“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Philippians 1:3
As with many facets of the Christian life, it seems that we can be quietly dissatisfied with our experience of Christian community. We have all been through some conflict in the Christian community or at least are aware of one—we might even be in one now. Whether large or small, such conflicts drain our enthusiasm for the church, sap our emotional energy, and in a quiet but deadly way erode our confidence in the power of the gospel.
The Apostle Paul loved the church in Philippi. They were partners in the gospel with him, sending their money and their best man to care for him. Yet they were not a perfect group by any means. There was the threat to disunity (Phil. 1:27). There was the tendency to grumble and complain (Phil. 2:14). There was the ever-present liability of succumbing to false teaching (Phil. 3:1–2). There was even the specific conflict among two women, Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2), that earned them a place forever in holy writ as the Apostle Paul calls on them to agree in the Lord.
For all these challenges, Paul begins his letter with thanksgiving. Not only was he grateful for the brothers and sisters at Philippi, but he gave thanks every time he remembered them. If we take Paul at his word—and we should—this is a remarkable statement. This means that for all his knowledge of the particular limitations of the church and the individual sinners who composed it, Paul’s fundamental posture toward them was one of thanksgiving rather than quiet despair.
The Apostle Paul had a stringent theological temperament. He was a man concerned for details and for the truth. He was willing to stand for what he believed. And yet he was thankful when he thought of his brothers and sisters, not critical. Rather than beginning his thoughts with their faults, he filled his mind with God’s favor upon them. Rather than despairing that they were making mistakes, he gave thanks that these mistakes were being made on a journey toward divine completion (1:6). For Paul was certain that these fallen brothers and sisters would be brought to perfection on the day of Christ.
As you thank God for your brothers and sisters and His work in their lives, you will find your enthusiasm bolstered, your energy restored and your confidence in the gospel renewed. Take a moment today and give thanks for the people in your Christian community. Consider the people who, if you are honest, you sigh about the most. Thank God for His work in their lives. Thank the Lord Jesus Christ for shedding His blood for them. Praise the Holy Spirit for sanctifying them. Bless the name of the Father for orchestrating His providence such that they will be brought to perfect conformity to Jesus on the last day. They are not in that place yet, but be thankful God is surely taking them there. Always remember that He is perfecting you as well. Don’t you want them to be thankful for you, too?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 28, 2018.