Thankfulness Unites Believers
by Gil Rugh
Divisions can easily infiltrate bodies of believers. They can happen for various reasons, but one important way for believers to maintain unity is to practice thankfulness for one another.
Paul constantly encouraged the churches to be thankful for one another. And he set the example of thankfulness. To the believers in Rome he wrote:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world (Rom. 1:8).
Every single Roman believer caused Paul’s heart to be filled with appreciation. The Romans did not become prideful because of Paul’s praise. His thanksgiving was directed to God because he realized God was behind everything good that had been accomplished in the lives of those believers. This same thankfulness should characterize our attitudes toward other believers.
Have you taken time recently to be thankful for other believers? It is easy for us to take one another for granted. It is also easy for us to focus on other’s shortcomings, rather than appreciate each other.
How many times this week have you thanked God for the believers in this local body? Conversely, how much time have you spent thinking about what is wrong with the believers around you?
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was addressed to a church that was far from perfect; it was beset with all kinds of problems. Yet in writing to them, Paul said,
I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge (1 Cor. 1:4, 5).
According to verse 4, if a person is a believer in Jesus Christ, the grace of God has been given to him. That means we can give thanks to God for all believers because God enriches their lives and, therefore, the manifold grace of God is displayed in them.
It is easy for us to look at God’s children and pick them apart piece by piece. We can become discouraged and depressed if we focus on the things we do not like about each other. Instead of doing that, we need to give thanks to God for what He is doing in the lives of other believers.
To the believers at Thessalonica Paul wrote:
We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers (1 Thess. 1:2).
He also wrote:
And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe (1 Thess. 2:13).
When he wrote to the same believers later he said,
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you all toward one another grows even greater (2 Thess. 1:3).
Paul constantly gave thanks to God for what He had done and was doing in the lives of those believers.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul wrote:
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
This passage shows us that God has chosen us from the beginning, and the means of that salvation is twofold: “sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (v. 13). Paul says we should be giving thanks to God because of what He is doing in that process.
Does thankfulness characterize your attitude toward believers?
It is easy to become mired down in difficulties and to focus on problems and trials that are being experienced in the body of believers. If that is our focus, we lose sight of the great work of grace that God is doing in believers’ lives.
Paul letters show that if someone is a believer, there is always something about them for which we can be thankful. Spend time thanking God for other believers.
This thankfulness will have extraordinary unifying results in the body of Christ. Paul recognized the bond that he had with God and with other believers.
He was thankful for them and appreciative of the work that God had done in their lives. This attitude helped to stir his love for them.
May we be a people characterized by thankfulness to God for one another.