I Thank My God
“I Thank my God”
By Neal Grimes
Let’s read and examine Philippians 1:3-4.
1:3, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,” (NAS)
Beginning here in verse three, Paul shares that he Gives Thanks every time he thinks about the body of Christ in Philippi. Every time he thinks about them, talks about them, or is reminded of them his emotions are stirred in such a way that causes him to give thanks to God. I like the way The Message interprets this verse:
“Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God.”
The language of this verse indicates a few things for us. First of all, these believers in Philippi were Always on Paul’s mind. Paul never stopped thinking about them. He carried them continually in his heart and mind. The memories of these believers had marked him. They were like a tattoo on his mind and heart. They had created a permanent recording in his mental and emotional DVR. Imagine, if you will, watching home movies of times gone by or looking through an old photo album. The emotion you feel about those times is the emotion Paul experienced as he remembered his friends in Philippi. He was constantly reminded of them, their faith and the time they had spent together. Paul had a special love for this church. They were out of his sight but not out of his mind and certainly not out of his heart.
1:4, “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all” (NAS)
“The best remembrance of our friends is to remember them at the throne of grace.” Matthew Henry
Secondly, they were Always in his prayers. Paul consistently prayed for them and it brought him joy to do so. This wasn’t just any ordinary prayer either. It caused a groaning within the depths of Paul’s soul as if he was begging God on their behalf. This was intercessory prayer. When you pray as an intercessor you pray on behalf of another person’s poverty, whether spiritual or physical. The Intercessor becomes a type of mediator between God and the other person. In intercession, you take upon yourself the other’s person pain and poverty as though they were your own and plead before God for that person. And when you truly enter into the depths of intercessory prayer you can then in truth say to a person, “I feel your pain.”
Intercessory prayer at its core is unselfish, because it is about someone else’s situation and not our own. This type of prayer removes our own interests from the dialogue, because it is impossible to intercede for someone else and speak of our own needs. Intercessory prayer does not allow us to place ourselves at the center. The measure of unselfishness to become an intercessor is too high of a cost for some to bear. That is why, unfortunately, there are very few intercessors in the Body of Christ. I thank God for those who truly intercede on the behalf of others.
Interceding for the Philippian church was not painful nor was it a chore for Paul. On the contrary, it brought him great joy to do it, despite his own circumstances. He was in need of prayer himself, yet pressed in and prayed for the church there in Philippi. Perhaps his joy of interceding for them was at least part of what prompted him to say in 1:24, “yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” This joyful expression in his prayer was consistent with his life as a follower of Christ. It was in Philippi, where he and Silas, sang to God in joy while they were in prison. And now here he sits now in a Roman prison writing and praying with joy.
The third thing we can take note of is this: He was thankful for All of them. His thoughts were about each and every one of them. His prayers were for each and every one of them. His thankfulness was for each and every one of them. He didn’t leave anyone out when it came to giving thanks to his God for the “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi.”
Acts 16 gives us some insight into who Paul might have been interceding for. The first person we come to is Lydia (Acts 16:13-15). We know from this passage that Lydia was “from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God…and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” She was baptized and so was her whole household. Moved by this experience, she invites Paul and his companions to stay at her house. The Scripture says that she “prevailed” upon them to do so, which means that she kept insisting that they come until they finally gave in. They stayed with her on at least two different occasions (vss. 15 & 40). Paul must have had a lot of great memories of Lydia and her family as he prayed for her and the others he met while staying there.
Acts 16:16-24 tells the story of a young girl that followed Paul and “us” around (An indication that Luke, the Author, was there along with Timothy and Silas). She was causing problem for them, everyday crying out in public, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” This eventually annoyed Paul. So he turned around cast out the evil spirit. Was he thinking of this little girl as he prayed? He probably knew her name. I’m sure he thought about what happened, because this event landed he and his companions in prison.
In Acts 16:25-34, we have the story about the “keeper of the prison.” (a jailer) He was awakened in the night, no doubt because of the earthquake and the shaking of the prison brought on by the singing and praying of Paul and Silas. This guy must have been terrified. We know that he feared for his life because he thought the prisoners had escaped. He was about to take his own life when Paul intervened. The jailor, moved by God and Paul’s words, gave his life to Christ. He and his whole household were converted and baptized that night. He also invited them to his house. Apparently, his new found faith allowed him to no longer be afraid. Could it be that when Paul looked at the scars he received from the lashes given him by the magistrates remember that the jailor took time and care to wash them for him? Paul prayed for this man and his family by name. He remembered them.
The unselfishness of Paul’s words is startling. Paul sits in a prison in Rome and all he can do is think about and pray for other people. How often have we sat in the prisons of our own circumstances and thought only about ourselves and our own interests? “Woe is me” has become the tagline of our faith. For many of us, life for the most part is centered on us. We live our lives at the center of a merry-go-round expecting both live events and other people to revolve around us. We are at the center of our lives. This was not true for Paul. Paul had Christ at the center of his life. He rode the merry-go-round with Christ at the center and was grateful for the people rode with Him.
Also, think about the circumstance Paul was in. He could have sat there in prison doing nothing. But that’s not what he did. He rose above his circumstances and began to pray for and write to the people he loved. He did not allow the chains attached to him to hinder him from being of use to His God. Neither should we. No matter what hand life has dealt us, we are always of use to the Kingdom. We can pray for people from our private prisons of despair. We can encourage people even while we are in the chains of discouragement and defeat. And like Paul, it will bring us great joy to do so.
Neal Grimes is an ordained minister and has many great insights and revelations from all his years pastoring.