Lesson # 2: Thanksgiving and Prayer: Part 1 of 3

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Date: 4/3/18
Lesson # 2
Title: Thanksgiving and prayer
Text: (Philippians 1:3-11)

Scripture: (Philippians 1:3-11, NIV)
3 I thank my God every time I remember you.
4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy
5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.
8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.


Philippians, like 1 Thessalonians, which is a letter of appreciation for the faithfulness of Christians in Thessalonica, is essentially a thanksgiving for the work of grace in Philippi, and for their thoughtfulness in sending Epaphroditus with a gift for Paul in prison in Rome.


3 I thank my God every time I remember you.

The thanksgiving sentiment is a common one, but it seems to have warmth about it that is unusual because the church at Philippi had a special place in Paul’s heart. It came closer than any other to being his ideal congregation. So, it was with a full heart that he writes, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Paul’s heart was filled to overflowing as he reviewed in his mind how God had worked in Philippi in leading them to salvation, in forming the church, his own sensational deliverance from jail at Philippi, the subsequent development of the church, and their kindness to him on many occasions. The Philippians were constantly in his prayers, and an unfailing source of joy and satisfaction (1:4). Paul had a special place in his heart for them. If he hadn’t said anything else about his relationship to this church, this would have been enough to reveal just how special it was. You can check the other epistles—he didn’t say this to the other churches, certainly not to the Galatians or the Corinthians.

It is wonderful when remembrance and gratitude are present at the same time. In our personal relationships, it is a blessing to have only happy memories; and that is how the relationship between Paul and the Christians at Philippi is viewed in this epistle. His memories brought no regrets, only happiness. So, what were these happy memories? The apostle might have remembered with joy the way in which the Philippians first received the Gospel, the effect it produced upon their lives, the eagerness with which they entered into his plans for its wider spread, the liberality they showed to their needy brethren in other Churches, though they were not themselves a rich people, the affectionate attachment they displayed toward himself, the help they gave him when he was imprisoned, and the many ways in which they cheerfully co-operated with him in the defense and establishment of the truth. They had labored, suffered, triumphed, and rejoiced together.

4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy

Paul cannot pray for his Christian converts in Philippi without giving God thanks for them and rejoicing. Joy is, indeed, the dominant note of this letter, which contains no less than nineteen words for it. For Paul, joy is not the result of finding himself in comfortable circumstances but of seeing the Gospel make progress through his circumstances and through the circumstances of the Philippians, whatever they might be (1:18; 2:17).

In this passage there is laid out for us the marks of the Christian life that come out of joy. There is Christian joy. Paul prays for his friends with joy. The letter to the Philippians is called The Epistle of Joy. The whole point of the letter is “I do rejoice; do you rejoice?” Let us look at the picture of Christian joy which this letter makes known.

I. In this verse, there is the joy of Christian prayer, the joy of bringing those we love to the mercy seat of God. There must always be a deep joy and peace in bringing our loved ones and others to God in prayer.

II. There is the joy that Jesus Christ is preached (1:18). When a man enjoys a great blessing surely his first instinct must be to share it; and there is joy in thinking that the Gospel is preached all over the world, so that another and another and another are brought within the love of Christ.

III. There is the joy of faith (1:25). If Christianity does not make a man happy, it will not make him anything at all. There is a certain type of Christianity which is a tortured affair. The psalmist said, “They looked to him and were radiant.” When Moses came down from the mountain top his face shone. Christianity is the faith of the happy heart and the shining face.

IV. There is the joy of seeing Christians in fellowship together (2:2). As the psalmist sang (Psalm 133:1):
Behold how good a thing it is,
And how becoming well,
Together such as brethren are,
In unity to dwell!
There is peace for no one where there are broken human relationships and strife between men. There is no lovelier sight than a family linked in love to each other or a Church whose members are one with each other because they are one in Christ Jesus their Lord.

V. There is the joy of suffering for Christ (2:17). At the time of his martyrdom in the flames Polycarp prayed, “I thank Thee, O Father, that thou has judged me worthy of this hour.” To suffer for Christ is a privilege, for it is an opportunity to demonstrate beyond all doubt where our loyalty lies and to share in building up the Kingdom of God.

VI. There is the joy of news of the loved one (2:28). Life is full of separations, and there is always joy when news comes to us of those loved ones from whom we are temporally separated.

VII. There is the joy of Christian hospitality (2:29). There is the home of the shut door and there is the home of the open door. The shut door is the door of selfishness; the open door is the door of Christian welcome and Christian love. It is a great thing to have a door from which the stranger and the one in trouble know they will never be turned away.

VIII. There is the joy of the man in Christ (3:1; 4:1). We have already seen that to be in Christ is to live in His presence as the bird lives in the air, the fish in the sea, and the roots of the trees in the soil. It is human nature to be happy when we are with the person we love; and Christ is the lover from whom nothing in time or eternity can ever separate us.

IX. There is the joy of the man who has won one soul for Christ (4:1). The Philippians are Paul’s joy and crown for he has the means of bringing them to Jesus Christ. It is the joy of the parent, the teacher, the preacher to bring others, especially the child, into the love of Jesus Christ. Surely he who enjoys a great privilege cannot rest content until he shares it with his family and his friends. For the Christian, evangelism is not a duty; it’s a joy.

X. There is the joy in a gift (4:10). This joy does not lie so much in the gift itself, as in being remembered and realizing that someone cares. This is a joy that we could bring to others far oftener than we do.

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