I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3
The familiar bing of an arriving email caught my attention while I wrote at my computer. Usually I try to resist the temptation to check every email but the subject line was too enticing: “You are a blessing.”
Eagerly, I opened it to discover a faraway friend telling me she was praying for my family. Each week, she displays one Christmas card photo in her kitchen table “Blessing Bowl” and prays for that family. She wrote, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3) and then highlighted our efforts to share God’s love with others—our “partnership” in the gospel.
Through my friend’s intentional gesture, the apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians came trickling into my inbox, creating the same joy in my heart I suspect readers received from his first-century thank-you note. It seems Paul made it a habit to speak his gratitude to those who worked alongside him. A similar phrase opens many of his letters: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world” (Romans 1:8).
In the first century, Paul blessed his co-laborers with a thank-you note of prayerfulness. In the twenty-first century, my friend used a Blessing Bowl to bring joy into my day. How might we thank those who serve in the mission of God with us today?
Father, help us to intentionally bless those who serve alongside us.
Who can you thank today?
Paul’s letter to the Romans is generally considered his most intensely theological letter. Yet it opens and closes with great warmth, revealing an unexpected affection. The opening shows this personal touch through gratitude, and the final chapter displays Paul’s care for the Romans in words of greetings—personally expressing his heart for more than twenty-five different people. Included in the list are ministry leaders (Priscilla, Aquila; 16:3), prisoners (Andronicus, Junia; v. 7), and both men and women—all considered fellow workers in the gospel. In the fellowship of the gospel, there is much to be thankful for, much to celebrate, and many co-laborers whom we can encourage with our gratitude.
For more on spiritual service, download the booklet The Heart of Effective Ministry at discoveryseries.org/q0910.
Malachi delivered a hard message to the priests of Israel. Many years earlier the Lord had chosen the descendants of Levi to have charge of the temple service and to instruct the people. This sacred duty was an honor—it should have caused them to stand in awe of the Lord and serve Him with fear and reverence. But in Malachi’s day the priests had dishonored Him with their attitudes and actions.
At first glance, it may seem that this Old Testament passage has nothing to do with us, but as believers in Christ, we are a holy priesthood who offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1 Peter 2:5). This truth should cause us to pause and consider whether we are fulfilling this sacred duty with the right attitudes and actions. The failures of the priests in Malachi 2 warn us of attitudes that will lead us down the path of irreverence and disobedience.
• First, the priests dishonored God’s name by serving Him in a careless manner and offering unacceptable sacrifices. (See Mal. 2:1-3.)
• Second, they were ungrateful for God’s covenant, which gave them close access to Him through their priestly service. (See Mal. 2:4-6.)
• Third, they didn’t preserve knowledge of God’s Word but led people astray with their instructions. (See Mal. 2:7-9.)
Since we are now God’s holy priesthood, we must ask ourselves if we have dishonored His name with careless worship, ingratitude, or a failure to uphold His truth as revealed in Scripture. Salvation is a marvelous blessing, but it comes with responsibilities. Our worship and service are acceptable only if they are offered according to God’s desires and standards—not ours.
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56)
Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about “my day”—a day that Abraham had “seen” 2,000 years before. This evidently referred to the time when Christ would be on Earth, which God had enabled Abraham to see in prophecy.
But of all the days when He was on the earth, the most glorious was the great day when He rose from the dead. “He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33).
As a result of His death and resurrection, “behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The day of salvation is any day in this age of grace when a person believes on Christ for salvation. He then receives “the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). This great future day of redemption evidently is the same as “the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6), when He comes again.
Following this is the fearful day of the Lord, when Christ will punish and judge and reign. “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night . . . and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). It is also called “the great day of his wrath” (Revelation 6:17).
This day of the Lord will culminate at God’s great white throne. This will be “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).
Finally will come the eternal “day of God” when this present earth will be purified with fire and “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). That day will never end, “for there shall be no night there” (Revelation 21:25). HMM
While the prophet was in the court of the prison, he continued to warn and advise the people for their good, bidding them yield themselves to Nebuchadnezzar. On this account the princes complained of him to the king, as disheartening the people.
Poor vacillating monarch! He had no mind of his own, and was a mere tool in the hands of the princes. Many fall into great sin from want of manly firmness. They do wrong because they have not the courage to say “No.”
What a loathsome place! Truly, through much tribulation many holy men have inherited the kingdom.
A Gentile was more gentle than a Jew. He had a black skin, but a tender heart.) (Easily led, the king turned round in a moment.
Good deeds should be done tenderly; the bare cords would have hurt the emaciated prophet. Ebed-melech was thoughtful for his comfort.
This was said in private, for the timid prince was afraid of his nobles. What a wretched, cringing spirit he had; the courage of the prophet stands out in grand contrast.
Never let us thus tremble, and fear wicked men. Moral courage can be gained by prayer to God, and timid spirits should seek it daily, for the want of it may prove their ruin. A soldier of Jesus ought never to be a coward.
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own his cause,
Or blush to speak his name?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:17)
Let me call it to your attention that the happiness of all moral creatures lies in the giving of obedience to God, the Creator.
The psalmist cries out in Psalm 103:20: “Bless the Lord, ye his angels; that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.”
The angels in heaven find their complete freedom and highest happiness in obeying the commandments of God. They do not find it a tyranny—they find it a delight!
Here is something that we should know and realize: heaven is a place of surrender to the whole will of God and it is heaven because it is such a place.
I thank God that heaven is the world of God’s obedient children. Whatever else we may say of its pearly gates, golden streets and jasper walls, heaven is heaven because children of the Most High God find they are in their normal sphere as obedient moral beings.
“Blessed shalt thou be in the field.” Deut. 28:3
So was Isaac blessed when he walked therein at eventide to meditate. How often has the Lord met us when we have been alone! The hedges and the trees can bear witness to our joy. We look for such blessedness again.
So was Boaz blessed when he reaped his harvest, and his workmen met him with benedictions. May the Lord prosper all who drive the plough! Every farmer may urge this promise with God, if indeed he obeys the voice of the Lord God.
We go to the field to labor as father Adam did; and since the curse fell on the soil through the sin of Adam the first, it is a great comfort to find a blessing through Adam the second.
We go to the field for exercise, and we are happy in the belief that the Lord will bless that exercise, and give us health, which we will use to His glory.
We go to the field to study nature, and there is nothing in a knowledge of the visible creation which may not be sanctified to the highest uses by the divine benediction.
We have at last to go to the field to bury our dead; yea, others will in their turn take us to God’s acre in the field: but we are blessed, whether weeping at the tomb, or sleeping in it.