“For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; ” – Ephesians 1:15-16 (NASB)
In the letters which were written by the Apostle Paul and sent to the believers in the churches he had planted, we find awesome prayers. Often what Paul wrote is translated into very long sentences. The prayers of the Apostle Paul, which he offered on behalf of the believers in the churches he planted, are packed with such great truth. We can notice that Paul’s reason was his receiving news about their faith and their love for all the saints. Love for other believers evidences their saving faith and is a cause of thanksgiving. In today’s selected verses Paul tells the Ephesians how he does not cease to give thanks and includes them when he prays. Paul must have had a very long prayer list and long prayers sessions. In the verses that follow, (Ephesians 1:18-23) Paul prays listing the specifics. Some of what he prayed for us to have knowledge and experience of are: a spirit of wisdom, knowledge of Him, enlightened eyes (vision or sight), the hope of His calling, riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, surpassing greatness of His power toward believers, the strength of His might.
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (ESV)
Do we not a have spiritual obligation to thank God in prayer when He accomplishes great things in the lives of faith believers? The apostle Paul believed so and especially in the case with the obedient believers in Thessalonica. This is written in the second letter Paul wrote to them and they had demonstrated growth in faith since the first letter. Their faith had continued “to grow exceedingly” that is what the original Greek word (hyperauxanei), which is used only here, tells us. Their faith had grown wonderfully, it had flourished. Our faith as Christians should continue growing throughout our lives. Such growth leads to greater trust and deeper knowledge as we grow in our knowledge of God’s will. Let us trust God more consistently and more extensively as we grow older in Christ. If we look at the next verse (2 Thessalonians 1:4) we learn that this growth of spiritual faith experienced in the church of Thessalonica was taking place in a time of persecutions and affliction – an expected occurrence faith helps us to endure. As our faith grows abundantly, so does our perseverance and that’s our promise.
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)
Each one of us who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior have a sacrifice we can offer up to God. During the days before Christmas we hear about the angels who sang praises to God when Jesus was born. We know that angels do sing praises to God in heaven and the Bible urges us to sing His praises too. That is the message of our verse today. The reason the angels keep singing praises to God is because they know how great and wonderful He is. The more we know about our Lord, the more we will want to praise Him. Let’s be careful during these days of activity before Christmas that we do not let the lights and the beauty of decorations distract us and cause us to forget God’s greatness and His love for us. As we sing carols of praise and thanksgiving, let’s be sure to remember to really praise our God with all our hearts. It is a wonderful time of the years to continually offer our sacrifices. Let’s make our time of truly praising and thanking God for His wonderful gift of Jesus and eternal life.
“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 (NASB)
If we include the last instruction in verse 14 of this chapter, we learn to “be patient with everyone.” And so, the next instruction teaches us that retaliation is not an option for a Christ believer. Paul the Apostle, writing this letter to the Church in Thessalonica is keenly, from personal experience, aware of the normal reaction we have when others do us wrong. It does not matter who does the wrong, believer or non-believer, we do not repay a wrong with a wrong. This is so very different than what we learn from the world. “If someone hits you, you hit back, harder.” That is the normal way most of us might have thought. But our promise today can be found in the next three instructions. Let’s look at them in the reverse order given in the verses. Give thanks for everything and in everything – God wills that to be our pattern. We give thanks for everything by praying on a regular basis. Make prayers a practice and that is where we can honestly give thanks all the time. What will be the result in our lives, in our attitude, in our perspective on life? We will rejoice always.
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (ESV)
As the American holiday of Thanksgiving has just past we consider that the period for giving thanks has not. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Thessalonica he states that he, and those with him, are in the practice of giving thanks to God always; constantly including them in prayer; and remembering their spiritual commitment. Paul mentions three characteristics of their commitment. Their work which is produced by faith in Christ; their labor which was motivated by their love of Christ; and their steadfastness, which is also endurance and faithfulness⸺inspired by a sure hope of Christ. These believers and followers of Jesus Christ were anticipating the return of God’s son from heaven. Each of these virtues found its object in Jesus. Three virtues that mark every true obedient Christian⸺faith, love, and hope. These virtues are the focus of 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter of love, but with love and hope switched in the order. One of the promises given to all believers is that God loved us and chose us for eternal life and service. Paul and friends (we know) were certain of this truth. We can be certain also if we have believed in Jesus.
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,…” Ephesians 1:15-17 (ESV)
When the Apostle Paul wrote his letters to the people in the churches he had established, he would often fill the sentences with teaching and truth that run very long. In the first chapter of this letter, verses 3-14 and 15-23 are one sentence each in the Greek. The Apostle is sharing the reasons for the thanksgiving he offers on behalf of the saints in Ephesus. What Paul says about the Ephesians becomes a promise for us. He writes, “For this reason” which references what we believers possess and is every spiritual blessing—including election, predestination, adoption, grace, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, understanding, knowledge of the mystery of His will, the sealing of the Holy Spirit, and their inheritance—Paul now prayed that his readers might know God personally and intimately. Also, because of their faith and love for other saints, he continued to give thanks for them and makes more requests for them. Although some versions start a new sentence at verse 17, there is no break in the Greek. He asks God to give the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. These are solid promises worth our giving thanksgiving to God and love for each other.