Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord Always
“The Grateful Athlete…” is a blog written by John Haime, a former professional golfer, now turned Human Performance Coach. Haime states his intent as helping others perform like world-class athletes by tapping into the “10% that makes 90% of the difference”. In this blog on gratitude he lists some characteristics of grateful athletes. According to Haime, grateful athletes: 1) Appreciate what they have (others make excuses and don’t appreciate opportunities); 2) Are grateful for competitors (they realize competitors can bring out the best in them); 3) Appreciate the journey and the struggle (despite them, they continue to move forward); 4) “Sweep the Shed” (humbly appreciate everyone around them); 5) Enjoy pressure (recognize the incredible opportunity to demonstrate their skills); 6) Do not rely on winning (are focussed on a great process and great competition); and finally, 7) Let go (enjoy time away from practice and competition). Why is gratefulness so important for an athlete? Haime explains that “research has linked the emotion of gratitude to better overall physical and mental health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression”.
Today’s scripture comes from a letter written by the Apostle Paul while he was imprisoned in a Roman jail cell. The church in Philippi had sent him a gift and had stated their concern for a fellow worker Epaphroditus who had become sick. Paul wrote his letter to the church to express his gratitude for their love and help. In Philippians 4:2-3 he specifically mentions a disagreement between two ladies in the church, Euodia and Syntyche, whom we hear had “contended at [Paul’s] side in the cause of the gospel”. He encourages them to agree with each other and for others in the church to help them to that end. Interestingly, immediately after that, he pens the well-known verse: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” (vs. 4).
What does rejoicing have to do with reconciling? Well it is very difficult to rejoice if you don’t first start with thinking about things to be grateful for. Research about the human body and mental health never invents something new, it simply uncovers what God already created. Over 2,000 years ago God revealed to Paul the power of gratitude. By encouraging these two ladies and the Philippi church (and us today) to focus on what they are to be grateful for, an almost supernatural process begins which leads to better physical and mental health. Not surprisingly, this verse leads to today’s most popular verse in the Bible. A few years back, Amazon released data on the most highlighted verse on the Kindle Bible and it was Philippians 4: 6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I am not surprised that the most popular Bible verse deals with anxiety, because it is chronic today. Paul realized that the solution to dealing with our anxiety is to go to the Lord, but it is interesting to note that he specified that we must come “with thanksgiving”. When we come with a thankful, grateful heart, we have already taken the first step towards healing. While we often have very little control over our circumstances, we do control the decision of our attitude. Will we choose to come with grumbling and complaining and a “woe is me attitude”, or will we choose to come with a grateful heart? Rejoice in the Lord Always!