Is it possible to “be thankful?”
I think before this morning’s Bible study on Paul’s Letter to Philemon, I’d have said “yes.” And the truth is I might still prefer to think that it is possible to “be thankful.” But now I wonder if the Apostle Paul suggests otherwise in his letter to his friend.
Philemon is a good friend of Paul’s, and a Christian. Philemon owns a slave named Onesimus, who had run away. Somehow (the work of the Holy Spirit?), Onesimus was led to meet Paul, and the runaway slave became a Christian. Not only did he come to believe in Jesus Christ, his life was changed and he gave himself to helping Paul while the Apostle was in prison.
Paul sent Onesimus back to his owner along with a request that Philemon welcome Onesimus “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, (as) a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you,” Paul says, “both in the flesh and in the Lord.”
Paul is hopeful that Philemon will do that because the slave owner understands something about God’s love; and Paul believes Philemon is grateful for God’s love and for Paul’s friendship. AND HE BELIEVES THAT HIS THANKFULNESS WILL BE EXPRESSED IN HIS DECISIONS AND HIS ACTIONS.
While some people sing about “counting their blessings when they can’t sleep,” Paul suggests that recognizing and giving thanks for God’s blessings will also lead us to think and act in light of them.
For us that would make Thanksgiving a way of life rather than a designated day of turkey, family, and football. For us, it is a sign of maturity to both acknowledge God’s blessings with thanksgiving and gratitude, and share them with the brothers and sisters “both in the flesh and in the Lord” with whom our Lord himself connects us.
We worship Thanksgiving Day at 10 a.m. By God’s grace we will also begin to live—or continue to live—with a Spirit of Thanksgiving that informs and shapes each of our days.