Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 26, 2013

Roses in December

As I have been thinking about Thanksgiving this week, my thoughts turned to one of my favorite books of the Bible — Philippians. The Apostle Paul founded the church in Philippi while on his second missionary journey. This was the first church started in Europe. Its charter members were an Asian businesswoman, a Greek slave-girl, and a Roman jailor.

Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is something of a missionary Thank You letter, although the letter contains far more than Paul’s expression of thanksgiving. The occasion for the thanks was a special love offering that the Philippians had sent to Paul. This letter differs from Paul’s other letters in that he was not writing to establish doctrine or to correct errors in belief or practice, but to express his gratitude and affection to his friends.

One of the best gifts in life is the power of memory. At the start of his letter, Paul wrote: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3). Our memory can be a special storehouse out of which we can draw encouragement in times of distress and need. Someone said that “God gave us memory so that we can have roses in December.” And indeed, the Philippians were “roses in December” for the Apostle Paul.

What were Paul’s memories of Philippi? According to Acts 16 we might conclude that Paul’s memories of his time at Philippi ought to produce sorrow rather than joy. It was in Philippi that Paul was illegally arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and humiliated. But those memories caused Paul to rejoice and give thanks, for it was through his ministry and suffering that Lydia, the slave-girl, and the jailor came to faith in Christ.

Paul’s thanksgiving in verse 3 led to the prayer of verse 4: “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” Whenever memory brought the Philippians to mind Paul prayed for them with gratitude and joy. And whenever Paul was on his knees in prayer, memory brought his friends before him. Notice also the use of the word “joy” in verse 4. This is the first mention of this little word that Paul used repeatedly throughout his letter.

Years ago I heard a story of a nurse who taught a man to pray and in so doing changed his life. She taught him to pray using her hands as a pattern of prayer. Each finger stood for someone. Her thumb was nearest to her, and it reminded her to pray for those who were closest to her. The second finger was used for pointing and it stood for all her teachers in school and in the hospital. The third finger was the tallest and it stood for the V.I.P.s, the leaders in every sphere of life. The fourth finger was the weakest, as every pianist knows, and it stood for those who were in trouble and in pain. The little finger was the smallest and the least important and to the nurse it stood for herself.

Like the Apostle Paul, may we experience the joy of praying for those who are near us, those who have taught us, those who lead us, those who need us, and ourselves.

Finally, in verse 5, Paul stated that the specific occasion for his thanksgiving and joy was the participation of the Philippians in the furtherance of the gospel. The word “participation” is also translated “fellowship” or “sharing.” The good people of the Philippian church had cooperated with Paul in proclaiming the good news. The church not only supported Paul’s work with their financial gifts but with their prayers and concern as well.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the people of Kingsland, my church family. Thinking of you fills my own heart with joy and gratitude. I am grateful for your participation in the gospel and for your support of every initiative to proclaim God’s glory among the nations. I love you and thank God for you. You are indeed like “roses in December” to me. Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. I enjoyed the story of the nurse and her hand illustration. Thank you for reminding everyone that our fourth finger is the weakest. But it could also remind those of us who are married to pray for our spouses. Not because they are weak, haha, but because of the promise of the ring on the fourth finger. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Love this prayer illustration. Thanks for the thought about using the fourth finger as a reminder to pray for our spouses. Very good. Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Wonderful. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Don. Miss you and your family. Happy Thanksgiving.

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