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Thankfulness: A Thankful Heart

By Gary L. Carver

 Philippians 1:1-11

Imagine with me: two friends meet on the street in the ancient city of Philippi. One says to the other, "Have you heard from Epaphroditus?"

"Not since we heard that he was on his way with the love gift to visit Paul in prison."

"Have you heard anything from Paul?"

"No, other than he is in prison awaiting trial at any time. If he is found guilty he could be executed immediately. He could be dead even as we speak."

"It's hard to believe that our beloved Pastor could be dead. It seems like only yesterday that Paul and Silas visited our city for the first time. They went to the edge of the water searching for those to join in prayer and found the women. Lydia and her household were Paul's first converts."

As the two were talking another approaches and asks, "Have you heard that Epaphroditus has returned? Paul is well. Epaphroditus has another letter from Paul that will be read in our worship on the Lord's day." They dismissed saying, "I'll be there!" "So will I!" "And so will I!"

In worship we seek to translate the experience of the biblical text to the needs of today's worshipper. In doing so we try to recreate the experience to which the Scripture bears witness. Paul, the founding pastor of the church, had written to them a personal letter. He had sent to them several letters which were read aloud to the congregation as they assembled in someone's home to worship.

As we try to recreate that experience, we begin by asking who was there to hear the first reading of the letter. Syzygus was there, the person to whom the letter was written. Euodia, Syntyche and Clement were there. Euodia and Syntyche had been in disagreement and Paul wanted them to get their problem solved. Paul calls all three fellow workers in Christ. These three faithful servants are about to hear the final words of their former pastor. Then, of course, there is Lydia. No doubt, Lydia is there with her family. They are about to hear the final words from the man that led them to Christ.

I would like to think that the jailer was there. You remember the story of the jailer. Paul and Silas were thrown into prison, beaten and tortured because they freed a slave girl from demon possession. At midnight they were singing hymns and praising God when God caused an earthquake to shake the jail. The doors were thrown open. The jailer, thinking that the prisoners had escaped and realizing he would inherit their sentence, started to take his own life. Paul called out, "Do not harm yourself. We are still here!"

The jailer rushed in to where Paul and Silas were and he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The jailer and his entire family were won to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot help but think that the jailer and his family were gathered to hear the final words from the man who was responsible for saving his life not once but twice -- physically and spiritually.

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