Give Thanks to God!
This summer we’re going to begin something that we’ll spend years and years doing here at FBC Salem: studying through books of the Bible during our Sunday morning worship time. This doesn’t mean that we’ll never have stand alone messages or mini-series on topics, but more times than not, we’ll be going through a book of the Bible verse by verse in order to truly study what the Word says and to take away meaningful application for us today. We know that the Bible is important and for us, but it isn’t to us in its original context. The Bible was written to specific people in a specific place for a specific reason. This doesn’t mean that the Bible is irrelevant for us in 2022, in fact the opposite is true. God’s Word is always true and relevant because God is its author and God doesn’t change! The Bible is for us. It’s truths are still true and it’s message remains the same. The duty for us in the 21st century whenever we read the Bible is to always remember to ask ourselves what this meant for the original hearers and readers. Whenever we study a book of the Bible, the first thing that we have to ask is not what does this mean to me, it’s what did this mean then. After we understand the context, then we can move to application.
This summer we’re going to walk verse by verse through the book of Philippians. Philippians is a relatively short book for us to start out with as it is only 4 chapters and only 104 verses. One of these days we’ll go through the Gospel of Matthew or the book of Acts and it will seriously take us 2-3 years to go through… Not so with Philippians. This summer we’ll spend 3 months or so going through to see what Paul shared with this church and what we must do in light of what the Word says. As we study we’ll see several themes appear over and over again: themes like joy, giving thanks to God, and salvation through Christ our Lord. Today as we begin this series, we find Paul immediately get to one of the main themes of this book: Thanksgiving.
For many of us, the summer months are a time where we are thankful and hopeful and joyful. Teachers, many of you don’t have 25 kids running around all day asking you questions and you can finally take a deep breath. Students, many of you don’t have to be in school for 8 hours each day and are able to hangout with your friends or work at a job or do activities that you want to do. Families are able to spend more time together and go on trips. The weather is warmer, the sun is up longer, as a church we have events that bring us together. The summer is a great time to give thanks for what we have even though it’s not always easy… But still we struggle at times with giving thanks, even in the “good” days. The Bible tells us that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) and that we are called to rejoice always (1 Thess 5:16). I might be the only one, but there are times where this is really hard. Times where it doesn’t come natural to give thanks.
How many of you have ever heard of Corrie ten Boom? She and her sister were taken to a Nazi concentration camp that was overcrowded and flea-infested. Miraculously, they were able to take a Bible into the camp and in the Bible they read how God works all things for their good and that they are called to give thanks to God in all things. Corrie’s sister believed that this meant thanking God for the fleas. Corrie eventually caved and prayed to God, thanking Him for the fleas. Amazingly, over the next few months something happened: the guards stopped entering their barracks. The women in their barracks were able to begin to have a Bible study and time of prayer each day in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp. As a result, many women came to faith in Christ! At the end of the war, they discovered that the reason the guards wouldn’t enter this barracks was because it was infested with fleas. The fleas allowed them to share the Gospel and as a result, the eternal destination of many women was forever changed. They could rejoice and give thanks, even for some pesky fleas.
In Philippians, we will see that things aren’t going the greatest for Paul and for this church. Times are hard. Persecution is ramping up. Unity is being threatened… Yet, we will read time and time again that Paul rejoices in the Lord and calls upon this church to do the same. How can we give thanks in difficult times? Because our God does not change and because Jesus promises to be with us each step of the way through His Spirit. As a Christian, today you too can choose to rejoice and give thanks regardless of where you find yourself at. This isn’t always easy, but it’s available to you only through what Jesus Christ has done. Let’s read Philippians 1:1-11 this morning as we begin this study
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, 4 always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 Indeed, it is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Give Thanks to God for His Word
Give Thanks to God for His Word
Even though it may not always seem this way, we have so many reasons to give thanks each day because of who God is and because of what He has done for us! Maybe you’re here this morning and you’re struggling with something going on in your life, big or small. Christian counselors regularly remind their patients to keep note of all the good things going on as well. Sure you’re struggling, that’s true, but you’re alive. You were able to wake up this morning and walk to the bathroom. You are able to be present at church this morning. If you’re with us online, you have the means to either tune in with your TV, radio, or computer/tablet/phone. You have blood coursing through your veins. You have breath in your lungs. Some of you have a car, others a truck. Some of you have a job to go to tomorrow, others of you have worked hard and have retired. Some of you have families that you’re sitting next to, others of you might feel alone but Christ promises to never leave nor forsake you. Friends, we have many reasons to give thanks to our God this morning even in the midst of challenging and confusing times.
