“Learning Paul’s Secret”

Categories: content, thanksgiving

It’s the old chicken-and-egg problem. Which came first: thankfulness or contentedness, the grateful attitude or the peaceful spirit?

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul wrote that to the Philippian church while he was in prison in Rome! He is thankful and even joyful while bound and restricted. See Philippians 1.3–5.

Also from prison, he wrote the Colossian church, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1.3–5).

Also from prison, he wrote to his friend Philemon, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints” (Philemon 1.4–5).

How could Paul overflow with thanksgiving while in chains? It’s because he realized God had greatly blessed him in Christ and God was in control of his problems. God reigns over all of life. Jesus is not wincing on His throne, waiting to see if everything will turn out okay for His people. No! He is working to make sure all things work together for good for those who love Him. God is not some esoteric spiritual entity with no relation to our current reality. He created reality. We live because of Him. Paul knew that.

Paul thanked the Father, “who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light…[and] delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1.12–14).

When you realize what God has done for you in Christ Jesus, it’s impossible not to overflow with thanksgiving. So why aren’t we continually thankful and at peace in our spirits like Paul? Plainly, it’s because we lack faith. We forget God’s great deeds on our behalf. We forget He raised us up with Christ Jesus and seated us with Him in the heavenly places. We forget He wiped away the eternal consequences of our sins and loved us while we were still enemies spitting in His face. We forget the nails, the blood, the pain at the cross—that it was all for our sakes.

Paul, what is the secret to establishing our faith? How did you stay strong and find peace even in the darkest circumstances?

“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” (Phil. 4.11–13).

Thank God for Paul and the word preached through that man. What a blessing God has given His people to teach us these attitudes so we can know supernatural peace and heavenly joy right here on earth!

Which came first then? It seems the thanksgiving for God’s work came first, and Paul’s calm, contented spirit was built on the grateful recognition of blessing. We should remind one another constantly of our exalted place in Christ and the blessings we now have and are promised to have in the future! We should listen to God, who has the eternal, omniscient viewpoint, trusting in His knowledge and control. When He says we are blessed in Christ but we don’t feel it…trust that we are still blessed in Christ and give Him thanks.

Give thanks in all things, even when you’re down. Let’s learn Paul’s secret.