Who Are the People You Are Thankful For, and Do They Know It?
- Clarence L. Haynes Jr. Contributing Writer
- 2022 24 Jan
In the opening to the book of Philippians, Paul writes these words to the church in Philippi.
“I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).
Those are truly fascinating and amazing words. Paul is literally saying to this group of people in this church, that every time I think about you, I thank God for you. For a moment I want you to ponder that thought and ask this simple question – who are you thanking God for every time you remember them?
Paul had a deep affection for this church because they stood by him and supported him throughout his ministry, which caused him be thankful for their continued support. As I often like to do when reading God’s word, it must go from the understanding to the application, and for a few moments today that is what I want you to do.
A Story of Thanksgiving
About thirty years ago, I was attending a youth retreat with my home church at that time. While on this retreat, I decided to sit at the piano and play a little bit. I had previously taken piano lessons and I could play a little bit, but honestly, I wasn’t that good.
While I was sitting there, the director of our children’s ministry came in and heard me playing and she said, I didn’t know you could play the piano. I told her I am not that good, and I can only play one song by ear. She said I don’t care, at our service tomorrow, before it begins, I want you to just sit and play that song as the people are coming in. I told her okay, and she was so excited about this.
When the next day came, and before the service began, there I was sitting at the piano playing this song. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that little act would be a motivating factor for me that allowed me to go and become lead musician and band leader at two other churches.
The reason I share this story in giving thanks is because there were some valuable lessons I learned from our director Nancy. In the spirit of this verse in Philippians, I want to thank God for her – and I do every time I think of her. I also want to share with you some valuable lessons that I never forgot for the time we served in ministry together.
1. Encourage People Where They Are
So often, we have a tendency to look for finished products. We want people coming with the right skills already in place. Granted, there is a time and place for that, but in the meantime we need to encourage people where they are. Everybody had to begin somewhere. The greatest singer, preacher, teacher, janitor, it doesn’t matter what it is, all had to begin somewhere.
Think about your own life or career. Maybe you are proficient now, but think back to when you started. It was probably a disaster. I am so grateful that even though my piano playing was a disaster compared to how I play today, Nancy encouraged me where I was. Let’s never forget the value of kind words and encouraging people along the way. You never know who you might be impacting.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
2. Find a Way to Use What People Have to Offer
One of the lessons I learned from Nancy is not to despise what people have to offer. Whenever you find people who are willing to offer their gifts or talents to the Lord, if their heart is in the right place, find a way to use what they have to offer. Don’t reject the gift or despise the gift, but use the gift in an appropriate manner.
Sometimes we can overlook the widow’s mites because we don’t think it’s enough. Maybe the widow’s mites can’t cover everything, but they can cover something. We need to find the something the gift can be used for, and use it in that direction. You will never know how the little you use can benefit the one who gives it and the one who is receiving it. My point is everyone has value, and everyone can contribute in some way. Let’s make sure we find that way.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:21-22).
Who Are You Thanking God For?
As we mentioned earlier, Paul had a deep affection for the Philippian church and they truly held a special place in his heart. As we turn the light inward, I want to ask you this question.
Who are you thanking God for?
There is not one person who has ever done anything in life who can say with honesty they got there all on their own. Somebody helped them along the way. In your life, think of the people who have had an impact in your life, your walk with God, your ministry, who have helped you get where you are. Think of all the people who came alongside you and challenged, corrected, and poured into you. They all contributed to you becoming the person you are and helped you get to where you are today.
Are you thanking God every time you remember these people? If you are not, then you need to, because this is how God orchestrates and moves people in and out of your life, each one affecting a part of your life’s journey.
Do They Know It?
Once you have identified those people, now it is time to take it one step further – let them know. Think about it, have you shared with this person or people the impact their input has had on your life and your walk with God? If you haven’t now is the time to do it.
One thing I have learned on this journey is that those who encourage others need to be encouraged as well. Paul took the time to write this letter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Imagine how the Philippian church felt getting a letter from Paul and the one of the first things he says is “I thank God for you every time I remember you.” If there is someone in your life like this, then let them know.
The Thank-You Challenge
I would like to challenge you with a little assignment. I would call it homework, but we are not in a classroom. Think about all those people who have been a blessing and encouragement in your life along the way, and reach out to them. You can send them a text, an email, a phone call, or even a good old-fashioned letter.
However you choose to do it, simply let them know that you thank God for how they have made a difference in your life. I can promise you this will be a blessing and an encouragement to them. Let’s make sure we never stop encouraging those who have been an encouragement to us, and let’s get into the habit of thanking God for those who have helped us along the way. The longer you live the longer this list will grow, which simply means there will be more people to thank.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/DGLimages
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.