1 Thess. 5:12-22
Randy Jacoby, pastor
First Baptist Church, Folkston
Let’s recapture the spirit of Thanksgiving.
Someone needs to. The world skips Thanksgiving Day and goes straight from Halloween to Christmas, but the issue goes deeper.
Thankfulness, or gratitude, is not about a day. When we follow Jesus, He calls for a gratitude that goes beyond a moment in time. He calls us to a gratitude that becomes a way of life.
Thankfulness, or gratefulness, is not limited having stuff, or family, or even good health. Following Jesus moves us beyond thanking God for only the things the gentiles seek after (Matt 6:32). Following Jesus allows us to live in gratitude even in the seasons of poverty, loss, grief, trial, and other hardships common to life in this fallen world.
In this week’s scripture passage, Paul presents three often overlooked reasons for Christians to be grateful. When the believer embraces these as foundations for gratitude, it can survive and flourish in hardship. We can then live in gratitude.
Gratitude for the investment others make in our lives
1 Thess. 5:12-13
In verses 12-13, Scripture calls us to recognize those who labor for us, lead us, and admonish us. Appreciate their current service. Be grateful for the faithful ministry in the past. Even if current circumstances are difficult, walk in gratitude because other believers have invested previously. Their faithful work may have equipped us to endure our present challenges.
Some may respond “That’s not true! I don’t have people like that.” This is reality for many today, but it is not the Lord’s design. His design is for believers to connect in meaningful spiritually edifying relationships.
Some lack relationships because they fail to engage in healthy church life. Others lack these critically important relationships because unhealthy churches do not facilitate them. Even if you have never had anyone pour into you this way, seek a faithful group of believers who will begin to uphold you starting now.
If your church is not being a place and a people of refuge, what are you waiting for? There is world desperate for you to become one. Become the reason some are able to live in gratitude.
Some need to seek a church! Others need to be the Church.
Gratitude based on partnering with God
1 Thess. 5:14-15
Believers can also live in gratitude when we prioritize God’s people and God’s work.
When we focus on prospering in this life, our gratitude is dependent on the state of our well-being. If, however, we focus on the well-being of fellow believers and on advancing the kingdom, we can be thankful for the opportunities to partner with God, despite personal hardships.
Paul challenged the Thessalonian believers to patiently engage fellow Christians who had become idle, discouraged, and weak (verses 14-15). He called them to “pursue what is good for one another and for all.”
Pursuing the well-being of others has a way of turning us beyond self-focus to loving service. Love has a way of restoring and unleashing struggling believers back into life and ministry. Love has a way of awakening gratefulness.
When we partner with Christ in this work, we’ll never run out of opportunities.
1 Thess. 5: 16-22
God desires the church to walk in a pattern of joy, prayer, and gratefulness in all things (verses 16-18). Becoming grateful is not a destination. Gratefulness is to characterize the journey.
Living in gratitude is possible because Jesus is always the Good Shepherd. He guides, instructs, provides, and calls us to kingdom work.
When pursuing prosperity distracts us, gratefulness flees. Likewise, comparisons between our lives and the lives of others destroys gratefulness. In becoming obsessed that someone else has more, we never remember that many have less.
Living in gratitude is the will of God for us because it honors our Lord. It is good for us and for those we serve. Peter says that in Christ, we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). When we walk in this truth, we can live in gratitude when we have and when we do not. When we live in gratitude, we recapture the spirit of Thanksgiving.