One of the biggest reasons that we have to give thanks to our God for is because we have His Word. Today we read from the book of Philippians. Do you know when the book of Philippians was written? Christian scholars estimate that it was around 62 AD. In 62 AD Paul writes this letter and sends it from Roman prison to Philippi and it would have been read aloud for the Christians there, but the individual Christians would not have received a personal copy… That would have been far too expensive! The early church had fragments of Scripture but not the entire thing and certainly not for any one person. As the New Testament was written, copies were circulated between the churches and after a few centuries, church leaders gathered and prayed about which books belonged in the modern Bible and which ones do not. They examined how well known the letter/book was and they examined if there was anything in the letter/book that contradicted another part of the Bible. As they did these things and prayed, they closed our Bible with the 66 books that we have today: 39 in OT and 27 in NT. This is something to give thanks to God for - that we have His Word. It’s another thing to give thanks to God because we have access to His Word. How many of you have a computer, tablet, or phone? Did you know that you have access to not just 1 Bible but hundreds of translations of God’s Word with the tap of your finger? You and I don’t have to come to church and listen to someone else tell us what Philippians 1 says… You and I have access to that every day either through our physical Bible or through an app on our phone. This is something to thank God for because for over 1800 years it was not the norm.
Finally, as we study from Philippians, we give thanks to God for this book of Philippians. Over the next few months we’ll read about the joy that Paul has even though he’s in a difficult situation as he’s in jail. The last 3 years especially have been hard and long in many ways. These years since COVID hit in March of 2020 have been challenging. We’ve had loss and confusion and anxiety in ways that we couldn’t have imagined back in 2019. So many people we know are struggling with anxiety and chronic worrying and depression and statistically some of you this morning likely are too. Hear me, I’ve been there. As we look outside it’s easy to get discouraged. But, whenever I read the book of Philippians I’m quickly reminded that I don’t have to choose to worry like the world. I have a different choice. I can choose to have joy in Christ that no one can take away from me! This doesn’t mean that my problems go away and that snap our fingers and chronic conditions cease to exist - but it does mean that each Christian today can choose to look at Christ and rejoice that a Holy God would come to die in their place on the cross. Each day we can choose to rejoice because of what Jesus has done.
This is what Paul encourages us to do in this letter as he stresses 2 key points: The Gospel of Christ and the Community of Christ. To have joy in opposition and to stay united in the Gospel. Paul will talk about what Jesus has done for us and what we must do because of what Christ has done. I’m not sure about you, but whenever I reflect on the cross and the empty tomb, I don’t have much left to complain about because I’m too busy saying “thank you Jesus” for what you’ve done. So, as we begin, let’s always remember to give thanks to God for access to His Word and what we read in His Word.
Give Thanks to God for His Work (1-8)
Give Thanks to God for His Work (1-8)
As we get to the text, Paul begins by telling his readers that he and Timothy are servants of Christ Jesus and they are writing this letter to the Christians, including overseers and deacons, in Philippi. The reason that they are praying for this church and the reason that they are writing this letter in the first place is because of what Jesus Christ has done. Before the letter of Philippians, Paul had planted this church on his 2nd missionary journey around 50 AD. Before Paul planted this church, Paul was saved on the Damascus Road by Christ. Before Paul was saved, he was an enemy of Christ. Consider how the Gospel had changed Paul’s life. He went from a terrorist to a teacher. He went from an enemy to missionary. How? Because Jesus flipped Paul’s world upside down. So much so, in fact, that Paul views his entire life now as being a servant of Jesus Christ. He’s not just a teacher of Christianity. He’s not just a church planter. He’s not just a preacher… He’s a servant, literally a slave, of Christ Jesus. How radical is that claim? He’s saying that Timothy and I are owned by Jesus and we serve Him and Him alone because He is our Lord! Think of how that message flies in the face of our world today.
