Gratitude Free From Circumstances

 Text: Philippians 4:6-20

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

It seems to me that my gratitude and thanksgiving are often attached to my circumstances. For example, if I have a lot of money in my bank account – and the bills are paid – I tend to be very thankful.  But when I have hospital bills, car bills, and home improvement bills, with low money in my bank account, well… I am not very thankful, and often feel a bit cursed.  

I am assuming the same is true for you as well.  If your business is going well, then you are thankful.  If your health is going well, you are thankful.  If you had good crops on the farm, you are thankful.  If you have good grades, you are thankful.  And so forth.  But again, what if your circumstances are not going well?  Then what?  

I suppose there is always a way to find gratitude and thankfulness in life despite our circumstances.  Perhaps we could focus on different circumstances.  Yes, I suppose that we could.  For example, we could always focus on the fact that the poorest 20% of Americans are still richer than most Europeans.  Or, we could focus on the fact that the poorest 5% of Americans are still richer than 70% of the world’s population.    

Now, I suppose this should make us feel a bit more grateful.  However, truth be told, it probably makes us feel more guilty than thankful. 

Perhaps, we could try to find gratitude for our health.  Yes, I suppose that we could look to the circumstances of our health.  For example, we could always focus on the fact that the average American lives to be 79 years old compared to the 1800s where the average American colonists lived to be 28 years old.  

Now, I guess this should make us feel a bit more grateful.  However, truth be told, it probably makes us a bit upset that we have to live so long with our aches and pains when those before us were able to cut their suffering short.  

We could possibly change our perspective to look at our circumstances with technology. Yes, we could be thankful for our great technology.  After all, technology has improved a lot for us.  For example, we live in heated and insulted houses, with televisions that speak to us, dishwashers that clean for us, and laundry machines that wash for us.  And we carry around these metal and plastic screens that connect to the Internet and give us access to more information than the famous and ancient Alexandrian Library of Egypt.   But then again, unlike the generations before us, all of this extra technology has not made life simpler but just more complex.  Instead of doing just one thing, like cooking food, now we cook food, wash dishes, wash clothes, dry clothes, and talk on our phones at the same time.  Sure, we can travel over land, air, and sea at very high speeds for a vacation, but we do this while working on our laptops, calling on our phones, and texting employees. So, while we can be grateful for being more efficient, I am afraid that our gratitude is robbed when we realize that our mind is certainly more divided with a great deal of many things than it has ever been before.   

Dear friends, truth be told, I am afraid that for every circumstance in this life, we can find reasons to be thankful, as well as reasons to complain, and even curse. 

But why did this not seem to be the case with the Apostle Paul?  Why did Paul say in our reading from Philippians to let all our requests be made known to God with prayer and thanksgiving?  How could Paul say, 

“In every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need”?   

How was Paul thankful and joyful regardless of whether he was brought low in poverty or raised high with prosperity?  

My friends, Paul learned the secret of thanksgiving during good and bad circumstances.  And he shares this secret with us.  The secret is that Paul’s contentment, assurance, and gratitude were not tied to his circumstances.  Yes, they were not tied to his circumstances.  His contentment, assurance, and gratitude were not even tied to his feelings or surroundings.  But instead, Paul’s contentment, assurance, and gratitude were tied to Another – Jesus Christ.  

And so, hear this, Baptized Saints!  

When the doctor tells you that your spouse has terminal cancer and you feel all the energy and strength fall out of your body; when you smash your car, and your little child is killed on impact; when you haven’t felt the kicks in your womb, and you see a motionless child on the ultrasound; when you hear the news, ‘You are fired,’ and you only have $100 in savings; when your eyesight fails, and your heart begins to slow - do not look in fear to your circumstances but look to the one that stands above your circumstances.  Look outside your circumstance of life and say, 

“Thank you, Christ, that you have held me in life, and thank you that you will hold me through this circumstance, and even through death unto eternal life.”  

Yes, Baptized Saints, our health may fail, our souls may droop, our wallets may empty, and pain may set in; however, our Christ remains.  He is the strength of our heart; He is ours forever, and we belong to Him as good or as bad as it gets. (See Psalm 73:26)  

So, tonight, Baptized Saints, if you have been brought low this last year from your circumstances, whatever they may be, know this - you are still united with Christ through your Baptism.   Or, if you have been brought high, abounding with plenty, you are still united with Christ through Baptism. 

Hear this!  Wherever you find yourself today.  In whatever disappointments or heartbreaks you’ve suffered.  In whatever sorrow or grief.  In whatever joy or gladness - know that your contentment, assurance, and thankfulness do not depend on whether your hands are full or empty, but upon Christ who holds you forgiven, in His nailed marked hands.  

May this reality of Christ – who is for you and not against you – strengthen your faith and bless you this Thanksgiving Season.  Know that as good or bad as it gets, you have forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ, and this assurance and joy cannot be taken away from you.    

Thank you, Christ for Your Mercy.  Amen.

CLICK HERE to 'Like' on Facebook
CLICK HERE to 'Follow' on Twitter
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on iTunes
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on Podbean