Is Your Thanksgiving List Complete?
The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. (Acts 28:15)
Paul makes a unique contribution in the Scriptures regarding thanksgiving. No, not the holiday, but the act of giving thanks. Although Paul gave thanks to God, he very often gave thanks for the people God had placed in His life through Christ. Do we have this same, Gospel oriented, gratitude for the people God has placed in our lives?
A quick glance at the many prayers of Paul recorded in his letters reveals a heart overflowing with gratitude for the saints—the individuals who make up the people of God—the holy nation (Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:15-16; Philippians 1:3-5; Colossians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:3). I am not aware of anywhere else in Scripture that we see this kind of overflow to God on behalf of others expressed.
This overflowing gratitude for fellow believers was so evident in Paul’s life that the author of Acts (Luke), makes note of it in Acts 28:15. It is “at the sight of the people” that Paul thanks God and is encouraged. “The people” here are the brothers and sisters, the fellow believers, that had heard he was coming and came to greet him. Had this been me, it may have read, “At the sight of the menu at the Three Taverns, Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” But not Paul. He labored hard, not for bread that perishes (John 6:27), but for people to be saved. People were the end goal of his suffering. Therefore when he sees people who have been saved by the Gospel (in this case not through his own ministry), he is filled with gratitude to God. What one labored diligently for, fills them with gratitude when they see it.
Not only had Paul labored for these people, Christ had suffered in order to save them. It seems that Christ Himself was able to endure suffering because he looked forward to the many who would be saved, as the joy set before Him (Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 12:2).
So on this Thanksgiving Day, while we are making our mental list of things for which we are thankful to God, let’s make sure to include the people God has joined us to in Christ. Let’s put them toward the top of the list. And let’s live our lives laboring and sacrificing for the salvation of those for whom Christ died. This will lead to the same kind of joyous gratitude Paul had.
Join me today in being filled with gratitude and joy before God because of the effective working of God’s grace in those who believe. Join me in being filled with great joy and gratitude at the sight those people of God He has graciously put in our lives, and be encouraged by them.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,