1 Thessalonians 1 v 2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers
We are living in very ungrateful days! We are living in a time when the giving of thanks for some service rendered is more a sign of weakness than of good manners. Politeness has been radically undermined as our society departs further and further from the Gospel influence that once was its hallmark. In many homes there is an absence of training children to be thankful. Less and less do we hear a parent, who has given something to a child the question, “What do you say?” A second and third generation of people have grown up with unthankful hearts – and have hearts that now expect to receive, or have rights to be supplied with all kinds of services and benefits. My childhood training consisted of writing THANK YOU letters following a Birthday or Christmas when I had received presents from relatives and friends. I was taught whenever someone had given me anything to acknowledge with gratitude their favour. Today one waits in vain for such messages of thanks. The point is this – thanksgiving is NOT merely a matter of politeness or of good communication skills – or even an expression of investment for the future in case something else comes benevolently our way!
No – Thankfulness and thanksgiving is a Christian grace. It is a characteristic of the godly man or woman, boy or girl. In childhood it has to be trained into a child because to be ungrateful and unthankful belongs to our fallen nature. Part of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin came about because they listened to the devil’s suggestion that God was withholding something from them, that they were persuaded was theirs by right – and they should therefore go and get it for themselves. Instead of contentment with the vast provisions that God had provided for them and thankfulness for all that He had given and all that He was in His person, they failed to be thankful and broke His law.
Unthankfulness is sin! When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome he listed many characteristics of men’s sinfulness and godless living. One of the first of these was failure to be graceful –
Romans 1 v 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Vain in thought; darkness of heart – Unthankfulness is sin.
The Christian grace of thankfulness is our theme this morning – and the seed thought for this message in the passage that we have begun to study in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1. The greeting in verse 1 expresses a beautiful connection between two great works of God – GRACE – His undeserved favour to sinners – which is intimately associated with PEACE, which is the settled confidence that comes from being right with God and loved by God.
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 2 we find a favourite statement of Paul’s that he used in nearly all of his letters somewhere at the beginning of those New Testament letters. So as we think about thankfulness this morning let us start with this –
1. Paul was thankful.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
Indeed out of all the 13 letters written by Paul only two of them do not have a reference to thanksgiving in the early verses – Galatians and Titus.
We read from Ephesians 1 earlier where he says –
15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
In Romans 1 Paul makes it an early priority to thank God for the Christians at Rome - 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
And if you look at the other letters in their early verses you will find similar expressions of thanksgiving.
The Puritan, Thomas Brooks said, “ A thankful man is worth his weight in gold.” It is possible to say this about the Apostle Paul – he truly knew how to be thankful.
a. He was thankful for the grace that he had received.
Paul knew what kind of man he had been. He called himself the chief of sinners. He said this about his experience in 1 Corinthians 15 v 10
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
If it had not been for the grace of God Paul would have remained a persecutor and murderer of Christians, and have spent his life breathing out threatenings and slaughters against the Lord’s people. He would have maintained his pious exterior as a Pharisee – he would have kept the law in every point, but at the same time sinned grossly against Almighty God in his form of godliness with no power. And without the grace of God he would have been in hell today. Paul knew all this and consequently didn’t stop thanking God for what He had done for him. He had been saved by grace through faith and he was thankful.
When did you last pray like this? –
Thank you Lord for saving my soul, Thank you lord for making me whole, Thank you Lord for giving to me Thy great salvation so rich and free?
The sinner who has been saved by grace has so much to be thankful for.
Maybe you cannot pray thankfully like this – because grace has not saved you yet…
But when you have been converted a fresh note of thankfulness will come over you for all that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you!
b. He was thankful for the grace that he had seen in others who had been converted.
In this letter he had in mind in particular the Christians at Thessalonica.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all,
He thought about them and remembered their hearing of the Gospel, their consideration of the truth of the word of God; their sincere examination of their own ways, their repentance and their salvation by grace. He would have remembered individuals and their experiences. Their faces would come to his mind.
Have you had the privilege of being instrumental or involved in others coming to receive God’s grace in their lives? Can you think of them now – not with any pride – for there is no room for pride – none of us can save a single soul – salvation is all of grace – but there have been some who have listened to your testimony, observed your life and asked questions. And the light of the Gospel has been switched on by grace in these people’s minds.
