Be Free in Christ and Thankful!!!
“I give thanks to my God upon every remembrance of you, always in my every prayer for all of you, making the prayer with joy, because you participated in the gospel from the first day until now, convinced of this same thing, that the one who began a good work in you will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ, just as it is right for me to think this about all of you because I have you in my heart since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel all of you are sharers of the grace with me.” Philippians 1:3-7 LEB
Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in life's struggles and forget to give thanks to God. I know there have been times I struggled with thankfulness in my life. Before I was saved and even after I accepted Christ, I had moments where I did not thank God for the people in my life or the circumstances I found myself in. Personally, there have been times in my life where I wanted to see that unique-something about myself that God sees; to know that exclusive aspect about me that makes me different has at times driven me. And then I got tunnel-vision trying to discover what makes me a treasure in either the world's sight or God’s sight. I allowed that to foster an indifference in expressing my thankfulness, too. How could I express thankfulness when I was not content within myself? The only way I know to clearly explain this hang-up in me is to say that it was a lot like having the U2 song I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For playing on loop deep within me, and the What I’m Looking For was something "good" or "different" about myself that made me distinctly me.
One might take that in and think that it is a self-esteem issue. It is not. It is more a deep-seated need to not be a cookie-cutter human being. Looking back over my life, I grew up in a 1,000 square foot home, got the free lunches at school, and wore hand-me-down clothes that my great aunt sent me that my cousin could no longer wear. They were baggy name brands, so it suited me great as a skater kid. Later, at 14, I entered a world where we were all reduced to state numbers. We wore the same state-issued attire, had the same haircuts, and were reminded daily we were nothing. Indeed, we were made to feel we were nothing special to anyone in the free world other than being a scab on society's flesh.
For years, I have thought that growing up in such a way may have contributed to that strange need to be different, to stand out. And…maybe it does. It certainly contributed to why I got tattoos at such a young age. However, I have also learned that it is not unusual for an Enneagram 4 to be wired that way, too. A quick glance at Type 4 might cause one to think that Four’s believe we are special or unique or feel we are so different from everyone else. I recall looking at that the first time and shaking my head in disagreement. That is not what it is saying about us. What it is saying is that we desire to find that thing inside of us that is different, that is unique, and is notable, and none of us who are 4’s have found it in ourselves yet.
Recently God has shown me that I can search within and strive all I want, but the uniqueness and treasure I seek is something I already possess. I finally got around to listening to some audiobooks in my revised schedule about my Enneagram type by Beth McCord, and it brought God’s truth to the fore: I am known, I am loved, and I am treasured by God. When that reality hit me, I finally found myself in a space where I could just stand thankful for everything. There was a shift—freedom. I started to understand where Paul was coming from in these verses.
We all get blindsided by life sometimes and find it difficult to thank God for people and circumstances in our life. We probably would not be as eager to thank God in a jail cell for the jail cell or for people every time we thought of them if we were shackled to a wall as Paul was in these verses. However, Paul did not let his situation get in the way, nor did he allow his quest for being the perfect Jew before his conversion stop him from seeing God’s truth. He was still thankful. He was always grateful that those he remembered in his prayers in Philippi were believers, and he recognized that they were all sharers in the same grace that he had from the Lord, even though his circumstances were not the same as what they had going on. Do we forget that we share the same faith with others whom God is working on until the day of Christ? Do we give thanks for those who have professed Christ but are currently out of sight? Out of mind?
Through Paul, God reveals to us that we should be thankful as believers for all God has done to allow us to share a faith such as we have. We share a belief in partaking with others no matter where we have come from, what we have been through, or where we find ourselves now. What a treasure we have that we can all open the Bible and partake in the same faith that even Paul himself cherished? God shows us that we should be thankful for those who share in our faith, too. God did not allow Paul to thank God in remembrance of Philippi's believers because they were on his same “spiritual level”—this is Paul we are talking about. If anyone could boast about being spiritual, it was Paul. God did not inspire Paul to write these words of thankfulness because the people in Philippi helped fulfill his own purposes, got him out of jail, or even put in a good word for him with the jailer. He allowed Paul to be thankful because they were treasures in the sight of God, just like Paul knew he was through what Jesus Christ had done for him.
In what way might you be missing what God wants you to be thankful for due to thinking from an earthly mindset, rather than from the perspective that God holds? Maybe you look at other believers as not being your kind of believer because they don’t dress up the way you do on Sunday. Perhaps you don’t see yourself as being worthy because, like where I was, you still have not found that thing inside you that God would be interested in or see as benefiting Him. Maybe it is time to shift your thinking and see that your thinking and how you process things, choose to present something to others, and interpret things is not how God sees it, understands it, or knows it. Maybe it is time you stop trying to find what God has already given you and cling to His truth?
We can all get bogged down by life and shackled to misunderstandings about who we are in God’s sight. Today’s fast-paced world tends to foster this misunderstanding, too. We are bombarded by assumptions, presumptions, other people's opinions, and what we think we understand about a given situation when in truth, unless we brush elbows and talk to people face to face daily, it is all conjecture and supposition. We can all be grateful that while we are subject to change, while we must endure the pains of growing and even having to wait for others to catch up with us or for us to catch up with them: God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow! If we are believers, He is always with us, and He understands all from His vantage point. We are all redeemed, unique, and loved by Him in His perfect love. That is something to be thankful for, no matter what our situation might be.
Until Next Time