by Ong Eng Boon
We can learn many lessons from Apostle Paul about thankfulness.
- Paul gave thanks to God for the saints at Thessalonica.
“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight or our God and Father” (1 Thess. 1:2-3)
There was evidently much good in the Thessalonians. They had been a source of encouragement to Paul.
“For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess. 1:8-10)
The specific items for which they thanked God in this instance were the Thessalonians’ work produced by faith, labour prompted by love, and their steadfastness inspired by hope. Faith, hope and love are mentioned together elsewhere (1 Cor.13:13; Col. 1:3-5)
- Paul was thankful to the saints at Colosse.
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colosse : Grace to you and peace from our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we head of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit” (Col. 1:1-8)
- Paul thanked God for Jesus Christ – because He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated is into the kingdom of the son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins(Col.1:13-14).
- Paul thanked God for the fact of salvation (Col. 1:3-6). Salvation is possible through the grace of God.
- Paul thanked God for the saints at Colosse for their faith in Jesus Christ.
- Paul thanked God for the saints at Colosse for their love of all the brethren.
Why did the Colossians have such faith in Jesus? Why did they love other believers so much? “Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth , the gospel, which has come to you,…(Col. 1:5,6a)
If you are into extra time now, and if your time is up, don’t worry, just remember to store my number in your handphone, I am on call 24 hours. Don’t worry if your time on this earth is up.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the savior, the Lord Christ Jesus, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil.3:20-21)
- Paul thanked God for the furtherance of the gospel (Col.1:6).
- Paul was moved to thank God for his fellow servant, Epaphras (Col. 1:7,8). Epaphras was the one who planted the seed of the gospel in Colossae. We do not know much about him except he is a Colossian himself (Col. 4:12). Evidently, on a trip to Ephesus he had heard Paul talk about Jesus and became a Christian.
In Acts chapter 19, Paul had gone on to Ephesus and rented the hall of Tyrannus. “And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this he continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:8-10)
For many hours in a day, six days a week and for two years Paul taught the word of God to anyone who would listen. Many were converted and returned to their homes in the provinces of Asia Minor to tell others what they had discovered in Jesus.
Among that number was Epaphras. He returned to his hometown of Colossae and started to teach others most likely by starting a home study group. You can see what one man like Epaphras can make a huge difference to the community at Colossae. He simply retold his friends the truth about Jesus; the meaning of his death, the power of his resurrection and the hope which was in heaven. That stirred their hearts, hope was revived and souls were converted. For that Paul gave thanks to God.
- Not only that, Paul was also thankful to the church at Philippi and whenever he thinks of them, not only he was thankful but also with joy.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you with all joy” (Phil.1:3-4).
When Paul wrote the book of Philippians, he was imprisoned in Rome. The church at Philippi was in the region of Macedonia which was some distance away from where Paul was. Today we can travel from Malaysia to Rome in just a day’s time by flight. But at that time, no flight was available and if you were to travel from Philippi to Rome, you will have to travel a couple of days. You know a lot of time when our friends are far away from us, they are easily forgotten: out of sight, out of mind. Even though the church at Philippi was far away from where Paul was, he always remember them. And every time he thought of them, there was joy in his heart. Distance cannot take this joy away, absence makes the heart fonder.
This joy which was in Paul also cannot be taken away with the passing of time. Paul said “upon every remembrance of you” means at any one time. When Paul planted the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey, he went on to other places to preach the gospel. By the time he was imprisoned in Rome, it had since been a few years. But Paul always remembered the saints at Philippi, and every remembrance of them brought him joy. So we can see that this joy is not diminished over time. I heard people say that if you have been married long enough, love will slowly fade away. But to Paul, it was always with joy that whenever he thought of the saints at Philippi, whenever he prayed for them and even though Paul was now imprisoned in Rome. So we can see that this joy which was in Paul is not diminished over time, is not restricted by distance and is not changed even under difficult circumstance.
Why did Paul have this kind of joy?
“For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil.1:5).
The Philippians church was partners with Paul in his missionary journey as they provided him with the financial help he needed in order for him to preach in other places.
“Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction” (Phil. 4:14).
Some of Paul’s “affliction” were due to financial constraint as we read in verse 18 that Epaphroditus had sent the Philippian church’s financial aid to Paul.
The word to emphasize in vs.14 is “share.” They had done well to share. The Philippians had shared with Paul in the past as well as in the present (read Phil. 1:3-5).
“I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-5)
The word share is also used in Phil. 4:15-16 : “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.”
From here, we can see that the Philippians had fellowship with Paul as they provide him with the necessary financial assistance in order for him to preach the gospel.
When you and I give to the Lord’s cause, what does it do for us? In the first place, it enables us to share in the Lord’s work. We become partners in whatever work we support. As we hear reports of good that is being done, we know that we have a vital part in making that happen!
Secondly, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Phil.4:17-18).
When the Philippians helped Paul financially in the furtherance of the gospel in other parts of the world, they were depositing “treasures in heaven.”
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt. 6:19-20)
Paul told them that their spiritual bank account was drawing fruit or interests on an account, in this case their spiritual account and this heavenly account was continually gaining interests. Paul was reassuring the Philippians that God had in a way recorded their good deeds and would not forget it.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)