Look back with thanksgiving my friends – because that is just what Paul is doing here. Paul has not been in the business of collecting scalps like some missionary Red Indian in Wild West days! Paul looks back with deep gratitude that God had entrusted him with a life-giving message and that message had changed the lives of individuals who he remembers. Notice what he says in 1 Corinthians 1 v 4
I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
It seems that it is delightfully easy to thank God for the grace that we ourselves have received, but it requires great grace to thank God ALWAYS for the grace that is given to others. Even Christians can be jealous and envious – they can think themselves better qualified to serve God than other believers. But this should never be so –
Romans 12 v 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
We are to thank God for the grace and the gifts that He has been given to others – because those gifts are for the edifying of the body of Christ, the church. Someone has said that, “the readiness to thank God always for the grace given to others shows a spirit in full and sweetest fellowship with the mind and purpose of God.” My brother and sister – are you ready to be thankful for your fellow member’s gifts and graces in the Church? Or are you trying to eclipse their gifts with your own supposed superior gift? Thankfulness for each other’s gifts is the God given antidote to this!
(Paul was Thankful)
2. Thankfulness is a fruit of the spirit.
The list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5 v 22 does not contain the word thankfulness – but it does contain as one of its number the grace of JOY. Thankfulness is an expression of Joy towards God. Just consider joy for a moment. Joy is happiness in the Lord Jesus Christ. And happiness in Christ indicates a contented attitude about God’s sovereign dealings with us in salvation.
Joy, Joy, Joy – with joy my heart is ringing – Joy, joy, joy – his love to me is known – My sins are all forgiven, I’m on my way to heaven, My heart is bubbling over with His joy, joy, joy!
The joyful believer expresses the facts of salvation – a knowledge of Christ’s love, of sins forgiven and a future certainty of heaven.
Another fruit of the Spirit is LOVE. But it is not enough to feel love, to have love, to be loved – but to have love as a fruit of the Holy spirit in your soul – that is to LOVE ACTIVELY. To show love – to be a loving person – to be selfless in loving others.
Another fruit is PEACE. But it is not enough to have peace with God. Peace of mind or peace of soul – but to be truly Spiritually fruitful you need to be AT PEACE, peaceful and a peacemaker whenever possible.
Similarly with JOY – it is not enough to have that “bubbling over” feeling if it is not rooted in gratitude and a thankful heart. We must display joy in thanksgiving.
The unthankful person has little or no joy – perhaps you would like to notice that next time a brother or sister shares some disgruntled or murmuring thoughts with you. Ask yourself, “Where is this person’s joy? Can I hear him being thankful to God for anything? What is she grateful for today?” Joy, the fruit of the Spirit, is expressed in thankfulness.
3. Thankfulness was a characteristic of the lord Jesus Christ .
Any study of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ will reveal how thankful He was. He was thankful in a practical way and set us a good example. We read of Him thanking His heavenly Father for the loaves and the fishes on 2 occasions before he multiplied them and distributed them to the hungry thousands. Matthew 15 v 36. He thanked His father at the last supper with His disciples – gave thanks for the bread and wine. (Luke 22 v 17 – 19)
And there are several texts that refer to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ relating it to how we should be thankful;
Ephesians 5 v 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Colossians 1 v 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Colossians 3 v 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Anything done in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ is done according to the character of Christ. Giving thanks is a Christian thing to do – and when we are unthankful then we are not being like our Dear Saviour. Let this mind be in us that was also in Christ Jesus – Paul says in Philippians 2. Are we thankful like the saviour?
4. It is god’s will that we are thankful.
1 Thessalonians 5 v 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
We need to notice very carefully what this verse is saying about thankfulness. It does NOT say that we can be thankful FOR everything. Of course we thank God for food, clothing, and other material things. We thank God for our spiritual blessings in the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank God for the relatively peaceful existence that we have in society – the list could go on.
However there are certain things that we will find it very difficult to thank God FOR. For instance can we thank God for the death of a security guard in Israel this weekend and the death of the suicide bomber whom he restrained?
Can we thank God for that diagnosis of cancer in a loved one?
Can we thank God for the tragic consequences of sin that leads to a marriage break up?
No – we are not expected to thank God for any of these things – but our text tells us that we can thank Him IN EVERYTHING. In every situation that we find ourselves we give God thanks for what we can give thanks. There is always something to thank God for in every situation of life. Some of you may have heard of a fictional little girl called Pollyanna. In her story she was the daughter of a clergyman who, before he had died leaving her an orphan, taught her to have HAPPY THOUGHTS. How it worked was this. When something went wrong one should always be ready to find a glad or happy thought to help cope with the bad situation. For instance a rainstorm turns from being a bad thing preventing an outing, into a good thing because the rain waters the fruit and vegetables. Or a cut finger throbbing away on the end of the hand is coped with by thinking that isn’t it good that the finger was not cut off completely.
