A Thank-full Heart
Text: Philippians 1: 1-11
Proposition: A thankful heart has deep concern for the well being of others, they are moved to care for them as though they were them.
Introduction: I’d like to share a story with you this morning about a convict that was in and out of jail at least four different times in four different places. It seems that wherever he went trouble followed him. In one case he was thrown into a small cell along with another man, both were put in chains, they were considered that much of a risk. They had been punished to the full extent of the law, a judge had ordered them both to be beaten with rods. Bloodied and aching, sitting in the stink of a blackened cell, these two convicts refused to believe that this was the end. They whispered about what had brought them to this moment, they chuckled and even began to openly marvel at how it had all happened. Silence… for just a moment… then coming from one of them, a soft garbled sound, that grew to an articulated word being sung. Line upon line a song began to pour out and as the other joined in, their voices echoed off the cold walls of their cathedral cell. Legs in chains, bodies bloodied and aching, yet their minds were set to freedom and that is what they sang. Freedom came in through every door of every cell that night, freedom even came in to those who weren’t seeking it. This is what it looked like according to Acts 16: 25 - 34.
Lydia, a well to do merchant, and those in her home, were the first European converts to Christianity. The next was likely a slave girl who had a demonic spirit controlling her thoughts and speech. After her came a man who was a government employee in the prison system, he and all those in his home accepted Christ. All these came to faith in Christ within days of each other. Out of nowhere a church was born, out of defeat and pain, freedom gained an entry point and the eternal life of Jesus Christ tore another hole in the curtain of spiritual darkness. The church in Philippi took its’ toddler steps of faith, the Spirit of God nurturing them, and they became for Paul a church of tremendous encouragement.
Some ten years passed, Paul again found himself a convict, imprisoned in Rome, this time for at least two years. It’s here that the Spirit of God pours out words of thanksgiving from a heart that has a deep concern for the spiritual well being of others, so much so that he was moved to care for them as though he were them. Paul has what I would call, ‘A Thank-full Heart’. Turn with me to the book of Philippians as we consider Thanksgiving from a different perspective, from the occasional giving of thanks to becoming a person who can’t thank God enough. Let’s read Philippians 1: 1- 11.
I. To Have a Deep Concern For the Well Being of Another, Is Personal.
Can you imagine a woman in a beautiful white wedding dress standing in the muck of a spring garden. In her hand is a hoe and her task is to plant the garden. She has two choices, she can either keep the wedding dress nice and clean or she can plant the garden, but she can’t do both. When something comes at the cost of being personal, you have the same choices. You can keep yourself clean and safe or you can get to the work of allowing your heart to be stricken with the spiritual well being of another. Paul describes his relationship with the Philippians in very personal terms. He didn’t hold himself back and he didn’t keep them at an arm’s length, just consider his wording:
to all the saints- even the kids they saw come to Christ in Lydia’s home
in all my remembrance of you- the early times and it’s struggles and victories, their growth together
in my every prayer for you all- they were the object of his conversations with God
I have you in my heart- you are part of what God is doing in and through me.
how I long for you all- I miss you more than you can imagine
I pray that your love may abound still more- I’m awed by the transformation happening in you, your love for others is what God is using everyday
To be stricken in heart for the spiritual well being of another is personal, it will soil your life and pack under your fingernails, it will interfere with the issues that usually occupy your life, getting into the most sacred part of who you are, your heart. May I suggest to you that this not a human invention, it didn’t begin with man, it began with God. It was your spiritual well being that got under Jesus’ skin, your situation packed His thoughts and entered the sacred area of His heart. “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14). In other words when it came to the issue of our spiritual well being, Jesus took it personally. So personally that He was, “made for a little while lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9), that is leaving what was His right and being willing to be “made” lower in form and rank. God initiated the idea that to be stricken in heart for others requires personal vulnerability that shares in their state.
Please know that though this will definitely entail suffering on your part to various degrees, it will also be the avenue to tremendous joy. The suffering of Christ had as its target the reconciliation of relationship between man and God. The enemy of man, the devil, was defeated, and the sin penalty for man, death, rendered without sting. To share in His sufferings will mean having that same target. And it will elicit in your spirit the kind of joy that flows out of Paul, the joy of a thank-full heart. In every remembrance of them, always in every prayer, Paul’s heart couldn’t be thankful enough to God for these people that were part of him.
II. To Have Deep Concern For the Spiritual Well Being of Another, is Divine.
Consider the words of verses 6 : “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” ; and then verse 11: “…having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” When you read these verses, who is the active agent in both? Who is it that actually initiates the work and empowers the process? God is the center of it all isn’t He. It turns out that for me to be stricken with the spiritual well being of another, to the point that as they are so am I…it calls for the action of God in and through me.
Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves a couple of questions.
- Would you say that both Paul and the people of this Philippian church had been stirred by a desire for the spiritual well being of others?
- Would you say their effectiveness lay largely in the fact that God was at work in them?
Then let’s ask if there are any transferable qualities in them that might apply to us. Consider these doors that the Spirit uses to gain access into our lives:
- Verse 5…they have a participation or ‘fellowship’ in the gospel, this refers to the value they put upon the community of the body, their effectiveness is a result of their unity in Christ.
- Verse 6… Paul must have emphasized the second coming of Christ with them, he mentions it again in verse 10. They are living under a ticking clock, they have a sense of urgency, the imminent return of Christ.
- Verse 7…they have an empathy for those who suffer, who are alone, even persecuted, after all they supported Paul in his struggles and imprisonments.
- Verse 9…they have a love for others that is directed with knowledge and discernment, they have come to know and believe the Word, it directs them.
- verse 10… they have differentiated between the things that are important and the things that are side issues, they are effective in pursuing good.
- verse 4,9… having been taught by Paul they are both recipients and practitioners of prayer.
Thanksgiving was something that Paul expressed to God and something that he demonstrated to others. A thank-full heart will be what God uses to bring change to the lives of others. It happens when I see myself as being with them in their need, with them in their faith and with them in their overcoming. When a person is stricken in their heart with the spiritual well being of another, they are moved to care for them as though they were them, personally involved and divinely directed. This is the Thank-full heart that God used in times past, it’s love for others expresses not only your love for God but God’s great love for them. Be thank-full.