The last year and a half has been a challenging time for most of us. I don’t think I’m going to get any argument there.
And I’m not going to tell you to be thankful. But I am going to depart a tad from my usual “helping churches thrive” theme and give you some good reasons to be thankful…for the future.
I’m looking to the example of my hero, the Apostle Paul.
As he wrote his thank you letter to the church at Philippi he had been “locked down” (imprisoned, actually) for three years, and looking forward to being tried by the Emperor Nero.
And yet, this guy was oozing gratitude…for the future.
The following are five future blessings for which Paul was already thankful, and, just in case you’re really in a hurry, I’ll tell you right now that my favorite is number four.
(1) Future Perfection – Philippians 1:6, in part says, “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…”
Those of us who are perfectionists get picked on a lot for our neurosis, but wait a minute… Made in the image of a perfect God, we all have an inescapable desire to be perfect, like our creator. I’m not supposed to be satisfied with my present, grossly imperfect state!
Those of us who are “in Christ,” will, one day, achieve our dream. No more struggles, no more defeat, no more shame: perfection. What a joy it will be to be “finished,” completed, perfect!
(2) Future Joy – Philippians 1:18, says, in part, “…Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.” Do you like rejoicing? I sure hope so.
If you are a Christ-follower, you can be absolutely confident today that you’re going to do lots of rejoicing tomorrow, both on this side of the grave and, especially, on the other side of the grave. Paul was definitely thinking in terms of rejoicing on this side of the grave. His confidence in future joy was giving him present joy – something we usually call hope.
(3) Future Deliverance – Philippians 1:19 says “for I know that through your prayers, and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”
As a brand new Christian I was troubled by this verse. I knew that Paul had been beheaded so I thought he was hearing things that the Spirit wasn’t telling him. I was relieved to learn that Paul had, indeed, been set free after writing this letter.
Even if he hadn’t, the deliverance which we are all promised, and will enjoy ecstatically, will be our future deliverance at our death or Christ’s return. Either way, we win. No more COVID, no more losses, no more tragedies, no more hatred, no more conflict.
(4) Future Grace – Philippians 1:20 says, “I eagerly expect and hope, that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
I love this confidence! Don’t even think about thinking that Paul was self-confident. No way. He knew that in his flesh there was no good thing (Romans 7:18).
(5) Future Gain – Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Someday, I hope to fully understand the phrase, “for me, to live is Christ.”
But I do understand the second half of that verse: “to die is gain.”
For the unbeliever, to die is to lose everything. No wonder so many are desperate to stay alive (Hebrews 2:15).
Christians don’t have to be desperate. As much as we enjoy a lot of things about this life – and it’s okay for your Thanksgiving dinner to be one of them – our deaths will bring gain, not loss. Rest, joy, peace, comfort, satisfaction, perfect fellowship, and so much more.
And seeing God will make every other gain seem small by comparison.
It’s okay to be struggling a bit with joy and gratitude. We are bound to this earth. We can’t escape these bodies “of death” (Romans 7:24). We can’t get very far from our phones and the constant bombardment of horrendous current events.
If you can’t give thanks for the present, soak in this incredible chapter, and join Paul in giving thanks for the future.