It’s easy for me to be grateful for people who model faith, demonstrate love, and live intentionally for God. I love being around people like that. I love praying for people like that. I want to be people like that!
But then there are the others. The ones who are half-hearted in their walks with God, who repeat the same tired sins, those who always seem to be in crises of their own making. I don’t always feel grateful when praying for them.
These thoughts surfaced when I was reading 1 Thessalonians a few weeks ago. In typical Paul fashion, Paul opened his letter with thanks and praise.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ … You welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia … your faith in God has become known everywhere. (1:2-8, emphasis added)
These Thessalonians were amazing by any measure. Sign me up! I want to be prayer partners with people like that!
But even as I pondered Paul’s joy over these faithful, loving, hopeful Christians, something inside me protested: Hey, wait a minute, Paul. Anyone can thank God for model Christ followers. But what about the rest? Did you ooze thanksgiving for the ones who weren’t doing well? Like the Corinthians, for example?
The church at Corinth, I recalled, was a mess. They practiced immorality. They were divisive. Their worship services were chaotic. They didn’t follow through on their financial commitments. They misused their spiritual gifts. They snubbed the poor. They were, in short, a pastor’s nightmare.
So I turned to 1 Corinthians to see whether Paul expressed gratitude for these self-centered believers. Would he flatter them with false praise? Would he brush over the thanksgiving part and move into much-needed correction?
No, and no. Paul was thankful for them too. But notice what he was grateful for:
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way … Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:4-8)
When it came to the Corinthians, Paul’s gratitude centered entirely on God. God gave them grace. Jesus enriched them in every way. The Holy Spirit gave them abundant spiritual gifts, and God would keep them firm to the end.
Paul couldn’t commend the Corinthians’ faith or obedience. But he could thank and show confidence in God who saved, equipped, and promised to keep these floundering, struggling people.
So what do I take away?
I think God is challenging me to express more gratitude for all the believers on my prayer list. I want to notice His work in the ones who are living faithfully, thank Him for it, and find ways to affirm that in them.
And for the ones who are not walking as closely with God, I want to remember that He is still at work in them. Through Jesus, He worked to save them, and through His Spirit, He continues to pour out His mercy and grace on them. He has good purposes for them, and He is able to accomplish them. Those are
What do you think? Aren’t those reasons to be thankful?