A Grateful Fellowship

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“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.”  Philippians 1:3-5

Three things jump out to me from Paul’s words here.  One thing stands out that unites them all- true fellowship.  Paul is not alone in this Gospel.  And the fact or truth that he is not alone is worthy of thanksgiving and joyful prayer.  Does my life look like that?

Prior to this, Paul has already acknowledged the grace and peace of God through Christ Jesus.  And here he is full of thanks for the people that You, Lord, have united with him in his life and in sharing the life of the Gospel.  This thanks is the word “eucharisteo” and it does mean to express gratitude and be thankful, but if we look at it through the eyes of the Bible, it means so much more than our flippant idea of thanks.

In the middle of that word, “eucharisteo” is the root word “chario.”  It’s the base for these words, or should I say actions: rejoice, grace, favor, and thanksgiving.  I love what Skip Moen says, “From the perspective of the Tanakh, joy is found not only in God’s gracious offer of deliverance but also in His Torah and His promises yet to be fulfilled.  The Tanakh’s idea of joy is both the witness and the experience.”

Here is this man who is thanking God every time he remembers his fellow laborers, his friends, his brothers and sisters in Christ.  And he is thankful to God for them.  This is no light thing.  And I wonder if it would help me to understand better how to be thankful if I understood what not being thankful looked like Biblically?

Paul shares that view in Romans 1:21.  He says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  So I’m thinking that there are characteristics of people who give thanks and then there are other characteristics that define people who don’t give thanks.  What are they?  How do I know who I am?  What category do I fall in?

Listen to what Skip Moen gathers from the Biblical perspective.  “[T]hose who are not thankful are the ones who live without the joy of the Lord.  Their promises are limited by their own imagination.  Their lives seek fulfillment in their own accomplishments.  They have a humanity limited to their own grasp.  Their identities do not exceed their vision.  They do not experience the cooperation of a divine universe of favor.  They find it difficult to rejoice in all things.  Their lives are not delivered from self-abuse and ego-excuse.  For them, there is nothing more than me and mine.”

When we live like this it belies a life of confinement.  It robs us of true rejoicing.  Our rejoicing is only situational, not personally constant.  There’s an emptiness.  There’s a constant striving.  There’s discontent.  The toast is always burnt.  Someone’s not living up to standards.  The terribleness in the world outweighs the wonders of God.  And someone walks away from the exchange feeling like less of a person, robbed of some dignity.  And God is left robbed of His glory.

Those who give thanks acknowledge Jesus.  They acknowledge Jesus as not only their Savior, but as their hope and joy and provider and everything.  They fear God.  They know He IS in control.  They see His hand in everything.  They are thankful, they are joyful, because He has brought these people together for His good purposes and for each of their benefit.  Those who don’t give thanks, well, they’re darkened because they don’t know this.  They don’t acknowledge that God is in control.  They lack the true fear of God.  Life hasn’t become about God, it’s still about them.  They want what the world offers more than what You, God offer.  They are still absorbed by themselves.  They are not absorbed by the love and power and presence of You.  Thankfulness is all about giving.  And it’s all about understanding what we’ve been given that we didn’t deserve.

I can’t help but stop and think about the special moments that You, Lord, have given me with Your children, these brothers and sisters that You have placed in my life for a purpose, for You, for them, and for me.  And the gift didn’t come from them or from me to them.  The true gifts that I see, the most special moments were what came from You through them, or from You through me to them.  You are the heart of what my heart is grateful for.  You are the heart of joy itself.

Like Paul, I jump for joy in the fellowship that I have with my brothers and sisters in Christ, with those who have fellowshipped together with me in living and walking out Your Gospel.  We don’t just preach it; we live it.  We show gratefulness and thanks with our lives, not just our words.  We continually remember the goodness, the special times, the sacrifices, the pain, the joy, the reaching out, the praying together, the walking together, the suffering together.  We continually hold each other up in our thoughts and prayers before You because we’re a part of each other and we genuinely love each other.  And just like You are one with us, we are one with You, and we are one with each other.  This is no superficial relationship here.  This is real relationship.  This is what being united in Christ is all about.

Yes, it wasn’t good for man to be alone in the beginning.  And it’s not Your intent for us to be alone and do it on our own now.  This is true fellowship and it starts in You.  And it’s filled with grace and peace and thanks, and joyful prayers, and true fellowship that walks together with the Lord.  This is Christianity.  This is the Gospel.   Christ living in me.  Christ living in my brothers and sisters.  Christ in us.  We are one in Him.  Together we have true fellowship with Him and in Him.  I’m never alone.  Neither are my brothers and sisters.  We’re there for each other.  Now that is something to be eternally thankful for.  I’m learning.  Lord, may I be thankful upon every remembrance and may my remembrances be abundant to overflowing.

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