Ephesians 1:3-16. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… 15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints. 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
What are you thankful for? When you pray to God do you give thanks? When you give thanks what sort of things do you thank God for?
Paul gives us a really good example of what to be thankful for in his prayers. He’s thankful for the faith and love of the saints in Ephesus. That is, he’s thankful that they have been blessed in Christ and that the blessing in Christ has proven their faith in the Lord Jesus and then led toward their love toward all the saints.
American Christians pray some interesting prayers. And we are thankful for some pretty interesting things. Usually we are thankful for our physical blessings – jobs, health, safety, birth of children, food, even our country itself and the freedom it offers. Of course it is not wrong to be thankful for these things. But it is interesting that we tend to be thankful for things that in this country are so prevalent. They are easily obtained relatively speaking. If you sit in a typical church group and ask everyone to share something that they are thankful for, how often do you here people begin to list their spiritual blessings in the heavenly places? “I would like to thank God for my adoption in Christ.” Or “I am thanking God today that he has redeemed me from my sin.” Rare indeed. Usually you hear a thanksgiving for safety in travel, or for a physical healing, or for a work project accomplished. Not, “I’m thankful today for my forgiveness.” “I’m blessing God because he chose me to be holy and blameless in him.”
Why is this kind of language and thankfulness so foreign to us?
And maybe even more foreign to us is giving thanks for the spiritual blessings that OTHER Christians are experiencing. That’s what Paul is doing. He is thankful to God because this Church is full of faith and love. When’s the last time you thanked God for that? “Thank you God that my church loves one another.” “Thank you God for the grace that you have poured into my church, specifically your love for Miss So-in-so, or Mr. Such-in-such.”
But take a look at how Paul prays for the Church:
1 Thessalonians 1:2-4. 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
1 Corinthians 1:4-9. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
What would it take for us to give thanks like this? To be thankful for the spiritual blessings and not just the physical ones? It would probably take us being so in touch with these spiritual blessings that God’s grace overwhelms us each and every day in new and exciting ways so that we see that our union with Christ is by far the greatest blessing we have and the foremost thing that we should be thankful for.
“To live is Christ” should generate all kinds of thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving for our union with Christ and the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places that it brings into our own life and the life of the Church. Blessings that should spark gratitude in our hearts for the things that truly only God by his grace can do.