Appreciate One Another

Philippians 1:3-6

I heard recently about a stay-at-home mom who went to a PTA meeting while her husband and her daughter got together and decided they would clean up the kitchen for her.  They put up all the food, wiped all the counters, washed all the pots and put them away, put the dishes in the dishwasher and ran it. They swept and mopped the floors and then sat down, and awaited her arrival.

Two hours later she returned from the meeting, took off her coat, hung it up, walked through the kitchen into the den, grabbed the remote control, and began watching television. They followed her over to her chair and stood by her side. Finally she felt them looking over her shoulder and looked up at them and said, “What?”

Her husband said, “The kitchen.”

“What about the kitchen?” she replied.

“The kitchen. We cleaned up the kitchen; it’s spotless. Didn’t you notice?”

The woman replied, “Yes, I noticed.  Thankless job, isn’t it?”

Unfortunately many of the good things we do go unnoticed and unappreciated.  It happens in our homes, around the church and at work.  My guess is that there are many people around you who do important tasks but who go unnoticed and unappreciated

While we would all admit that appreciation is something that we all need; unfortunately it’s a lost art. In a world were we are taught at an early age to take what you can get, we have forgotten what it means to be appreciative, and the church is not exempt; God's people have forgotten the power in the expression of appreciation to others.

When God created us He knew how much we would need to be appreciated. He knew that this world would be filled with pitfalls and discouragements.  That it would be easier to get down on our work, our churches, our communities, our families, and even ourselves. Words are powerful.  When you are excited about the direction of your life one word can bring it all crashing down around you.  And when you are in the pit of despair a word can lift you up. That’s why God had Paul write to the Church in Ephesus what he did. Ephesians 4:29 "Speak what is helpful for building up others according to their needs."

William James wrote that the deepest need of individuals is being appreciated. People are hungry, they're starving for appreciation. As Paul sat in a prison in Rome, there were many things he could no longer do. But, he was determined to focus on things he could still accomplish and one of those was saying, "thank you," to the people who had been kind to him. Let’s turn and read exactly what Paul had to say in Philippians 1:1-11

You know it wasn’t just this letter to the church in Philippi that Paul showed his appreciation.  In every letter to every church Paul spends some time strengthening the church by showing them how thankful he is for them. It was important for his relationship with them, important for their relationship with each other, and important for their relationship with God.

I believe that there are times that even though we truly appreciate others, we just don't know how to tell them.  So instead of strengthen relationships we don’t say anything at all. In our text for today Paul helps us discover three attributes we can acknowledge in others.

We can say Thank You for loyalty

Are there people in your life who have hung in there with you through thick and thin? People who could have bailed out when times got tough but didn't?

The church at Philippi had proven to be that kind of friend to Paul. If you read on in the first chapter of this letter, Paul says that there were some who were taking advantage of his imprisonment. Others were saying negative things about him. Some, no doubt, likely forgot about him. Not the Philippians.

They never forgot him as the years went by and even sent a gift to him while he was in prison.

Consequently, Paul writes the following words. "I thank my God every time I remember you." Behind-the-scenes people deserve our appreciation. They may not be spectacular, they may not be the superstars, they may not do anything really out of the ordinary, but just the fact that they stick with you needs to be appreciated.

In the western movie Tombstone the "good guys" are fighting for their lives against a band of outlaws. One of the best scenes in the movie comes after a gunfight at a creek when Val Kilmer, who is playing the role of Doc Holliday, is asked by another cowboy why would he risk his life and fight this battle along side Wyatt Earp. Holliday responds with a great line, "'Cause Wyatt Earp's my friend." 

The cowboy responds, "Well I've got a lot of friends!!!"

Holliday responds, "I don't."

In this world we have an awful lot of acquaintances and very few that will stick closer than a brother.  True friends are hard to come by, but only a true friend would be willing to share everything they’ve got. Those are true friends, and they are priceless.

Some of us have husbands or wives who have stuck with us through bad times. It may have been financial disaster, a mid-life crisis, a health problem, an affair, a terrible career decision. Some of us have been blessed with someone who has shown wonderful support and we taken them for granted.

If you've got a spouse, family member or friend who sticks by you in tough times, show them appreciation, it will only make that bond stronger.

We can say Thank You for tolerance

Tolerance is that gem we treasure in others but have a hard time finding in ourselves. I wonder why we insist on perfection from others when we cannot produce it ourselves.

I have a classmate from Faulkner who got out of Ministry and is now working in the Funeral home business. Trista and I ran into them at Wal-Mart a few years ago and I asked him how it was working out.  Great he said, “For the first time in my life when I straighten a person out, they stay straight!"

Some of us have wasted a lifetime trying to change our spouse, children, parents, employer or friends. One of the first things I tell engaged couples when we meet is I hope that you are happy with your future spouse they way they are because you cannot change them.

But I think that’s one of the ways that God's shows His sense of humor is by letting us fall in love with people who are our complete opposites. Trista and I are a good example. We almost killed each other early in our marriage attempting to "straighten the other one out." I didn't need much change, but she was a mess.

