Please read the scripture from the weekend: Colossians 3:12-17
Sheridan’s Women’s Bible Study groups are spending this fall with the Apostle Paul, taking a 12-week dive into Paul’s short letter to the Philippians. We’re using a study guide called “Discovering Joy in Philippians.” If there’s an expert on joy, it’s Paul – who gave thanks and rejoiced even though he was in prison, beaten, chained to his guards and dependent on outside help for food and drink.
Paul was thankful for how the Gospel was spreading throughout the Roman world. He praised the growing faith and witness and generosity of the Philippians who sent him aid. But at the same time he was grateful to be in prison — because the guards on their four-hour shifts heard him teaching and dictating his letters and they could ask him to explain what they did not understand. This was a new audience for the Gospel, one Paul hadn’t encountered on his missionary journeys. The guards then spread his message outside the prison walls.
In his letters to the Philippians, the Colossians and other First Century churches, Paul told these new followers of Christ to be thankful to God at least 46 times. Paul knew that giving sincere thanks focuses our attention on God, who has given us everything. When we take the time to remember even a fraction of everything, we are filled with joy because his gifts – most especially Jesus – demonstrate how much God loves us.
People who aren’t thankful aren’t joyful. If you take blessings for granted, regard them as random or as entitlements, you don’t connect with God. People who thank God are praying, worshipping, building their relationship with Him and finding they want to spend more time with Him. They show God’s love through what they say and do. And they are joyful!
At Thanksgiving we remind ourselves how much we have to be thankful for. This is true every day. We can start with God’s many promises to us – I will always love you, I will always be with you, I will hear your prayers, I’ll see you in heaven. And we can thank God for the blessings of this day: rain that answers prayer, a problem resolved, unexpected good news.
Being thankful has the power to change us, to make us more like Jesus, better equipped to do God’s work in the world. And it fills us with joy!
Heavenly Father, through Scripture you have told us that we are to be thankful. Help us to remember and notice all your good gifts and give you the thanks due your name. Amen.
Written by Cheryl Stubbendieck
Cheryl Stubbendieck is a member of Sheridan’s Devotion Writing Team. She was the public relations department head for Nebraska Farm Bureau before retiring in 2012. She and her husband Jim are the editors of a quarterly journal about antique side-by-side shotguns and Cheryl is the co-leader of Sheridan’s new Card Makers group. Their family includes their son Aaron and his wife Chaitra of San Francisco, CA, and their son Reed of Madison, WI.