“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3 NKJV).
As I go back through some of the pictures I have taken over the past 30 years of traveling in other countries, many memories come to mind. Some are of events. Many have to do with places I have been to and seen. Most of those memories, however, are of people whom I have encountered. These vary from near-hostile confrontations to casual business dealings and to deep and abiding friendships and fellowship in Christ.
As Paul wrote to the church in Philippi he began with a tremendous compliment to each member. Paraphrased in more contemporary English he said, “Every time I think about you I thank God.” That simple statement demands that we reflect on our memories and ask, “How many times do I reflect on those whom I know and feel such appreciation for them and for their impact on my life?”
Sadly, we are often prone to dwell on negative experiences and on complaints and criticisms of others. We harbor grudges and resentments. We spend time thinking about those who have harmed us rather than those who have offered help. If we are sick and hospitalized we talk about the many church members who did not come to see us rather than those few who did. If we are honest we, unlike Paul, might have to say, “When I remember you I get angry.” That is almost certainly more of a statement about us rather than those whom we remember.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippian Christians continues: “Always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:4-5).
The Apostle’s memories of his beloved Philippian converts included, in addition to gratitude, joy for their fellowship with him and optimism for their continued faithfulness to Christ. Should we not seek to focus our memories and associations upon those who provoke in us the same emotions.
Yes, there is much evil in this world. There are many people of bad character and behavior. These impact us and create challenges and obstacles that may seem difficult to overcome. But never forget that there is also much good in this world, and people who love us and wish us only good. Let us focus on these, remembering the good they have done for us and giving God the credit and the thanks for their involvement in our lives.
Let us remember those people who make us happy and grateful and about whose future we feel confident. Let us also strive to be the kind of people who provoke those kinds of memories in others.