BE Grateful Introduction
Philippians 4:11b-13 ESV
Colossians 4:2-4 The Message
1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV
With this new Series we are preparing our hearts to Give Thanks for all things. As we do that I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11b-13, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
So, first and foremost as we consider what we have to be grateful for, we remember that like Paul we have all had times when we had a lot and times when we had a little. Paul tells us the secret is in knowing we “can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Paul tells us to be content (satisfied) if we have a lot or a little. When we are satisfied we can be grateful. I believe Paul is saying because he is content with a little or a lot it follows that he is grateful in every circumstance.
Paul goes on to say that Jesus gives strength when we need strength.
We also know that scripture stresses the importance of telling God our requests (Philippians 4:6). God wants our company. He wants to hear from us. God wants to spend time with us.
It’s interesting that centuries before we knew that being grateful has a chemical affect on the brain, scripture taught about gratitude.
In 2017 the University of California at Berkeley did a gratitude study specifically on patients who had mental health concerns. The participants wrote Gratitude letters. They did not need to send the letters. They only needed to write them.
Three months after the letters were written, they found, “when we compared those who wrote the gratitude letters with those who didn’t, the gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner. This is striking as this effect was found three months after the letter writing began. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain).
Being grateful changes our brain even for an extended period of time.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter that was sent to the church in Colossae in Asia Minor. In Colossians 4:2-4, Paul tells them, “Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.”
Even though Paul was imprisoned when he wrote to the Colossians to remind them to pray, he also told them to keep their eyes “wide open in gratitude”. Paul’s reminder to them about gratitude and keeping their eyes on that as the prize would have changed the focus of the believers in Colossae. When thinking of that we need to understand how much Paul’s letters meant to every early church. Letters in the 1st Century were rare. The Apostle Paul was highly educated. He was the only Apostle who studied Old Testament scripture extensively.
They would have taken every word Paul wrote seriously.
Paul’s word about gratitude would have been a neon flashing sign to them. Paul’s was saying, BE Grateful.
And…even though many of the people at the church in Colossae may not have known how to write a letter, they were trained in oral communication. In the first century and before, oral communication was the main method of learning and passing on information to subsequent generations.
They would also have committed the words from Paul’s letter to their heart. When Paul told them to BE Grateful, they would have taken it as a command from the Apostle who took time to write them a letter while he was in prison.
Paul also reminded his student Timothy the importance of being thankful and grateful, specifically for whatever they eat. We read in 1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”
Paul was telling Timothy that every morsel of food that is received with thankfulness and gratitude is Holy (set apart) because of prayer and the word of God.
See, there was some question in the early church about what they could consider ‘clean’ to eat. Paul was putting the matter to rest by saying, when you pray and are grateful for the provision, the act of gratitude and receiving the food with thanksgiving makes it holy in God’s eyes.
Essentially, Paul was telling His student Timothy that when we are grateful, God considers the food Holy.
BE grateful, speak “gratitude” and God will call the provision good. I have to think that’s because God takes gratitude seriously.
Gratitude changes our brain.
Gratitude changes our prayers.
Gratitude matters to God.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Write a Gratitude Letter
Write a letter to yourself expressing your gratitude. If you choose, you can date the letter and put it in your Bible. Even months later, your brain will show the chemical affect of the letter.
In God, Deborah