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Seeds of the Kingdom

With Thanksgiving

by John Sainsbury

18 October 2023

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6, NIV

As Paul brings his letter to the church in Philippi to a close, he pleads with two women, who have had a terrible falling out, to agree with each other in the Lord (Philippians 4:1-3). We don’t know the details of their disagreement, but this kind of disunity does nothing to promote the good news of Jesus.

As a counter to this, Paul encourages the church members to rejoice in the Lord, always (Philippians 4:4). I notice here that he’s not saying ‘sometimes’, but always. This isn’t to deny there are struggles, or seek to sweep them under the carpet, but to always seek ways to rejoice in the Lord whatever (sometimes despite) the circumstances.

Maybe it is with some thought to the dispute between the two warring ladies that he encourages his readers to ‘let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near’ (Philippians 4:5). Gentleness is a great counter to, and can have such a calming effect on, those who are thoroughly upset and annoyed with one another. And maybe, for those who were indeed anxious about the situation and how this dispute might escalate, Paul says: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (Philippians 4:6).

Reading these words again in our context today, I realised the power of those two words right at the heart of this verse: ‘with thanksgiving’. We don’t pray with thanksgiving because we know – or demand – that all our requests will be granted, every problem solved, every dispute amicably sorted out. Rather, we give thanks because, as we do, and we bring our requests to God, we are inviting Him into the situation. We are trusting that He will ensure that His will is done and His kingdom will come, ultimately, as we pray.

I don’t know whether or not Euodia and Syntyche did resolve their difficulties (Philippians 4:1). Their responses to Paul’s exhortation are lost to the mists of history. But I do know that when we present our struggles to God and seek His intervention and help, we can indeed be thankful because His ways are not our ways, and His solutions are not our solutions. Whatever our limited human wisdom or hopes might be, we can be thankful that God’s oh-so-much better at sorting these things out than we are. Then, as a direct consequence, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

John Sainsbury and his wife Sue are part of the leadership team at Ellel Grange. John has served as a church leader for many years, most recently as Lead Pastor of the Garstang Free Methodist Church. He has a passion for seeing many brought into the fulness of life that following Christ brings.

 

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