We tend to idealize the great apostle Paul: he saved many souls, wrote a big chunk of our New Testament, did great things for the kingdom of God. But we also need to understand that things were often terrible for Paul. Of the many things that he suffered, Paul
- was beaten by the Jews five times
- was beaten with a rod three times
- was stoned once
- was shipwrecked three times, spending at least 24 hours afloat at sea
- frequently traveled as he preached
- often fled for his life under persecution
- suffered from hunger, thirst, the elements, and inadequate clothing
to just give a short list from 2 Corinthians 11! This man was always on the go, often on the run, had multiple assassination attempts, and was betrayed by some of his closest friends (2Tim4:10). Paul told Timothy, “And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content” (1Tim6:8); but sometimes Paul didn’t even have that!
And yet with all of these things against him, Paul was constantly thankful! In his writings, the phrase “I thank…” shows up nearly a dozen times and the concept of thankfulness is even more common. He did not focus on what he lacked: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil4:11). In spite of all his hardships, Paul was constantly thankful. And with Thanksgiving just a few days ago this has me wondering, how thankful am I?
Paul was thankful for his present…
…in spite of his past. When Paul came to the faith he was a pretty rough customer.
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me…putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (1Tim1:12-13)
Even though he is now the great apostle to the Gentiles, Paul still remembered the time when he hated the gospel, persecuted the church, and imprisoned Christians. I can only imagine the wealth of gratitude in Paul’s heart; the Lord that he used to persecute had chosen him to not just be saved, but to be a “chosen vessel” for his service.
Saints, we need to remember where we were when Jesus found us. Even as someone raised in the church, I am so very thankful that he forgave me of my sins and thought me worthy enough to preach his word. The worst day as a Christian is better than the best day in our old lifestyle of sin and shame! If we would think back every once in a while and remember the things that we hope everyone else has forgotten—it wouldn’t be hard to be thankful that Jesus saved us.
Paul was thankful for other people
When someone asked Jesus what God’s greatest commandment was, Jesus said that the whole Old Testament hangs on these principles: love God and love your neighbor. Having people in our life should be a cause of thanksgiving!
I thank God…that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day (2Tim1:3)
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men….For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior (1Tim2:1-3)
I want to challenge us to start doing something. When we kneel down to pray on behalf of our friends (and if we aren’t already doing this, we should be!!) let’s take the time to thank God for them. I am blessed with great family, great friends, a great wife—people I truly know that I can depend on. I didn’t make those friends on my own. God gave those people to me. I didn’t pick who my parents and siblings were, or what school I went to when I was young; God made those decisions for me. God has blessed me with so many great people in my life, I owe it to him to be thankful!
As we will see in a future post, Timothy was invaluable to Paul’s ministry. Timothy was constantly traveling with Paul, helping churches Paul had started while Paul was busy elsewhere; Timothy even helped co-author some of the letters Paul wrote! As a minister I can say that the best people in our lives are the people who help us do the work of God. I need people like this in my life, and I want to be this kind of person for someone.
Paul was thankful for food
Enough said!! But seriously, Paul talked about how some people made rules against eating certain foods that
God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving (1Tim4:3-4).
If we eat three meals a day, we are blessed! We have an entire holiday dedicated to gluttony—it is almost insulting to call it Thanksgiving when we eat so much and then can’t wait until midnight so that we can Black Friday shop. It seems like such a little gesture, but how hard is it to bow our heads and whisper a “thank you” before chomping into that burger?
This time of year always challenges me to be more thankful. I hope we can learn something about thankfulness from Paul. Let’s remember, unthankfulness is a sign of the last days (2Tim3) and it is a dangerous attitude to have. God has been so good to us. Let’s all try harder to give thanks!
This is going to be the last one of our “TimothyTuesday” and “TitusTuesday” posts for the time being. We have not exhausted these books, by any means. But after the new year we want to branch out into other topics. Hope you’ve enjoyed this series!