Today many people are fighting for their complete independence. We want to be self-sufficient and not “serve” anyone or anything. We want to be our own person. We want to blaze our own path but the Christian is fundamentally different. We know that we are not our own but that we belong to Christ! The Christian life is not about independence but dependence on Christ who paid our debt and saved us so that we could serve Him and Him alone. In the Roman world all people were expected to declare that Caesar is Lord. The Roman Emperor was worshiped literally as a god in Philippi and throughout the entire empire. Throughout Philippians, and here in our opening verses, we see that Jesus Christ is said to be the Lord. This name Jesus Christ or statement that Christ is Lord is found 51 times over the 104 verses in Philippians. To declare that Jesus Christ is Lord is to say that you are a follower of Jesus and that He alone is your provider. It is to pledge yourself to Jesus exclusively. This declaration would get a Christian thrown into jail or even killed depending on the mood of the local Roman ruler. This was an act of war… Yet, Paul greets these believers with grace and peace because Christ Jesus is Lord. Jesus Christ has paid the price and suffered in our place, therefore He demands to be obeyed and followed.
Paul talks about the joy that he has for this church. Paul thanks God for this church because of their partnership in the Gospel. We read in these verses his prayer for this church. A prayer full of thanksgiving, joy, and encouragement. This is a church that is near to Paul - this is the most personal letter he will write - and a church that has given out of their poverty to support him as he plants other churches.
2 During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
They haven’t seen Paul in roughly 10 years, but the Gospel has changed their lives so deeply that they continue to pray for and support him in his ministry efforts! Times are hard - they’re struggling economically, they’re struggling politically, Paul, their friend, is in prison… Times are hard! Yet, they give thanks and Paul encourages them to continue doing this because of the truth found in Philippians 1:6. This is one of the key verses in this entire book
6 I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Think of the work of Jesus Christ. He came, lived a perfect life, died a criminals death, rose victorious, and ascended back to glory. Think of our individual lives. Ephesians 2 shares with us that before Christ we were walking in darkness as children of wrath. We were separated from God and dead in our sins and trespasses. Then 2 words appear: But God. God saves us. God begins this good work in us. He starts the work - not us. He opens our hearts and eyes to see the truth like never before and He seals us with His Spirit. He starts this good work in us and we read that He finishes this work too. What are some implications of Christ’s Work?
He saves us - we don’t save ourselves
Our salvation isn’t up to our perfect obedience - it’s up to Christ’s
Even though Paul is in jail and even though persecution is ramping up in Philippi, there is still reason to give thanks because of Jesus Christ. He has saved these saints and He continues to guide them in good and bad. He will not abandon them. He will finish His work!
What about you? Do you have confidence in the work of Jesus Christ? Even when things might not make sense, do you trust that your God is in control and that He has a purpose for you exactly where you’re at today? Friend, trust in His providence and give thanks because of what He has done and what He continues to do today.
Give Thanks to God By Walking Worthy (9-11)
Give Thanks to God By Walking Worthy (9-11)
Because of the finished and ongoing ministry of Christ, we are now commanded to act. You and I are not saved to sit, we’re saved to serve. We’re not saved to pout, we’re saved to proclaim. We’re not saved to wander aimlessly, we’re saved to walk worthy. We’re not saved to stay in the shallow end where it’s comfortable and convenient, we’re saved to dive into the deep end where Christ is calling us to trust fully in Him!
As Paul continues to pray for this church, he prays that they would walk worthy of their heavenly calling. The first way that Paul prays that they walk worthy is by growing in their love and knowledge. Paul is not praying that they would grow in a brotherly love or a passionate love, but in an agape unconditional love. Biblical love is not a mushy/gushy love… It’s a sacrificial and personal love that involves action and often, change. This church had this love but Christ calls upon them to grow in it.
Think about this for a moment, if you want to know how to do something you have to learn how to do it. If you want to be a good baseball pitcher, you have to practice pitching. This will require you to stretch yourself. To work out and train maybe harder than you’re used to. If you are a Christian, you are called to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself. If you are going to love others the way that Christ does, you have to know how Christ loves them. How can you figure that our? By studying God’s Word! See, the more that you and I study Scripture, the more that our love for others and for God should increase. The more that you understand the depths of your sinfulness and the greatness of God’s grace, the more that we should appreciate what Christ has done and live as a new creation as He calls us to! The more we should look like Christ to those around us. This will require us to do difficult things.
