Art by French Press Mornings, lettering by Alyssa Martin
“Count your blessings.” A phrase I’ve heard many times in my life.
I was reading through the book of Philippians the other day when chapter one smacked me right in the face (take a look at Philippians 1:1-13, that’s where we’ll be today). I read through the background of the book and learned that Paul was in prison for proclaiming the Gospel. I continued reading…Philippians 1:1…subheading, “Thanksgiving and Prayer.”
Seriously, Paul? You are in prison and you are going to start off your book with thanksgiving? That’s when I realized my focus was off-point.
We live in a “give me more” society. We are only thankful when things go our way… for .02 seconds. We want what we want and if it’s not our way, we wallow in self-pity until it is our way – and that’s totally acceptable. We are grateful for a split second until we are discontent again, desiring the newest Ann Taylor blouse or Pioneer Woman cookbook (anyone with me?). After all, that’s the American Dream, right? Always desiring more, fighting for better, unsatisfied until we’ve reached the top of the success ladder.
Paul had nothing by worldly standards, yet he demonstrated gratitude for his circumstances. He was thankful for the Philippians’ “partnership in the Gospel” (1:5) and that the Gospel was being preached and advanced (1:12)…even if that meant he had to be in prison.
Paul had an eternal focus – he gave thanks while he was in prison for doing nothing wrong, because he knew the gospel was being advanced. He realized that he had to go to prison, persecuted for his faith, in order for his brothers and sisters in Christ to become confident in the Lord and proclaim the Gospel without fear.
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV)
When we count our blessings we are usually referring to jobs, cars, houses and closets full of Coach purses. Even when we are thankful for people in our lives, it doesn’t have the same eternal significance that “partners in the gospel” have, that is, people to do ministry with, sharing and proclaiming the Gospel to all who will hear.
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6
(The King James Version states Philippians 1:5 as “fellowship in the gospel”.)
People were hearing the Gospel, getting saved, and beginning to do the work of sharing the Gospel. Paul was thankful that the Gospel was going forward, despite his personal circumstances.
We so often compare ourselves to others. We see that others have it better than us with bigger houses, nicer cars and fancier outfits and we forget that this life is temporary. If we have Jesus in our hearts, we ALWAYS have something to be thankful for, no matter how bad life gets while we are on earth.
On the list of things you are thankful for, is it mostly just stuff? Or does the spreading of the wonderful news about our Savior Jesus who died for us, and that news being shared with a lost and dying world, something you’re truly thankful for? What about our missionaries living less-than-glamorous lives across the world? What about your pastor, the ministers at your church that partner with you in the Gospel ministry?
When we think about the things we are thankful for, are you thankful for these people? If not, maybe it’s time to reevaluate our focus. The things we are thankful for may be an indication of our priorities in life. Maybe it’s time we realigned some things? Maybe it’s time we think more like Paul.
This Thursday is Thanksgiving (HOORAY!), a holiday that brings families and friends from all over the nation together to eat, fellowship and grow closer to one another. It is a time to give thanks and show gratitude for the blessings in our lives (we will be discussing gratitude all week on GLOW!!). This week, I encourage you to think beyond your worldly blessings, to give thanks to the One who matters most. I encourage you to see past the teapot in your china cabinet, to see past the food in your fridge, and instead, look at the eternal and seek His Kingdom. After all, if you know Jesus, your blessings are countless.
Last week when we asked for feedback, many of you commented that you would like to see more recipes! The GLOW team LOVES this idea! So to go along with our Week of Gratitude series, we will each be posting our favorite Thanksgiving recipe at the end of each post. I’ll be making my favorite sweet potato casserole for my church’s Thanksgiving meal, and I may even make another batch for Thanksgiving at my parents house!
Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe by Carole Karr (my grandma)
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (boiled, fresh sweet potatoes)
½ cup butter
½ cup milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla
¾ cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
- Combine sweet potatoes (peel, cut up and boil in water until soft; then mash), butter, eggs, milk, vanilla and brown sugar in 2-quart casserole dish.
- Mix topping ingredients and spread on top of sweet potatoes.
- Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Please join the discussion by posting YOUR favorite recipe in the comments– we could always use more ideas!