In the bad situations there was room for thanksgiving – there was room for optimism – there was room for joy. I am sure that the modern psychologists would have a field day with this philosophy. Well they can attack Pollyanna’s strategy – but the word of God stands – “in everything give thanks!” Are we prepared to be thankful for the Mysterious Providences that the Lord God sends to us? Or will we be like the world of people who do not believe; who so easily become paralysed by grief and need what is called COUNSELLING! It has emerged that following some of the terrible disasters in the USA that it was those who knew the Lord Jesus Christ and knew about true thanksgiving for His mercies, who declined counselling to help them with trauma. If people knew of the kindness and love of God their heavenly father, of His ordering of all things for their good, then they would be able by thanksgiving IN everything, to make sense of the not so good things that happen. May we all learn this lesson. This is not blind acceptance of inevitabilities – it is joyous confidence in an all loving all providing God in the atmosphere of thanksgiving for all that He gives and all that He protects us from as well!
5. It is god’s will that we are thankful often - frequently.
Our text says
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
Paul, Silas and Timothy regard what has been done for the Thessalonians as having been done for themselves. They speak with pure, unselfish gratitude towards God when they say “Whenever we pray we include you in out thanksgiving to God.” The frequency of thanksgiving can never be underestimated. Every time we pray we pray for you – you at Thessalonica! What a thrill this must have been for the Christians there to know that these three men were often praying for them and thanking God for them. Do we do this my friends? Do we thank God every day for our fellow believers? We have a prayer diary here at Whiddon Valley Evangelical Church listing the names of all the members. This is a help to prayer – to pray for the other members – but here is a suggestion – why do we not use the list of names to THANK the Lord for every member – for their gifts, for their abilities, for their service for the Lord, and for their specialness to the rest of us? Let us use it to think about each other and remind ourselves of what we know about our fellow saints, and follow Paul’s example – to give thanks always for all the fellowship. And as far as frequency is concerned, let us do it at least once a day! Every time we pray – we have the Apostle’s pattern to help us!
A final note about thanksgiving is this –
6. There are times for special thanksgiving.
In the USA towards the end of the year in November there is a National Holiday called Thanksgiving. The holiday originates from the first colonists from England, the Mayflower Pilgrims, who were led by William Bradford. On the 4th Thursday of each November there is a commemoration of the good harvest that the Pilgrims had in their 3rd year of settlement 1623. On the 29th November that year the Pilgrim settlers thanked God for harvest, good relationships with the native Americans and for establishing them with homes and other benefits.
King David led His people in a special time of thanksgiving when the Ark of the Covenant had been successfully restored to the centre of worship in Jerusalem.
Verse 1 – 6 (of 1 Chronicles 16) tell of David’s setting of the ark in the tent of meeting; he made sacrifices, blessed the Name of the Lord; distributed food and wine to the people; appointed Levites to thank and praise the Lord in sacrifices and acts of praise with musical instruments.
Then in 1 Chronicles 16 v 7-10 we read
Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the LORD into the hand of Asaph and his brethren. 8 Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. 9 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works. 10 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.
David’s priority was thanksgiving. Many of th themes of the following verses in 1 Chronicles 16 are woven like embroidery into the rich fabric of the Psalms.
Very briefly in summary David shows us how to thank the Lord.
He acknowledges that God is a God of Wonders v 9
He proclaims that God’s deeds are mighty and that people should remember them v 12 ff
He states that God keeps His covenant promises v 15 ff – an acknowledgment of God’s faithfulness.
In this David directs the people and applies the truths of history and turns them to praise and thanksgiving.
But was this the King of Israel a man who directs only his OWN PEOPLE to give thanks to God?
v 8 Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.
Then in verse, 23
Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; shew forth from day to day his salvation.
All nations, all the world, all the earth should sing to the Lord in thankful songs and praises!
1 Chronicles 16 v 24 Declare his glory among the heathen; his marvellous works among all nations. 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. 27 Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place. 28 Give unto the LORD, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. 29 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. 30 Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved. 31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth. 32 Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof: let the fields rejoice, and all that is therein. 33 Then shall the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the LORD, because he cometh to judge the earth. 34 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. 35 And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise. 36 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the LORD.
People do not thank the Lord God the creator for anything! They do not believe in Him – how then can they thank Him! They refuse His rule – how can they thank Him for His righteous providences? They prefer their own resources and they therefore have no need nor desire to thank God.
We who believe then ought to be known by our thankfulness to our heavenly Father. A mean or ungrateful spirit should not be ever noticeable amongst the true people of God.
Let us take this challenge seriously this morning my friends – since our God has commended His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, we should be thankful for His love, for His Son’s life, death and rising again for us. Let us be known as a Thankful people – Come ye thankful people come – not only at harvest, thanksgiving, or other occasions – but always – always – like Paul in our text –
We give thanks to God always.