Some things that we take for granted are nevertheless of the greatest importance in our lives. We so quickly get used to what is good and helpful. But are we truly grateful for that too?
During this season of Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the many blessings God bestows on us, not just during this time of year, but every day of our lives. Our thankfulness as people is deeply connected to our ability to see our dependence on God and the people whom God has placed in our lives. There exists one group of people in particular that God wants us to be especially thankful for: our spiritual family (His church). We see this kind of thankfulness in the actions and words of the Apostle Paul. Of his thirteen letters included within the New Testament, Paul begins ten of them by expressing his thanksgiving to God for his brothers and sisters in the Lord. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul thanks God for four things that God had done for, or through, the believers in Corinth.
Paul begins by thanking God for the greatest gift the Corinthians received from Him: grace. He says in verse 4, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” It is natural and important for every Christian to thank God for the grace that he has personally received in Christ. Yet, Paul went a step further and thanked God for the grace that His spiritual brothers and sisters received. Scripture says in Luke 15:10 that the angels rejoice over every soul that is saved. If the angels rejoice, God’s children have even greater reason to celebrate when a brother or sister has been added to their family. I imagine churches today would look very different if all of God’s children would invest more time thanking Him for one another.
Secondly, Paul was thankful for the spiritual gifts that the Corinthians had received from Him. He writes in verse 5, I thank my God… “that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge.” He continues this thought in verse 7a, “so that you come short in no gift.” According to Paul, the believers in Corinth were gifted in various ways and he thanked God for that. Being thankful for the gifts of others is beneficial to all believers. It helps prevent Christians from becoming jealous of the gifts of others, and from becoming proud of their own spiritual gifts. Along with thanking God for the gifts that fellow Christians have received, it’s also important that Christians pray for one another, that God would help His children use their gifts correctly and for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Paul elaborates on this thought in 1 Corinthians 12. He reminds the believers in verse 7, that spiritual gifts are the manifestation of the Spirit “given to each one for the profit of all.”
Thirdly, Paul thanks God for the testimony of the believers in Corinth. He says in verse 6, that “the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.” The testimony of believers is displayed through the Holy Spirit’s working and leading in their lives. Hebrews 2:3-4 states, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” By observing the lives of the believers in Corinth, it was clear to Paul that they had accepted Christ and His teachings. Obviously, there were issues within the local church at Corinth, but there were also those who truly loved God and were filled with the Spirit. When Paul thought of these Christians, he thanked God for their good testimony.
Lastly, Paul thanked God for those of the Corinthians who were “eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 7b). These Christians not only lived exemplary lives, they lived each day as if it were the last. Paul, in his letter to Titus, describes what such a life looks like: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Living a life ready for the Lord’s return not only includes a life of holiness, but of faithful and joyful service (Matthew 24:45-46). The Corinthians wanted the Lord to find them diligently working when He returned, and Paul was thankful for their eagerness and preparedness for that day.
As children of God, we have so many reasons to be thankful. God bountifully provides for all of our daily physical and spiritual needs. Perhaps one God-given gift that is too often overlooked and not thanked for enough is our spiritual family. Paul thanked God every time he thought of his brothers and sisters in Christ from the various congregations. When we think of our church family, do thoughts of thanksgiving to God fill our hearts? We thank God for the grace we have received, but have we thanked God for the salvation of those who serve and worship alongside us? We thank God for the gifts He has given us, but are we just as thankful for the gifts that others have received? We thank God for helping us live victorious lives, but should we not thank Him when we see our brothers and sisters live victoriously as well? We thank God that we can be ready for His return, but should we not thank God for those who are just as ready and eager for that Final Day as we are? When Paul thought of His spiritual family, he thanked God for them. How different our lives would be if we had to serve God alone. Let us thank God for one another, and the opportunity to serve Him together during this lifetime, and all eternity.