NOTE: This is a condensed excerpt from my forthcoming (2014) commentary on Philippians.
Paul’s Spirit-prompted reflex whenever his thoughts turn to the Philippians is gratefulness to God. Gratefulness to God is an important manifestation of the Spirit’s work in a person’s life. Gratitude recognizes our indebtedness to God and our dependence upon him; as such it is contrary to our natural bent towards self-sufficiency and thinking we deserve more than we have. The Psalms frequently call God’s people to give thanks to him for a variety of things: his wonderful deeds (9:1; 26:7; 107:8), his character (28:7; 52:9; 75:1; 106:1; 107:1), and his salvation (18:50; 118:21) just to name a few. In his description of human rebellion against God Paul highlights ingratitude as a central feature (Rom 1:21); such ingratitude led to a darkening of the mind/heart and resulted in idolatry. Elsewhere Paul calls believers to be grateful in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:18), which is possible only when the believer recognizes behind every circumstance the wise and sovereign hand of a loving God working all things together for the good of his people and the glory of his name (Rom 8:28; 11:36). Gratitude to God is an essential aspect of contentment. Our sinful hearts that always crave more work together with a world that encourages us to focus on what we do not have rather than on what we do have to make us ungrateful and prompt us to demand what we think we deserve. The Spirit, however, works against this to provoke a growing sense of gratitude towards God; after all, “what do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7).