Recently I was re-reading Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. Since high school days I have always enjoyed this three page powerhouse of a letter. The Spirit of God never fails to use some part of this letter to challenge, encourage, convict or motivate my soul when I read it. God’s Word truly is alive and active and able to pierce through our hearts and minds if we are open to that.
This week as I was working through chapter four, I again came across the quintessential Thanksgiving section of verses. The section reads:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (emphasis added)
I noticed again the superlatives in these four verses. Always. All. Anything. Everything. I thought of how far short I come in living this superlative driven life. But then I looked at the context. The two verses before these four verses speak of people in conflict. Encouragement is given to a fellow worker with Paul to help those folks in conflict. These people had all served with Paul — “contended at my side” — Paul says. Into that context, Paul writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the aforementioned superlatives.
Recently, I was at a place of business where I had to wait a little bit to take care of some things. Striking up a conversation with a fellow, six feet away, we talked about the news and Covid-19 in particular. He said, “It’s pretty hard to be thankful this year at Thanksgiving.” I inquired why he felt that way. He went on about national politics, state politics, Covid (he did not know anyone who had it or who had died from it), his own personal economy and some strained family relationships. I just listened and said something about relating to a few of the things he shared and then said, “However, it seems like this year with so many challenges, the things to be thankful for are so much easier to see.” He looked at me incredulously and said, “Like what?” I went down a pretty extensive list of things I had been thinking about being thankful for. He said, “That’s just basic stuff, most of it.” His name was called where we were and he was gone. I thought, “I’m still thankful for the ‘basic stuff’ ” as he put it.
Philippians 4:8-9 records Paul writing,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the peace of God will be with you.
In this season of Covid resurgence. In this time when a “dark winter” may be heading our way. Let us not forget that we have much to be thankful for. Basic things. Big things. Little things. Ultimately, we can give thanks that our days, our times, our lives, our eternity, is in the best hands of all — the hands of God!