This time next week many of us will be gathered with family and friends to celebrate the things that we are thankful for. For Christians, this shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary. We have been given eyes to see that God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:16). God has given many of us an abundance of opportunities to thank him daily: the trees, wind, and sun; our food, clothing, and houses; even the tea I’m drinking and the air I’m breathing as I write this. But do these things explore the deepest extent of a Christian’s thankfulness? Do these thing even touch the foundation of Christian thankfulness?
Paul would heartily answer, “May it never be!” In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul dives down with us into the depths of Christian gratitude. First, he thanks Christ Jesus our Lord because he had judged Paul to be faithful and appointed him to his service. This in itself is a reason to be thankful: Christ Jesus, our God and Savior, calls each of us into his service in one way or another (Ephesians 4:12). He’s given us all gifts by the Spirit to serve one another (1 Corinthians 12:7). How glorious it is that we are able to love and live by the power God himself!
Paul continues yet further. Paul was not judged to be faithful because he had proven himself. The truth of the situation was far from it. Paul says that he had been a blasphemer, a persecutor of the church, and an insolent opponent (of God, no less!). The question for us is, “Were we much different?” When Paul says that he was first-in-rank among the sinners that Christ Jesus came to save (1 Timothy 1:15), can we stand wholly apart from that indictment? At the very least, we were (and are) sinners (Romans 3:9-18). We were dead in our sins, fighting in the army of the universe’s chief rebel, Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3). We were guilty of the same sin as Adam, trading God’s glorious goodness in for our own idea of the good life (Genesis 3:6; Romans 5:12). The deeper down we look in our hearts without the Holy Spirit, the truer these statements ring.
So how does this turn to thanksgiving, for Paul and for us? Even though he was guilty of cosmic treason, God’s mercy poured out, and the grace of Jesus overflowed for Paul. Christ Jesus did not come to find those who were already worthy. He came for those who were utterly incapable of turning from their rebellion. Paul saw himself in that category. When he did, there was no containing his thanksgiving to God for his grace and mercy. We ought to all see the discrepancy between who we were and what Christ Jesus has done for us. His mercy to us is shown to be majestically beautiful when we ourselves see how little we deserved it.
This perspective is not just a gospel message for unbelievers. It is a banner that must be flown over every single Christian each day. These verses should form the liturgy of our daily worship:
Each morning when we wake up: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). How glorious!
Each afternoon when we each our lunch: “The grace of our Lord has overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:14). How undeserved!
Each evening when we go to sleep: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Timothy 1:17).
1. Please pray for our students as they finish out the semester. Pray that their projects and papers would increase their joy in Christ rather than overwhelm them.
2. Pray that the faculty and staff would find their strength in Christ as they pour themselves out for the sake of God’s glory among the nations.
3. Please pray as we enter into the Serious Joy scholarship drive here over the last two months of the year. Pray that the Lord would continue to raise up more and more scholarship partners.
4. Please pray for us as we encourage our students to consider going to the nations to reach the unengaged peoples of the world. We exist to spread the name of Christ among all peoples, not least those who have no opportunity to hear.