it’s important we don’t stop here. True, lasting gratitude really begins when we gaze upon the beauty of Christ’s holiness and the gift of grace He has given us. Just as Paul was overcome by the generous gifts the Philippians gave him, we will be overcome with genuine gratitude the more we contemplate the wonder of Christ’s gift of grace to us.
“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 106:1)