Gratitude Is An Attitude
A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary.
Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to ‘clean up’ the bird’s vocabulary.
Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even more rude. John, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.
Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arms and said “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior.”
John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude.
As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird spoke-up, very softly, “May I ask what the turkey did?”1
Like that simple joke, there are times when we can circumstances can kill an attitude of gratitude. We see one circumstance unfolding in the church of Philippi and addressed in this letter. Paul lists five gratitude killers. You might look at this like a family reunion at Thanksgiving dinner. Some families dread these meetings because of the disruption can happen. Well, we are looking at a church family that is getting ready to meet again and they have a problem that needs to be addressed.
FIVE GRATITUDE KILLERS THAT CAN RUIN YOUR ATTITUDE
Gratitude Killer #1 – Distraction (Philippians 4:1)
“So then, my dearly loved and longed for brothers and sisters, my joy and crown, in this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.” (Philippians 4:1, CSB)
Paul tells the church of Philippi to “stand firm.” This is another term for being unified. But what was causing the disunity? There was a distraction going on in the church. Distractions can eat up the unity in the church. In this case, the distraction was a disagreement over something. We are never told exactly what the disagreement is. In other letters, like the letters to the church at Corinth, we are told of a variety of problems. Here, though, the problem that causes the disagreement and distraction is not addressed by Paul. But it was serious enough that Paul named names.
Gratitude Killer #2 – Entitlement (Philippians 4:2-3)
“I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2–3, CSB)
Four groups had developed over a disagreement in the church. As in many situations, there are usually two groups who disagree with one another.
We have absolutely no idea what the problem was between Euodia and Syntyche. However, based on the fact that Paul does not provide direct correction or take a side, it seems clear that the problem was not a doctrinal or moral issue.2
One feels they are entitled to their opinion. They feel that their opinion matters more than anyone else. Whatever the disagreement was, it was a serious one.
FOUR FACTIONS THAT DEVELOPED IN THE CHURCH
3. Middle group
This was possibly this companion that Paul addresses – the peacemaker in the process. It is possible that this is a name that means companion, therefore Paul would be addressing a man named Syzygos. But it is more probable that this person is a man who is in the middle of this disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche. Who is this person? No one really knows. It could have been one of the elders of the church. It could have been a husband to one of the two women in the middle of this dispute. It could have been a friend of Clement mentioned later. It was probably a close friend of Paul. If so, then it could have been Silas, Timothy, Barnabus, Epaphroditus, or even someone else not mentioned (such as Luke3).
The point is not the person, but the principle. In this case, the person was asked to mediate this dispute.
4. “Clueless Ones”
There is a fourth group in the church. These are the “clueless ones.” They have no clue what is going on . Paul does not address the error in his letter. Whoever this companion is, s/he is there to help these people to “sweetly” disagree. Just as in marriage, the partnership in the church is more important than the issue. This section of the letter brings up the importance of working together to work out our differences.
Gratitude Killer #3 – Disappointment (Philippians 4:4)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, CSB)
Why would Paul tell the church to rejoice after he addresses a personal conflict? When you have conflict or disagreements, and they don’t get resolved, the circumstance can leave you disappointed. It can really be a gratitude killer. You become less thankful because you are so disappointed. This leads to the next gratitude killer:
Gratitude Killer #4 – Unkindness (Philippians 4:5)
“Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5, CSB)
Paul is trying to cheer this church up. The distraction that caused so much difficulty that the people were feeling discouraged and disappointed. This disappointment can easily lead someone to be unkind. You know how grouchy someone can get when they are discouraged and disappointed. So Paul reminds the people to be kind.
“Don’t worry about anything…” (Philippians 4:6, CSB)
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6, CSB)
Thanksgiving is essential to personal magnetism. The famous stress researcher Hans Seyle claims that two attitudes more than any other influence the quality of everyday life, and on these two emotions “depend our peace of mind, our feelings of security or insecurity, of fulfillment or frustration, in short, the extent to which we can make a success of life.” The most destructive emotion is revenge. But in contrast, “among all the emotions, there is one which more than any other, accounts for the absence or presence of stress in human relations: that is the feeling of gratitude.”
Mike McAdams of Nashville, Tennessee, visited his wife Cheryl in the intensive care unit of the hospital. “How is she?” an anxious friend asked as he exited her unit.
“It’s touch and go,” Mike replied. “She recognized me. We prayed together and held hands. And then we quoted the passage about thanksgiving in the book of James that says, ‘Consider it joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds …’ ”
“You know,” he added, “it’s impossible to be anxious and thankful at the same time.”4
If you are to receive joy in the situation, you have to let go of the conflict, the disagreements, and the worry.
but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Gratitude is an attitude. When you relate with others, it helps to have a healthy dose of gratitude. Paul doesn’t name what the conflict is. This means that what the argument was, didn’t really matter. It wasn’t worth getting worried about and losing your joy. Instead, it was more important to take the matter to prayer and then be thankful. I don’t think that Paul needed to name the problem that caused the conflict because it was not important. These two women were making a mountain out of a molehill. It was more important that Paul show them that they had more to be thankful for, than what they thought they needed to be right about. Instead of arguing to find out who is wrong and who is right, we need to be more thankful about what God has done for us. You know, praying about the conflict can lead you to be more thankful and less spiteful.
This applies not just in the church, but also in families and other circumstances. You may be saying: “Why is thankfulness the key?” Because thankfulness is the opposite of worry. It is the way to peace and a positive outlook. We see three direct results of having an attitude of gratitude.
THREE RESULTS OF AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
leads to peaceful and positive outlook
We see in this section that peace and a positive outlook are the result of the attitude of gratitude. When you are thankful, you look at things differently. Notice that peace surrounds the positive outlook. Peace comes from God in verse 7 and it ends this section in verse 9. In between these two forms of peace are the positive results of thankfulness.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7, CSB)
Instead of worry, one can be thankful and have peace. The peace of God can protect your mind and heart. It has a soothing effect.
2. Positive Self-Talk
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, CSB)
Many people look at this verse and suggest that this self-talk is a command, an instruction. That is one way to see this verse, if in isolation. However, I believe that it flows from the attitude that Paul is suggesting in these verses. Thankfulness leads to peace and this peace leads to positive attitudes that result in positive actions.
3. Positive Role-Modeling
“Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9, CSB)
The positive self-talk leads to a positive attitude that allows for positive results. This thankfulness, peace, and positive attitude is to be passed down to others. Notice first that the “peace of God” in verse 7 helps to bring about the positive self-talk. Here, when one has the right attitude that comes from right learning, it leads to the “God of peace.”
Do you want to experience better relationships with other people? Do you want to see peace in your life? Remember:
but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Because gratitude is an attitude!
1 Jim Erwin, “Joel 2:21-27 Attitude of Gratitude,” 5 December 2012, Internet, Patheos, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2012/12/05/joel-221-27-attitude-of-gratitude/, accessed on 17 November 2017.
2 Steven E. Runge, High Definition Commentary: Philippians (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2011), Php 4:1–7.
3 Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 395.