When you read Paul’s New Testament letters to various believers and churches, you can’t help but notice his many expressions of gratitude for spiritual blessings lavished on those who are in Christ: the grace of God, the saving work of Christ, forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Spirit, the privilege of ministry.
Paul was thankful for others–especially for brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow servants, ministry partners. In his correspondence (and he was quite the letter writer), Paul didn’t just leave it at generalized expressions of gratitude–he often took time to identify specific individuals for whom he was grateful and to let them know how much he appreciated their contribution to his life and ministry.
The most extensive such list is found in Romans 16:1-16. In fact, why not turn there now and read through that passage. (You probably haven’t meditated on this one for a while!) As you read, underline in your Bible or make a list in your journal of words or phrases that describe what Paul was grateful for in these believers in Rome.
Most of the names in this list–many of them hard to pronounce–represent people about whom we know little or nothing. From a human perspective, none of them attained the “position” or “importance” Paul had as an apostle. Why did Paul think it necessary, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to take valuable time and space to write this lengthy passage? I think one reason is that he saw these people as provisions of God’s grace. And he knew no one is self-sufficient–we need each other and our lives are enriched and blessed by other like-hearted believers.
People matter to God. And they should matter to us. It’s important to take time to recognize and express appreciation for the contributions that even little-known people make to His Kingdom and to our lives.
Inspired by the example of the Apostle Paul and others, I’ve tried to make it a point over the years to stop and take stock periodically of my “gratitude accounts”–to make sure they’re “caught up,” and to find meaningful ways to express gratitude for and to the people who have contributed to my life. I’m sure those expressions encourage the recipients. But they also provide a much-needed antidote in my own life to pride, independence, isolation and self-reliance.
Gratitude in the Scriptures
Read the following scriptures and answer the questions:
1. Romans 1:8 – Why did Paul thank God for the Roman believers?
2. 1 Corinthians 1:4 – What did the Corinthians receive from God that made Paul thankful?
3. Ephesians 1:15-17 – Two spiritual qualities in the Ephesian believers caused Paul to give thanks and pray for this church. What were those qualities, and what did Paul ask for the Ephesians in prayer?
4. Philippians 1:3-4 – Paul’s gratitude for the Philippians caused him to pray what kind of prayers? (Note the words every, all and always for the extent and consistency of his prayers.)
5. Colossians 1:3-4 – Like the Ephesian church, the Colossian believers had a reputation for what?
6. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 – Paul was grateful for the Thessalonians’ faith, love and hope. Who do you know that inspires you to praise and thank God–mentioning that person with gratitude in your prayers?
7. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 – The Thessalonians’ spiritual growth inspired Paul. Who do you know who is growing by leaps and bounds in Christ? Thank God for that person now!
Gratitude in Action
1. Make a list in your journal of individuals who have blessed or touched your life in some way. To help you get started, how about: the person who introduced you to Jesus, your parents, other family members, pastors, teachers, coaches, friends, co-workers, neighbors, authors, leaders of Christian ministries … you get the idea.
As you write each name, ask yourself, “Have I ever thanked this person for the way God has used him/her in my life? Put a check mark next to each individual to whom you have expressed gratitude.
2. Begin the process of catching up on your “gratitude accounts.” Don’t try to tackle the whole list at once. Pick one name for starters. In the next 24 hours, write a letter, make a call, compose an e-mail–find a way to express your gratitude for that person’s influence and impact in your life. Then move to the next one … and the next … until you’ve expressed gratitude to each person on your list. By that time, there will undoubtedly be new people to add to the list! And you can always start over again with the same list
Excerpted from “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy,” published by Moody Publishers. Copyright 2009 Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Used by permission.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss is the author of 10 books, including “Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free” and “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.” She is the teacher for Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him, two nationally-syndicated programs. Nancy’s burden is to call women to freedom, fullness and fruitfulness in Christ and to see God ignite true revival in the hearts of His people. For more information, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.