Dr. David Soper, in God Is Inescapable, suggests that basically the difference between a prison and a monastery is just the difference between griping and gratitude. Undoubtedly this is true. Imprisoned criminals spend every waking moment griping; self-imprisoned saints spend every waking moment offering thanks. Dr. Soper says that when a criminal becomes a saint, a prison may become a monastery; when a saint gives up gratitude, a monastery may become a prison.
Christians should be thankful for one another. Paul begins 1 Corinthians with a reminder of the relationships which he and its recipients share. Paul felt that it was important for his readers to remember the common relationship that they shared in God’s call. He used the word “called” in relationship to himself and to them. He was called “to be an apostle of Jesus Christ” and they were called “to be saints.” The mention of his apostleship was an affirmation of the authority which God had given him, and it was particularly significant in view of the fact that there were those in Corinth who questioned his authority. It is important, though, to understand that Paul did not use the term “apostle” lightly, for it defined his whole ministry. In verse 2 Paul tells his readers that the same God who called him to be an apostle had called them to be a different kind of people. This is really what the phrase “sanctified in Christ Jesus” means. The Greek verb form for “sanctified” means to set apart for God; as a noun, the word describes a thing or a person that has been devoted to the possession or service of God. The root idea is that of separation. The Christian is to be different—separated—because he or she belongs to God. He means that we are invited into the Christian life by God’s invitation and not by some human initiative. The man who is thankful to God, therefore, sits before God to enjoy his presence. He is never satisfied merely to tip his hat to God as he passes; gratitude demands that he seek God’s presence and fellowship.
Paul goes on to say Christians should be thankful for God’s gifts to them, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1Corinthians 1:4-9) First, be thankful because you’re the object of God’s love and grace. “The grace of God which was given to you” (1Corinthians 1:4) means God’s unmerited favor. So often in our sinful pride we try to earn God’s favor, but this is impossible to do. And eventually we must face the truth that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). Behind our effort to try to impress God is the feeling that God will not love us the way we are. But the greatest discovery in life is that nothing in our minds or hearts or actions is hidden from God, and He still loves us.
Second, be thankful because Christ has brought you spiritual riches. When Paul wrote that “you were enriched in everything by Him” (1Corinthians 1:5), he was following a biblical tradition of speaking of the God-man relationship in terms of wealth or riches. Those to whom Paul wrote this letter lived in a society that produced great material wealth but that created spiritually bankrupt people. In a society that thinks of little else but making money and having fun there is a constant deterioration in the quality of life. The worth of self and of persons diminishes and the quality of relationships deteriorates. Soon the distinctions between right and
wrong fade and values become distorted; social pressure toward evil emerges. Paul’s claim is that in a world of such spiritual poverty Christ has enriched the lives of those to whom he is writing.
Third, be thankful that God has given you great potential. Later in the letter Paul would devote three whole chapters to the understanding of gifts and their use in the church, but here in this early thanksgiving section he thanks God that they “come short in no gift” (1Corinthians 1:7). He is trying to encourage them with the realization that God has held back no gift that would help them to do His work and be His church in Corinth. Great untapped resources, whether in Corinth or in the churches of the twenty-first century, are in the gifts God has given to His people.
Fourth, be thankful God has given you a basis of hope. He wants them to be “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Corinthians 1:8) and gives as the basis of hope, not their good works but the fact that “God is faithful” (1Corinthians 1:9). It’s easy to get so bogged down in today’s failures that we lose sight of the ultimate victory we have in Christ.
An evergreen is always green despite the changes in weather around it. It is green in the heat of summer as well as the cold of winter. So also our lives are to be characterized by an enduring thankfulness that is unaffected by the changes around us. When the heat of a pressured week or the deadly cold of pain strikes us, we should stand “ever green,” always thankful, regardless of that which surrounds us. For the Christian, circumstances change but our Savior never changes, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Never forget to be thankful.