The book of Philippians is Paul’s “Thank You Note” for the gift they had sent him while in prison at Rome for preaching the gospel.
Dale Carnegie, in his best seller, How to Win Friends & Influence People, followed Paul’s example in chapter two. The principle from chapter two is: Give honest and sincere appreciation.
Abraham Lincoln, like the apostle Paul, introduced a letter, “Everybody likes a compliment.” Philosopher William James said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
One of the first persons in American business to be paid a salary of over a million dollars a year (when fifty dollars a week was considered well off) was Charles Schwab. He had been picked by Andrew Carnegie to become the first president of the newly formed United States Steel Company in 1921, when Schwab was only thirty-eight years old. Why did Andrew Carnegie pay a million dollars a year, or more than three thousand dollars a day, to Charles Schwab? Because Schwab was a genius? No. Because he knew more about the manufacture of steel than other? Nonsense. Charles Schwab had many men working for him who knew more about the manufacture of steel than he did. Schwab says that he was paid this salary largely because of his ability to deal with people.
Schwab said, “So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise” (Dale Carnegie. How To Win Friends & Influence People. Pocket Books: New York, 1982, 9, 19).
So was Paul. In his “Thank You Note” We learn
1. To Give Thanks by Thinking on the Positives (1:3-5)
Paul gave the same compliment to the Colossians (1:3); the Thessalonians (1:2); the Corinthians (1:4); the Romans (1:8). When these believers were mentioned to Paul, he disciplined himself to thank God for them.
Were the Philippians perfect? Of course not. Paul has to rebuke two disgruntled members in 4:2. But Paul did not dwell on people’s imperfections but their strengths. Pray giving thanks for the good people do! This is what Paul does in 1:3-5. Paul praised Timothy in 2:19-24. Paul praised Epaphroditus in 2:25-30.
How can we follow Paul’s example? Sons and daughters thank your parents for some sacrifice they have made for you. Maybe just working hard each week to provide you with food and clothing.
Parents thank your children. If you ask your child to take out the garbage and he did without complaining or back talking, thank him.
Church members take some time and thank or write a thank you note to your deacons, Sunday School teachers, ushers, nursery workers, children church workers, AWANA workers, Youth Workers, Sound people, singers and musicians, committee volunteers, church secretary, or church treasurer.
Not only can we learn from Paul’s Thank You Note to give thanks by thinking on the positives in people but we can learn to
2. To Give Thanks by Cultivating Gratitude (4:1-8)
A. Gratitude has to be cultivated because it is natural to be negative and critical (4:1-2). Paul had to rebuke two church members who were doing what came naturally.
It is easy to focus on the mistakes of others, criticize, and gossip. Paul warned these two church members of this danger. These attitudes destroy unity. “Be of the same mind.” These attitudes discourage. Criticism and gossip hurt the hurting.
Dale Carnegie cited a study once made on runaway wives, what do you think was discovered to be the main reason wives ran away It was lack of appreciation. These attitudes are self righteous. “The Pharisees found fault” as if they had no faults. The Pharisees criticized the disciples for not washing their hands before they ate. Jesus rebuked them for being hypocrites in Mark 7:1-9. The way we treat others reflects our relationship with God. The Pharisees were hypocritical in their relationship with God and treated people legalistically.
A husband has an argument with his wife and storms out of the house and kicks the sleeping dog on the front porch. The dog had done nothing and still got abused. People not right with God run around kicking people.
B. Gratitude has to be cultivated because it is supernatural to be positive and grateful (4:3-8). Paul gives us the following steps for cultivating gratitude:
1. Turn the negative comments of others to positive v. 3. When they start criticizing, you start praising. Soon they will discover your ear is not a garbage can for their trash talk.
2. Find your joy in the Lord, not people or circumstances which are disappointing v. 4.
3. Be gentle to people v.5. If we are right with God and able to rejoice in the Lord then we will reflect that relationship in treating others with gentleness. You will actually pet Fido and give a bone rather than your boot.
4. Stop fretting because of problems and pray with thanksgiving v.6 and experience God’s peace v.7. Talk to God or pray, rather than to people or gossip. Which do think God will bless? Prayer or gossip?
5. Dwell on the positives of life and people instead of the negative v. 8. Stop expecting life and people to be perfect. There is so much to be thankful for, why not focus on the blessings of God in life.
6. Practice these solutions v. 9. CHANGE!
Dale Carnegie wrote that at one point in his life Abraham Lincoln was a very critical man. “As a young man in the Pigeon Creek Valley of Indiana, he not only criticized but he wrote letters and poems ridiculing people and dropping these letters on the country roads where they were sure to be found. One of these letters aroused resentments that burned for a lifetime. Even after Lincoln had become a practicing lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, he attacked his opponents openly in letters published in the newspaper. But he did this just once too often. In the autumn of 1842 he ridiculed a vain, quarrelsome politician by the name of James Shields. Lincoln lampooned him through an anonymous letter published in the Springfield Journal. The town roared with laughter. Shields, sensitive and proud, boiled with indignation. He found out who wrote the letter, leaped on his horse, started after Lincoln, and challenge him to fight a duel. Lincoln didn’t want to fight. He was opposed to dueling, but he couldn’t get out of it and save his honor. At the last minute the duel was interrupted by urgent business.
That was the most ugly personal incident in Lincoln’s life. It taught him an invaluable lesson in the art of dealing with people Never again did he write an insulting letter. Never again did he ridicule anyone. And from that time on, he almost never criticized anybody of anything.”
JESUS WARNED: “Judge not lest you be judged.” This verse became one of Lincoln’s favorite verses.
Dale Carnegie studied Lincoln for ten years and wrote Lincoln the Unknown. Carnegie wrote about Lincoln’s reaction to his general George Meade’s refusal to defeat Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg when Lee and his army were in retreat and trapped before the swollen Potomac River. General Meade disobeyed Lincoln’s orders to end the war by attacking Lee’s badly wounded army. After Lee escaped, Lincoln was furious and wrote a letter reprimanding Meade. Meade never received the letter. The letter was later found among Lincoln’s personal belongings after Lincoln died.
Carnegie tried to explain why Lincoln did not send the letter. “Just a minute. Maybe I ought not to be so hasty. It is easy enough for me to sit here in the quiet of the White House and order Meade to attack; but if I had been up at Gettysburg, and if I had seen as much blood as Meade has seen during the last wee, and if my ears had been pierced with the screams and shrieks of the wounded and dying, maybe I wouldn’t be so anxious to attach either.” There were over 50,000 causalities in that one three-day battle. Lincoln did not send the letter.
When Lincoln lay dying, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men that the world has ever seen” (Carnegie, 8-12). Lincoln Changed! So can we by thinking on the positives and strengths of others and also we can change by cultivating gratitude as laid out by Paul.
How will people describe us when we are gone? What will be the one sentence epitaph spoken concerning how we treated people?