Appreciate One Another

Philippians 1:3

We are in the middle of a series looking at the scriptures that detail how we are to live with one another. When I was thinking about where we needed to go this spring I chose this series because if we are going to Model Love in the Model City, it has to begin with how we talk to and treat one another. We have looked at the need to model love by praying for one another, greeting one another, accepting one another, forgiving one another. I have been trying to point you back to the idea that all of these one anothers are only possible if we are willing to love. 

The secret to finding lasting peace and real joy is to make the decision to treat other people with love, and consider them more important than yourself. It's seems like Jesus knew what He was talking about all along. Our One Another this morning is a foundational part of finding peace and happiness in a world that is broken and distraught. If we want to experience the peace and love God created us to enjoy we must rekindle the practice of appreciation.

William James has written that the deepest need of individuals is being appreciated. People are hungry, they're starving for appreciation. And yet, while we all want to be appreciated, it is so easy to take for granted that people will always be there, and always take care of things. We have several people in this church family that do so many things behind the scenes, and we just take for granted that there will be bible class teachers, paper towels in the bathrooms, someone will change the light bulbs, someone is visiting people in the hospitals and making calls to people who didn’t show up for worship, someone to pay the bills so we can have air conditioning on days like today, someone has put together the order fo worship and then made sure we have people lined up to lead us in worship. They do these and 100 other things and they largely go unappreciated because we just kind of take for granted that it has been done in the past and it will continue to be done.

I always try to be as honest with you as possible, so let me say here there are some things that we talk about that apply to me, and then there are some things that we talk about that I am afraid that it will sound like I am fishing for something. For example when we talked about praying for one another, I am thankful for those who pray for me, and I have no problem asking for even more prayers. But today I don’t want you to think that I am fishing for more of anything. We are very thankful God has placed us here during this season of our lives. I am not fishing for more “atta boys”. You shower us with appreciation from the way you treated Trafton last week, the gifts of coffee and peanut butter on my birthday, the cards and invitations to join you for a meal or to be a part of your lives, coming and watching the boys play basketball are just a few of the ways you have shown us appreciation and I am thankful for you.   

But it hasn’t always been that way, as a matter of fact there were times that I really struggled with feeling like we were being taken for granted. I remember a time when the boys were little and I was working with a church, and Trista and I were both working on our Masters. Our schedule was pretty full, but we were constantly trying to find way to help our little church grow. We were trying to get involved in the community, having people over to our home several times during the week. I was working with this couple, doing premarital counseling, they were constantly coming over to our home and we were trying to disciple them the best we could. But after their wedding they stopped coming to church. I went by to check on them and they said they just needed a preacher for the wedding and now they were married they didn’t need us anymore.

That hurt, that cut deep. I was angry because we had invested so much time and energy in their family only for them to just take advantage of me, of us. They used me, and didn’t even have the courtesy to say thank you. It made me want to just pour my energy into Trista and the boys and let every ungrateful person out there fend for themselves. Have you ever been there?

Sure you have, everyone of us here and watching online thrive when we are appreciated. Every office worker, school teacher, waitress, Garbage collector, and parent needs to feel that someone cares, someone is thankful for what they have done. 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. We have all had an experience where someone’s words has either made our day better … or worse.

The Apostle Paul understood the power found in words. In every letter to every church Paul would take a few moments to encourage the church by showing them how much he appreciated them. It was important for his relationship with them, important for their relationship with each other, and important for their relationship with God.

I want us to look at one of those letters today, a letter Paul wrote as he sat in a prison in Rome. Instead of focusing on the things that he could no longer do, he turned his attention to encouraging the church through the things he could, and one of those was saying, thank you, to the people who had been kind to him. Look with me at what Paul had to say in Philippians 1:3-11(Read text)

In our text this morning Paul shows us how to not only appreciate one another, but how to show that appreciation.

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 a little farther in 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 church in Philippi. They never forgot him as the years went by and even sent a gift to him while he was in prison. They were the type of friends that would cause Paul to write: I thank my God every time I remember you. They were Paul's Booster Club; they supported him, standing with him for years.

I have a friend who likes to claim that she is the World’s Okayest mom. It’s her little joke to explain why she was late, or didn’t get the permission slip signed, or forgot to pack the kids a lunch. But if you were to look through her facebook page, you would see hundreds of pictures of her at the baseball field and volleyball courts. There are pictures of her looking a bit exhausted as she takes her kids to a concert, or is in Walmart at 2 in the morning because her son forgot to tell her about a project that is due tomorrow. There is something to be said about folks who show up, not just when things are going great, most of us will show up to a party, but to those who will show up when things are difficult. We need to acknowledge the folks who show up, day after day, week after week, month after month and stand beside us when it would have been easier for them to walk away. 

Some of us have husbands or wives who have stuck with us through some pretty difficult times. It may have been financial disaster, a mid-life crisis, the loss of a child, a health problem, an affair, a terrible career decision.