CS Lewis in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader tells a story about a boy named Eustace who steals a golden armband only to discover that his greed turns him into a dragon - maybe this doesn’t sound that bad, but the tiny golden armband remains on his foot and causes excruciating pain. One night he encounters a lion, Aslan, who says to follow him to a mountain well. The lion says that he must take off the dragon scales. Eustace tries over and over to scratch his skin and the scales begin to fall… Only to reappear time and time again with no end in sight. The lion looks to him and says, “You will have to let me do it.” The lion’s claws sink in deep, causing pain… So much pain that Eustace believes that death will follow… Aslan cuts the remaining scales away and puts him into this well. Pain is replaced with peace and he looks to quickly see that he is a boy once more.
Sanctification hurts. Growing to be more like Christ requires us to change. It requires us to cut certain things out of our lives and to replace them with things that Christ commands from us. It requires us to approve of the right things and to produce good fruit. This is the second way that Paul encourages them to walk worthy! Paul is getting to the heart of this letter: Orthodoxy must lead to Orthopraxy. Big words but simple to follow: Right belief must lead to right action. Knowledge must lead to love. As you grow in understanding what Christ has done, your love for others should increase as well. You should look more like Christ today than you did yesterday. You should examine your fruit and see that you are producing the fruit of the Spirit because you’re connected to the vine of Christ. If you’re not, then you need to check your foundation.
Paul is reminding this church that though there are problems and struggles, there are even more reasons to give thanks. They have sound teachers. They have the Holy Spirit. They have unity in Christ and they have love for one another. Friends, we have many reasons to give thanks to God today as well. We have God’s Word to remind us of God’s Work of salvation. Therefore, we must get to work in sharing the Gospel with others in our community and beyond!
3 takeaways to apply to our lives from this text:
Gospel Advancement is Costly… But Jesus is Worth It. Keep Working!
Paul would be imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, ran out of town, and eventually killed for proclaiming the Gospel… But this man will go on to say that to live is Christ and to die is gain. This church partnered with him in advancing the Gospel even though it cost them financially politically. Why would they accept the cost of advancing the Gospel? Because Jesus is worth it. Because people must hear the truth of the Gospel in order to be changed by the Gospel. Wherever you’re at today, understand that Jesus is worth it. Continue to work for Him and to share the good news with others.
Jesus Doesn’t Stop What He Starts. Trust in Him!
Philippians 1:6 is such a comforting verse in a season of anxiety and in a world where people let us down. Philippians 1:6 reminds us that God makes good on His promises. Salvation isn’t so much about us… It’s primarily about Jesus. Look at the truth of Hebrews 7:25 as we find this
25 Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.
Have you repented of your sins and placed your faith in Christ as Lord? Are you following Him today? If so, friend, He will continue His work of sanctification in your life until He returns.
Each Day, Choose Joy in Christ!
Circumstances will change, but the facts will not. Romans 5:8 reminds us that while we were sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. At your worst, Jesus died for you. He started this work in your life, and He is with you each step of the way. So each day that you wake up, choose to rejoice that God chose to send His one and only Son to this earth to die on the cross and pay the debt that we owed as a result of our sinfulness. He calls on us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling and to live as a new creation.
It doesn’t matter what you’re going through today - don’t wait and give thanks tomorrow. So often we think, “I’ll give thanks after this” or “I’ll have joy after I finish my degree or get the dream job or when I’m this age or when my kids can finally do this thing.” Joy is available today through Christ. Paul was able to have uncontainable joy while chained to a Roman soldier in jail… Don’t wait for your circumstances to become perfect to finally rejoice because if you do, you’ll never experience Christ’s joy. As the Psalmist says
24 This is the day the Lord has made; let’s rejoice and be glad in it.
In the good and in the bad, give thanks to God because He is good. Come home to Christ and experience a joy unlike anything this world has to offer. Repent of your sins and trust in Him as Lord of all. After all, He who began a good work in you will see it through to its completion. God won’t start what He stops.