In EverythingSeries: Thankful For. James Dewhurst November 1, 2020
There are 13 letters or books in the Bible from Paul in the New Testament (assuming he didn’t write Hebrews) and in 9 of them, he specifically gives thanks for the recipients of each letter. So what did Paul appreciate so much in his churches? What in these congregations prompted him to give thanks to God? If you read the introductions to his letters carefully, you’ll find that Paul’s gratitude can be divided into six categories:
1. He was thankful for their faith in Christ! (Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, 1, 2 Thessalonians, Philemon).
2. He was thankful for their love for other believers! (Ephesians, Colossians, 1, 2 Thessalonians, Philemon).
3. He was thankful for their loyalty, especially in trials! (1, 2 Thessalonians).
4. He was thankful for their spiritual gifts for the church! (1 Corinthians).
5. He was thankful for their investment in the gospel! (Philippians).
6. He was thankful for their willingness to work together! (2 Timothy).
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. (ESV)
Do you realize that that the entire purpose for Paul’s letter to the Colossians was to wake them up, because they were believing false teachings about Jesus (Another gospel), they were easily influenced, and were continuing to live in old sin patterns?
The Colossian Christians had plenty of issues, but Paul was thankful regardless!
> You need to be thankful for your job… regardless!
> You need to be thankful for your spouse… regardless!
> You need to be thankful for your children… regardless!
> You need to be thankful for your circumstances… regardless!
*Most people don’t have a people problem, they have a perspective problem!*
Listen again to verse 3: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you…”
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (ESV)
One of the greatest myths about being thankful, is that it is reserved for seasons of peace and prosperity. When everything is going good, people become thankful!
But Paul shatters this theory by choosing to be thankful even when he was in chains!
Paul’s transcendent attitude regarding thankfulness was a choice, not a circumstance!
It’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy!
If you ask, people could rattle off in record speed the number of things they wish would change or improve in their lives, and in our world. We all have wishes and wants, but the Real question is, are they blinding us from our blessings? Are we just as quick to name all of the good things God has given us, as we are all of the things we wish were different? The truth is, constant complaints don’t bring about good, they only prevent us from seeing the good. Are we counting our blessings, or piling up our complaints?
A wise person said – “Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.”
Someone else said – “Someone, somewhere else in the world, is happy with less than you have.”
A wise person said – “Thankfulness has the power to turn poverty into riches.”
2020 has certainly been a year where there are so many things to complain about, but there is always something to be thankful for! (Grateful hearts are magnets for miracles!)
> When pastors are thankful for their churches, miracles will happen in their churches!
> When spouses are thankful for their spouses, miracles will happen in their spouses!
> When people are thankful in their problems, miracles will happen to their problems!
> When parents are thankful for their children, miracles will happen in their children!
20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (ESV)
1 Thessalonians 5:18
18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (ESV)
GOD’S WILL IS RARELY EASY, BUT IT IS ALWAYS GOOD!
While it is clear that Christians are to be thankful, the greatest challenge is knowing what we should be thankful for. Are we supposed to be thankful for every single thing that happens? No! It would make absolutely no sense to thank God for evil would it? There’s a big difference between being thankful “for” things and being thankful “in” things. I’m not thankful for a virus that has taken 200,000 lives, but I can be thankful for God’s protection, God’s provision, and God’s promises. I may not be thankful for some Christians who have decided that it’s safe to travel all over the place and have all of the fun in the world, but still haven’t returned to church because it’s still unsafe. (If it’s safe enough for you to go to Nordstrom, then it’s safe enough for you to come get your praise on! If it’s safe enough to take your kids to Children’s Place, then it should be safe enough to take your kids to Children’s class!… just saying!) But I can be thankful for all of the amazing people who are faithfully watching and attending every week. What Paul was teaching us, is that we are to be thankful for the good things, even in hard times. In other words, it is entirely possible to be thankful in everything, without being thankful for everything.
(In everything we can give thanks!)
Yes, life is tough, and yes this has been a hard year. But, we must be careful that our worries, wishes and wants aren’t blinding us from our blessings. The entire context of the book of Ephesians focuses on blessings that come from God. Paul reminds us of God’s unearned grace 12 times, God’s unconditional love 14 times, and God’s spiritual riches 4 times. We’ve been forgiven from our sins! We are the righteousness of God! We have an eternal home in heaven! Don’t let the temporary blind you from the enteral!
In O.T. times, the people of God would often sing songs like this one in: 1 Chronicles 16:34 “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Thankfulness needs to become our spiritual weapon of choice! The Bible tells us that as the ark of God was being brought into Solomon’s newly constructed temple, something happened:
2 Chronicles 5:13-14
13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God. (ESV)
Thankfulness is a spiritual weapon that changes 3 things in every circumstance:
1. It changes hearts!
(Medical research shows that thankfulness improves the heart!)
Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… And be thankful.”
2. It changes feelings!
(Gratitude releases dopamine, that makes people feel better!)
Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
3. It changes expectations!
(Thankful people start expecting good instead of bad!)
Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
A Grateful Heart opens the door for God to perform miracles In Everything!
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