In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom, Huck Finn, and Joe Harper slinked off for a few days away without telling anyone. Back home, their distraught loved ones assumed they had drowned, so they held a funeral. The boys—being boys—sneaked back into town and watched the funeral from the rafters of the church. There they enjoyed hearing the good things that were said about them.

A friend of mine took to heart the idea of telling people the good they had done in life—not waiting for their funeral service to do it. He wrote “eulogies” for several friends as birthday gifts. The response was exceedingly positive.

The apostle Paul understood the value of genuine praise and encouragement. He began most of his letters by building up his intended audience. In his letter to the Philippians, he called them “my partners in spreading the good news about Christ from the time you first heard it until now” (Philippians 1:5). He expressed confidence that they would be “standing together with one spirit and one purpose” (Philippians 1:27). He spoke of their “faithful service” (Philippians 2:17) and called them “my joy and . . . crown” (Philippians 4:1). He praised them for their generous financial support of his ministry (Philippians 4:10-19).

All this praise was couched in the context of a faith and unity deeply rooted in Jesus. Paul said, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6). This will result in “the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ,” which in turn “will bring much glory and praise to God” (Philippians 1:11).

Those of us who follow Christ are “dead to . . . sin” (Romans 6:11). Paul made his life a vibrant eulogy of gratitude to God. We can too.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Exodus 15:22-27; 17:1-7