For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God (1 Thess 3:9)
We just finished the Thanksgiving season here in the United States. During this time we gave thanks for many things. My guess is that many who are reading this blog gave thanks for the grace God has given us in Christ. We gave thanks for eternal life and the spiritual blessings that are ours in Him. During Thanksgiving, no doubt, we gave thanks for our freedoms, for our families, and for the abundance of things that we have—especially food on Thanksgiving Day!
But there is something else that the New Testament says we should give thanks for. It is something that I would guess we often neglect to do. We should give thanks for our church.
In 1 Thessalonians Paul is writing to the church in Thessalonica that he had founded on his second missionary journey. After he left Thessalonica he was concerned because he knew the church there was going through a difficult time due to persecution. He wanted to know how they were doing. Paul sent Timothy to them to find out. Timothy came to Paul with the news.
Timothy told Paul that the believers at Thessalonica were doing well. They were standing firm in the midst of their difficulties (1 Thess 3:8). Paul heard about their “faith” and their “charity” or love towards one another (v. 6). As a result, he gave thanks to God. In verse 10 he says he does so in his prayers to God on an ongoing basis.
In addition, he says that such news about the believers at Thessalonica allowed Paul to “live.” This refers to the abundant life that Jesus says is available to the believer. We would say that because the believers at Thessalonica were doing well spiritually, Paul was “really” living.
So, Paul constantly gives thanks for a church that he is associated with because they are doing well spiritually. In addition, their spiritual condition causes him to have a deeper experience of life.
It seems to me that we usually don’t think that way. All too often, in the United States we look at things in a completely individual way. We concentrate on how we are doing as individual believers. We wonder if we are walking with the Lord as individuals and if we are pleasing Him. When we think we are doing well individually we probably feel a sense of gratitude towards God because of what He is doing in our lives.
But here in 1 Thessalonians we are told we should feel that way when others are doing well. If you are in a church that teaches grace the chances are very high that there are people doing well spiritually. They are growing in their faith. They are showing love towards each other as the living out of grace causes people to do.
When you give thanks to the Lord for what He is doing in your life, give thanks to Him for what He is doing in the lives of others. Notice in verse 9 here that Paul mentions the word “joy” twice. If you are part of such a church, give Him thanks that He has given you the joy of being part of it. That church plays a big part in allowing you to really live.