Paul began his second letter to the Thessalonian church with these encouraging words,
“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 toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure” (2 Thess. 1:3–4).
Two things strike me as significant in these two verses.
First, not only did Paul express thanksgiving for the Christians in Thessalonica, he affirmed that such an expression of gratitude was what he “ought” to do. The apostle believed that expressions of thanks were more than just a way to be polite; they were, to him, an ever-present obligation. Jesus implied the same point in His penetrating question to the solitary leper who expressed his thanks for having been healed,“Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they?” (Luke 17:17).
Second, Paul’s expression of gratitude for their growing faith, love, and perseverance, was directed, not to the Thessalonians themselves, but to God. This was brilliant on Paul’s part. It highlighted those characteristics as indications of God’s grace, help, and activity in their lives; therefore, He deserved the credit for them. But by mentioning his gratitude to the Thessalonians, they received encouragement and got a big boost of confidence to grow even more.
Those two thoughts force me to ask myself a few questions: do I feel the same sense of obligation to give thanks that Paul felt and that Jesus enjoined? Do I look for signs of God’s grace and activity in the lives of my Christian family? Do I thank God for those signs of His grace? Do I encourage my brothers and sisters to greater heights of growth and service by telling them that I am grateful for what God is doing in their lives?
With email, smartphones, and social media, it has never been easier or quicker to communicate with each other. Why not employ those means to encourage others when you see evidence of God’s grace in their lives?