Some of us have friends who have stood beside us when we made some of the worst decisions of our lives, we went back to the jerk, we drank too much and they held our hair while we got sick, we got mad and left a good job, we got mad and left a good relationship, we wrecked our car or a relationship, we over spent, over ate, over whatever.

It is easy to take those kinds of friends for granted. It’s easy to just assume that because these folks are always there for us they will always be there. Because they have been our support system that they will always be our support system, because they have listened and loved us as we ranted and raved they will always listen and love us when we rant and rave. We all have been blessed with someone who has in the past shown wonderful support and we are guilty for just taking them for granted.

Today I want you to take a few moments and think about the people in your life who have stuck by you and supported you in difficult times. Maybe it’s your spouse, maybe it’s a family member, maybe you have a friend who has been there in the tough times of your life. Today is a great day to show them a little appreciation; send them a card, buy them a cup of coffee or a glass of tea, or just look them in the eyes and tell them how much you appreciate the fact that day after day, year after year they just show up. It will make all the difference in your relationship, and make your bond stronger.

We can say Thank You for their Acceptance

Paul writes; You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. Acceptance is one of those things that we all long for, and at times are reluctant to give. Wanting to be accepted is why toddlers want to be picked up, children have best friends, teenagers pick the clothes they wear and adults act like they do.

Brené Brown addresses this when she says, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me” is its own kind of hustle. We all care about what someone thinks, we all long for acceptance. 

We are not talking about fitting in; fitting in is the opposite of acceptance. We were created to belong, Jesus died on a cross to establish a church body where we could belong. Fitting in is when we figure out what people are looking for, what they want, and then we change to fit that mold. Fitting in is, here is what I should say, here is how I should dress, here is how I should think, here is what I shouldn’t say, here’s what I can’t talk about; that’s fitting in.

But acceptance, that’s a deeper more loving and compassionate relationship. It’s bringing who you were created to be, and embracing the good and the bad. True acceptance does not require you to change who you are, it requires you to be who God created you to be.   

Some of us have wasted a lifetime trying to change our spouse, children, parents, employer or friends. We want them to fit into our normal, our likes, our preferences. 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 if you try to change them, you will go to bed every night angry.

I think God has the greatest sense of humor, and it has nothing to do with the way a platypus looks. Have you ever noticed that God rarely allows people who agree to fail in love? Actually more often than not people who are the exact opposite are the ones who are attracted and drawn to each other. I know that has been true in my own marriage, I can’t remember how many times Trista and I argued early in our marriage trying to straighten the other one out.

Even now when we get cross with one another, it’s because we are trying to make the other fit in, and have forgotten the gift of acceptance and belonging. I still forget at times that I can’t 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 full. I go, What glass? Drink from the bottle! We've had to learn that the only way to thrive is to accept and appreciate our differences. 

So today who has welcomed and accepted you into their lives. Who has said, I see you, the real you, the good and the bad, your successes and failures, and you don’t have to fit in, you are accepted. If you have someone like that in your life, then you need to thank them and appreciate them. If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, then you need to strive to be that for others. 

Finally, We can say Thank You for others’ good efforts

My parents used to tell me that it’s not the gift but the thought that counts. Maybe you have heard that as well. It’s true, the gift says an awful lot about how we are valued. When Trista and I got married, someone gave us a gift, it was a hideous flower arrangement filled with magnolia flowers, prickly holly leaves, red berries, and a few fake birds. When I pulled out the card and saw who it was from, I was surprised that they even remembered I was getting married. But it is the gift that counts right?

It wasn’t until after we got home that I found the other card, it was from the person who gave it to them at their wedding two months earlier. We had been regifted, and in the spirit of regifting we passed it along to someone we didn’t know very well. I like to imagine that the floral arrangement is still being regifted from person to person and one of my boys will receive it at their wedding shower. 

What I have learned is I really want someone to think so highly of me that they make sure everything they do for me is perfect. But I also realized that rarely happens. I mean the things I do for myself rarely turn out perfect, so why should I expect that from you. Maybe it is true that the thought and the effort is the most important thing. At least that’s the attitude Paul shows to the church in Philippi.

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.

As the boys have entered the world of dating, I have tried to teach them things that are non negotiable. For example, when you are in a relationship with someone you must understand that cards are important. Now I have been married for a long time and Trista has civilized and trained me a bit. I know that when you give me a present I need to read the card first. But that’s not how guys usually work; we want to move past the card and 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. CARDS ARE VERY IMPORTANT, and what is written in the card is of utmost importance! Paul’s letter was a tangible means of expressing just how much he loved them.

Finally it was a recurring habit Paul had developed.

"I always pray for all of you" Verse 4 This was not a one time thing, but a habit in Paul’s life. 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.

If you want peace in your home find a tangible way to appreciate every person in your family. 

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

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, 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, since He first gave Himself for me.

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