We still forget sometimes. It took me a long time to understand that I cannot change anyone other than myself. But it's so tempting because she's so different. She's a saver. I'm a spender. She's a work first, relax later person, I try to relax all the time. She sees the glass half empty. I go, "What glass? Drink from the bottle!" We've had to learn that the only way to survive is to be tolerant.

Paul wasn’t perfect and we see from early in his ministry the struggle he had being tolerant of others. Early on in his ministry, his great partnership with Barnabas was dissolved over a difference of opinion regarding John Mark. When the two men began preparing for the second missionary journey, Barnabas believed Mark deserved another chance. Paul violently disagreed and Luke records that the difference of opinion was so great the two men went their separate ways.

However, as the years passed, Paul seems to have learned the value of tolerance toward others. In the last letter he wrote before his death, the old missionary pleads with Timothy to send John Mark to visit him since, as Paul says, "he is helpful to me in my ministry." Paul learned to say thank you for others in spite of their shortcomings and failures.

He wrote in Colossians 3:13-14 "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all of these virtues put on love which binds them together in perfect unity. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful"

We can say Thank You for others’ good efforts

In verse 4 of our text Paul writes, "I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."

We say it’s not the gift but the thought that counts.  But we don’t really believe that do we? We want someone to think highly of us, so highly that they make sure everything they do for us is perfect, but that rarely happens.  After all we say if you want anything done right you have to do it yourself. But is that the attitude that Paul shows to the church in Philippi? We need to learn how to say thank you even if the results don't turn out as well as one might have hoped.

When Paul wrote this letter, he didn't know if he would ever be released from the prison in Rome. In fact, he acknowledged the reality that he could be executed. So, while he still was alive and had the opportunity, he decided to say thank you to those faithful and loyal brothers in Christ back in Philippi. Look again at what he says and see what we learn from Paul's expression of appreciation of the Philippians.

It was a sincere expression of appreciation.

"I thank my God every time I think of you." Verse 3

How many times have I been guilty of offering a flippant thanks on my way out the door? Shouldn’t the appreciation be worth the gift? Apparently Paul though so, he leaves no doubt of the depth of this love and care for the recipients of this letter.

Real appreciation is genuine, it is never flattery. It is sincere and heartfelt with no ulterior motive.

Second it was a specific, tangible expression of appreciation.

"I thank God ... because of your partnership." Verse 5

Paul wanted this congregation to understand why they were so important to him.  He said that he considered them a partner in the important work to which God had called him. And it meant so much to him that he was willing to take his time to write this in a letter they could hold, and read and touch.

If you have ever dated someone you recognize this very quickly in the relationship. The guy makes this huge discovery about the time of the first holiday. I call it the card factor.  When you give me a present and I have been trained to read the card first. But that’s not how guys usually operate. We think forget the card get to the good stuff. But to the more compassionate side of the human race they know that the card is a written expression of how the giver of the gift feels. So let me help some of the guys out here today CARDS ARE VERY IMPORTIANT!

Paul’s letter was a recognizable means of expressing just how much he loved them. The art of learning to say the right thing should be a life goal. Solomon writes that "a man finds joy in giving an apt reply - how good is a timely word!" Proverbs 15:23

Finally it was a recurring habit Paul had developed.

"I always pray for all of you" Verse 4 I think that it’s very interesting to read about some of the discipline Paul developed for surviving life in prison.

In chapter four he tells us if we want to do more than just survive this life, if we want to thrive we must control our thought patterns. For Paul, that meant developing a habit of saying "thank you", both to God and to others who supported him. If you heart is thankful then there is no room for bitterness, resentment or revenge.

I believe that God desires for all of us to be a more thankful person. People blossom under affirmation. They wilt under criticism.

I challenge you this week to give a compliment to every person in your family every day this week.

If you want to have a more powerful office, affirm your employees.

If you want to have a more productive secretary, affirm your secretary.

If you want a more tolerable boss, compliment her or him.

Every time you appreciate the people around you, you raise their value. Bosses who depreciate their staff are lowering their staff’s value. It's the same with Christians. If we constantly criticize our church family, that family gets uglier and uglier in our own eyes. It begins to become what we've named it. Become a grateful person.

The bottom line is what do you need to appreciate from God? When was the last time you spent 15 minutes just in gratitude to God? He's done so much for you! He came to give us a purpose in life, power for life, and the hope of heaven. He came to forgive our sin and to give our lives real meaning.

You're not here on earth by accident; God put you here for a purpose. How do I express gratitude to God? By giving myself to him? He gave Himself for me.


 Questions For You To Consider?

In his introduction to the Philippian Letter, Paul takes time to say thank you. Why would this be important for him?

Is this a single instance or a recurring habit with Paul?

If it is reoccurring, where are some other places that Paul shows appreciation? 

Why do we struggle showing our appreciation to others?

Why do we struggle accepting appreciation from others?  (Example: someone says that you look nice today and we respond, “This old thing?”)

For what do you like to be appreciated?

How do you like people to show you their appreciation?

How does Luke 6:31 apply in this instance?   

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