In Philippians 4, we glean several key practices to assist us in cultivating gratitude. In this life, we will experience setbacks and disappointments, but as Christians, our lives are not to be defined by them.
Being thankful doesn’t ignore reality but provides a means of rising above it and taking hold of God’s promises despite what is happening around us. The first instruction in cultivating gratitude is found in Philippians 4:4.
“Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
- Joy in God’s economy is defiant.
- Joy defies human logic.
- Joy defies circumstances.
I know this command of always sounds impossible, but two keywords in this verse defend the command of always, even when life gives us little to be happy about.
The first comes from the word rejoice.
The word rejoice translates from the Greek word “chario,” and derives from the word “charis,” which means grace. So “chario” translates literally as to experience God’s grace, to be conscious of His grace.
Joy is a by-product of God’s grace. Christians can always be joyful because of God’s amazing grace. Yet, it’s a matter of what you’re focusing on.
Joy is not a matter of what I get but who I got in my life, Jesus! Joy is not a possession. Joy is a relationship.
The second keyword comes from the phrase “in the LORD.”
This illustrates that joy is anchored in the giver, not the gift. Therefore, rejoicing always is impossible if our joy is established on things.
- Dwell on His goodness and grace in your life.
- Turn on some worship music and begin to worship.
- Grab your journal and write out everything God has done for you.
- The journey back to joy begins with a single act of praise! Psalm 43:5
Next, Paul says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5
Reasonableness is sometimes translated as gentleness because the application is on how we treat others. Gentleness/reasonableness is a fruit of the Spirit.
Harshness will cause joy to flee because joy is rooted in grace. Anger is never worth losing joy over!
Being gentle with everyone is always the right decision because you don’t know what someone is going through. Hurting people hurt people.
Paul attaches a unique phrase to this instruction: “the LORD is at hand.” The phrase “at hand” was a Hebrew idiom to approximate unit of measure.
It’s a method of using the four fingers of your hand to take a measurement. Paul is expressing how close the LORD is to you! He is this close to you.
The final instructions that help us cultivate a thankful attitude are found in Philippians 4:6-7.
“6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Anxiety can be a physiological reaction outside our control. This type of anxiety should be treated scripturally and medically. Feeling anxiety does not make you a weak person or a weak Christian.
But anxiety is also produced by an overwhelming sense of worry. In this context, anxiousness is concern turned into distress. It’s an obsession with worry.
When we allow anxiousness to overtake us, we worry about things that MIGHT happen before we make any effort to avoid the feared outcome or give God time to respond. So, do not be anxious about anything, and PRAY!
When we choose to worry before we pray, we concede defeat without giving God a chance to work out all things for our good! To emphasize the significance of prayer, Paul uses three different words for prayer: prayer, supplication, and request.
So before you surrender to your worry, turn to God in prayer, repeatedly if necessary, and let Him carry your burdens and concerns. Worry and doubt will take more energy and time from you than praying and laying your concerns in God’s hands will consume.
”7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The peace of God, or “peace from God,” is flanked by two key phrases that explain His peace.
- Surpasses all understanding. This means that human reasoning cannot comprehend God’s peace.
- God’s peace will guard your heart. The word guard in Greek is a military term and means “to protect by guarding.” God’s peace will become a defensive fortress to protect your heart and mind.
By the way, as Paul is writing about always rejoicing and taking hold of God’s peace that surpasses all understanding, he is not sipping coffee in a Roman Café or sitting in an ivory tower.
Instead, he is in prison under Roman guard, unsure if he will live or die for preaching about Jesus.
In between the instructions of rejoicing always, be gentle with everyone, do not be anxious about anything, and the promise of God’s all-surpassing, all-sustaining peace is giving thanks!
Giving thanks keeps our prayers from becoming a complaint session. Being thankful in prayer is the difference between having peace and being consumed with worry. Giving thanks will sustain joy and peace no matter our circumstances!