Yesterday we were in Part 2 of a series that we have called Genuine: A look at Paul's letters to the Thessalonian church. What struck me, as it does in other letters of Paul, is that Paul looks at the church and starts his letter by giving thanks to God for them. In actual fact he says that it is something that he does continuously.
People have spoken about "an attitude of gratitude." While this could a bit of a cliché, it's also what Paul models for us. So surely we too can learn from him about what our attitude should be when we think of the church. Look at some of things that Paul expresses gratitude for in 1 Thessalonians 1.
• He is grateful for the evidence of transforming grace. There has been significant change in their lives even in the face of severe persecution. He sees this in their lives by their work of faith, labour of love and their steadfastness of hope.
• He is grateful to God for saving grace. The fact that the church exists is a testimony to this fact as its existence is a declaration that these people are loved and chosen by God.
• He is grateful to God for the Gospel's transforming power and its impact in their lives. A simple message came and turned their worlds upside down. Now they were declaring the same Gospel. Where they once imitated Paul and Silas and Timothy, they were now modelling the Gospel for others.
• He is grateful that the Gospel is worth sharing far and wide.
Here's a question that I have found myself asking in response to what Paul models. What would happen when we (The Journey Church) start to be a people characterised gratitude? I would suggest that what happens in our hearts would be rather significant. Here are some things that we will start to see happening:
• We really begin to love the church – really love the church.
• We celebrate together when God saves people.
• We celebrate God's grace that is evident in the lives of those around us because we're looking for it. Even in small ways.
• We rejoice together when there are efforts to make Christ know to those who do not yet know Christ.
• Things become less about us and our comforts and more about God and His glory.
• We actively look for ways to build the church and encourage one another.
• We become positively optimistic because we see God is always at work all around us even in adverse circumstances.
We face a choice when it comes to our attitudes. Yes, there are many things around us to discourage us and distract us – even in the church. I guess there are even things that we could easily complain about – in the church. But stop – think! Is that honouring to God? Is He being glorified in that attitude?
Later in 1 Thessalonians Paul says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." Could Paul be showing us the better way? I think "Yes!"