I am preparing an expository sermon. This is a message for a multi-ethnic church starting the week without a pastor on a Thanksgiving Sunday.
This is to encourage and challenge the congregation to be thankful even in the most difficult situation on life –personally and as a church; and to remain faithful to the praise and glory of God.
PAUL’S THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER
What are we thankful for today? We thank God for his many gifts. For happy occasions, it is easy thank God, but what about during unhappy occasions? What about if we are in the midst of urgency can we still thank God? Do we have the joy to do that?
Illus: There was a simple farmer who did not know much intellectually but knew how to walk with God. One day, he lost his only horse, which he needed for working in his fields. His neighbors remarked, “bad, very bad.” But the farmer answered, “good or bad, only God knows.” A few days later, the horse got tired of the competitive life in the jungle and decided to go home to his master. With him came other wild horses. His neighbors commented, “good, very good.” The farmer repeated, “good or bad, only God knows.” His only son who helped in their livelihood fractured his leg while trying to tame the wild horses. Once again, the neighbors reacted, “bad, very bad.” The farmer replied, “good or bad, only God knows.” Their country entered into war and all the able-bodied young men of their region were drafted into the military. The farmer’s son was not drafted because of his broken leg. The exclamation, as usual, “good, very good.” What do you think was the godly man’s rejoinder? “Good or bad, only God knows.”
As I was reading and meditating upon our passage for today I thank God for giving me the strength to challenge the church to be thankful even under the most difficult circumstance in life.
The Apostle Paul, of course, was no stranger to difficult circumstances, and yet in the midst of that Paul overflowed with thanksgiving. One of the letters he wrote while suffering in prison was his Letter to the Philippians, the first congregation that he founded in Europe.
Let us notice what he also wrote to the Colossians while in prison, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body,” Paul wrote, “And be thankful… And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17).
Paul begins his letter with warm and sincere thankfulness and offers a prayer for the Philippians’ continued progress in the faith. The same thanksgiving and prayer you and I can expect for this church.
I –THANKSGIVING (vv.3-8) what were his Reasons for Thanking God?
- CONCERN FOR THE GOSPEL (v.5a) …partnership in the Gospel.
Paul’s joy is prompted by the Philippians’ commitment to the Gospel. From the beginning of the ministry the Philippians were there proclaiming the gospel, establishing the believers in faith, strengthening and edifying each other. They were ready to suffer for the advancement of the Gospel in Philippi (1:30). They have given their life, time and finances. Paul was thanking God that they understood their marching order.
As some of you partnered from the inception of the church and for most of you who were called to be a part of her till 40 years and looking forward to more glorious years let us encourage and challenge each other to continue to be concerned for the gospel.
2.CONTINUANCE OF THE MINISTRY (v.5b) …from the first day until now.
Recalling their active progress in the faith assures Paul of their certain future. No matter what happened they continued. We believe that in the ministry there are a lot of hindrances, trials, hardships, and headaches. But a true church will just carry on doing what they know is right.
The Philippian believers persevered –they prolonged their fellowship, they endured –they are ready to defend the gospel (v.7)
Illustration: A pastor was challenging the church, “We need to be a stable church – the congregation responded, “Let it walk!” “The church needs to be stable and growing”, the pastor continued. “Let it run!”, the congregation shouted. The pastor with a commanding voice, “The church needs to be stable and growing and continue to remain strong”. “Let it fly!”, the resounding response of the congregation. “So then it requires your commitment and zealousness”, the pastor said. Then the congregation responded, “Never mind pastor let it walk.”
Are we willing to persevere and endure and commit for the ministry to continue?
3. COMPLETION OF THE WORK (v. 6) …bring it to completion. Carry it on. NIV
This is strong statement. It means to be fully and firmly persuaded or convinced. Paul’s confidence springs from a deep conviction that God is at work. God never gives up. God will go on working in and through us! Good news, bad news, difficulties, blessings, happy or unhappy occasions –they serve a purpose.
1 Thess. 5:24 says, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” God cannot leave His work incomplete. Paul’s certainty is on the faithfulness of God. And this is our certainty – God is faithful. He is not through with us yet. We’ve experience His providence, we’ve sense His purpose, we’ve felt His presence, we’ve seen His patience for so many years, let us believe His provision for another man to lead His church.
4. COMMUNION OF THE BRETHREN (vv.7-8) …partakers with me of grace.
They began, they continued, they rejoiced for the assurance of the completion and they commune. They built a strong relationship with Paul and with one another. They had participated with him in the defense of the gospel.
Like Apostle Paul, let us thank God for our partnership in the gospel, for the continuance of the ministry, for the completion of the work for our communion of fellowship with each other.
While Paul continues his thanksgiving, he can’t help but assure the Philippians that he too is remembering them in joyful prayer (v. 4). And he detailed his prayer for them in verses 9-11).
II – PRAYER (vv.9-11) Paul was saying, “You are not alone…Someone is praying for you!”
Here we see Paul’s passion for the spiritual maturity of the believers under his care through prayer. That was his great concern. We see this passion revealed in his prayer life. As Paul prays for the believers, he prays for their maturity. This is the very focus of his prayer life. Let this be our focus also for each other, to the glory of God.
A. Request -growing love exercised in wisdom
Paul’s prayer begins with an encouragement for the love that they have to grow more and more. (“still more” – KJV)
Warren Wiersbe commented, “The Philippian church was composed of a mixed group of people, but they were bound together by love.” Where unity is threatened (2:1-4; 4:1-3), love brings together (Col. 3:14).
Aside from his prayer for growing love, Paul prays for increasing maturity in knowledge and depth of insight also.
This leads us to the reason of his request, growing love exercised in wisdom enables the believer to be completely discerning, and that leads him to a pursuit of things that are excellent. What a passion, an excellent pastoral prayer.
B. Reason –discerning what is best
C. Results –
- being sincere and blameless – “Till the day of Christ” –
Paul is telling the first century Philippians that they are to live sincere and without offense until Christ returns. What a challenge to us believers in the 21st Century. If the thanksgiving of Paul and the results of his prayer are true to us this day until the return of Christ it will absolutely bring God glory and praise!
Wouldn’t today be a great day for every member of the church to get sincere about the work we have to do?
2. manifesting the fruit of righteousness
In such lives where growing love and increasing knowledge are taking place in every area of life, the outcome of which is purity and righteous living, and God receives the “glory and praise.”
3. bringing God glory and praise
Paul’s supreme ambition in life is the glory and praise of God. Just to see an example in his letter to the Ephesians he keeps on mentioning “to the praise and glory of our God.”
Jesus said in John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Paul’s prayer says we need for our love to abound still more and more. We need to approve the things that are excellent and we need to be sincere and without offense until the day of Jesus Christ bringing God glory and praise!
CONCLUSION: In the light of Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer let us be thankful that we partner in the gospel and be certain that God will complete what He started good, be more loving to each other, be thankful in all circumstances, and be passionate in bringing God glory & praise.