This past Sunday, my pastor preached out of the book of Colossians, beginning the new series for our church, Found. His directive at the end of his message was the following: identify who you’re thankful for, pray for them consistently, and then tell them you prayed.
I thought of the writer of the book of Colossians, Paul. From my study of the Bible, I remembered that he often told people that he was thankful for them. Specifically, the Bible records Paul telling the following that he was thankful for them in his letters to them: the Romans, the Corinthians, the Philippians, the Ephesians, the Thessalonians (twice), the Colossians, and then two specific men, Timothy and Philemon.
I’m a words person, and I often look up the definitions for words to understand the concept a little better. So, I googled “thankful,” and I found that the definition of this word is “pleased and relieved.”
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t exactly pair that definition with that word. I understand how thankful and pleased would be synonymous, but the second part of the definition surprised me.
I took a step back to reflect, and then the definition made absolute sense!
My husband filled my car up with gas this weekend so that I wouldn’t have to. I’m so *pleased and relieved* that he did that for me so that I don’t have to do it.
My friend [insert name here] always gives godly encouragement and advice. I’m so *pleased and relieved* that I have someone to talk to when life gets hard.
My mom sent the sweetest surprise care package with all of my favorites to me this weekend. I’m so *pleased and relieved* that she thinks of ways to make me smile although we live several states apart.
So, what about these individual people or groups of people made Paul pleased and relieved?
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world.”
“I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God given to you in Christ Jesus”
1 Corinthians 1:4
“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.”
“This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.”
“We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
“We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing.”
2 Thessalonians 1:3
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the saints because of the hope reserved for you in heaven…”
“I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.”
2 Timothy 1:3
“I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love for all the saints and the faith you have in the Lord Jesus.”
The reasons why Paul was thankful, the reasons why he was pleased and relieved?
The recipients’ faith, their salvation in Christ, their partnership in telling others about Jesus, their love for others, and their hope in eternal life.
The conviction hit me hard when I read this list of reasons. So often, my thankfulness is tied to what people do for me, like the examples that I mentioned above. Paul’s thankfulness came from their spiritual growth.
It’s not a bad thing to be thankful for the ways that people better our lives, but personally, I’m challenging myself to be thankful for a variety of things when it comes to my relationships with others, most importantly the spiritual growth that I see in their lives as well as the spiritual growth that they inspire in my life.
This thankfulness, pleasure, and relief inspired Paul to action. In response to his thankfulness, he prayed to God on their behalf. Not sometimes. Not when it was convenient. Not only after his daily to do list had been completed. Not when he felt refreshed from a good night’s rest.
Every time he thought of them.
I know that my prayer life could not be described in the same way as Paul’s prayer life. Too often, I forget to pray for people even when they are on my mind. Too often, I allow inconveniences get in the way. Too often, I tackle my to do list before my prayer list. Too often, I allow social media to take up precious moments that I could be praying. Too often, I allow being tired to become an acceptable excuse for skipping out on talking to God about my friends.
In these letters, Paul told his fellow Christians that he was thankful for them. Not only that, he told them why he was thankful, and the “why” had to do with their spiritual lives and their characteristics and attributes as people. But he didn’t stop there. He committed himself to praying for them out of his thankfulness for them.
I’m challenging myself this month to follow Paul’s example.
From my wedding this past December, I have an abundance of blank thank you cards. I’m going to pray about and reflect upon who I am thankful for and then send them a card telling them that I’m thankful, why I’m thankful, and then say a prayer for them.
What is God challenging you to do?
Is it to share this post with someone, letting them know that you are thankful for them?
Is it to write a physical card like God has given me the idea to do?
Is it something else entirely?
Regardless, I pray that you learned just as much as I learned today through God’s Word through Paul. I pray that you have a renewed sense of purpose in bettering the lives of others, and I pray that we all become a lot more thankful and lot more prayerful.
**I’d love to hear the creative ways that you are telling/showing people you are thankful, telling/showing them why you’re thankful for them, and telling/showing them that you are praying for them. Feel free to share your ideas below.**