It’s important to give thanks and avoid grumbling as we serve Christ. But how can we always be thankful for in our work and ministry?
When my family lived in the USA, we enjoyed Thanksgiving with our American friends. Before enjoying a wonderful meal, we each shared briefly why we were thankful to God. It is a biblical discipline to count our blessings and name them one by one.
Recently I heard a sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 about ‘Thanksgiving.’ It was inspiring and made me consider three spiritual realities to be thankful for:
1. God’s enriching grace
“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 – with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge…” (v4-5)
In a world that tells us that being a Christian makes life less satisfying, enjoyable or pleasurable, and imposes restrictions on our behaviour, Paul encourages us that we have been enriched in every way. We know God’s grace in salvation, but he also gives us all we need in gifts for his service and so many good things besides.
2. God’s enabling strength
“He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v8)
God holds us securely and will keep us strong to the end. Paul knew this through the many trials, troubles, persecution and imprisonment that he experienced. We are to rely on God’s strength to stand our ground.
3. God’s enduring faithfulness
“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (v9)
God’s faithfulness is a golden thread that runs right through the tapestry of human history and we know this personally.
So, let me ask you – are you thankful? What are you thankful for?
When we are serving Christ and his church, we can be prone to grumble and be negative. We shouldn’t minimise the challenges we face but we do need to work at being thankful.
Here’s a great example. I recently received an email from a pastor’s wife who felt prompted to write to me with some of her reflections. Her email gave me great encouragement. She writes from a grateful heart and highlighted God’s enriching grace to her. This is an extract from her email (published with her permission).
“…I've seen what it looks like to be a wife of a man with a ‘proper’ (as my kids like to call it!) job and a pastor and, as I compare the two, these are the ways in which I feel absolutely privileged to be married to a pastor.
- We may get to know about the mess and the sin that's in a church, but we also get to see the beautiful things too. We know a bit about the unseen acts of service, the ways in which people are battling sin and addiction, the ways people are seeing the gospel speaking into the deepest issues in their lives. We get to see people's marriages healed as they grasp the depth of God's love for them and his unending grace to them. We get to hear about how God is speaking into peoples’ lives through the Bible and how that is changing them to look more like Jesus.
- In a world that tends to be child centred (and seeing this particularly in the church) having a husband who is a pastor means that our kids see that the church is central to all we do as a family – not sports teams, not big holidays, not decorating or getting larger houses. I know lots of pastors’ kids might complain that went too far with their dads and that the family came second. But kept in balance I think our kids have the absolute privilege of seeing service and love for the church as vital to our Christian life - what a privilege!
- We can look around at our brothers and sisters as we walk into church, and know that we are provided with all we need because of their giving, often really sacrificially, for the work of the gospel. It's completely humbling, and it reminds us each day that all that we have is not ours, it's not even the people in the church who give it, but it all comes from the Lord! That's a harder thing to remember when a good salary comes into your bank account each month from a secular employer! I think this is another amazing thing for our kids – to see how people love us enough to support my husband in his work, and often in little gifts and messages of support too – that's such a joy!”
Your circumstances may be different, but the challenge to be thankful comes to us all.
Can you record your thanks to God for his enriching grace, his enabling strength and enduring faithfulness? How often are you expressing thankfulness and praise to God? Set some time aside to do that in the next few days and share your reflections with a friend for their growth in thanksgiving too.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.