Monday, July 3, 2017

Thanking God in our Prayers for our Brothers and Sisters

This week, as we gather together to pray and praise our triune God, we look at Paul's first prayer in his first letter to the Corinthians:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge - even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you - so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Anyone who has ever read either of Paul's Spirit-inspired letters to this church knows that they had their issues. To put it bluntly, this was one messed-up church!

Paul would have been totally justified in cutting straight to the point and admonishing these wayward Christians for all of there erring and rebellious ways.

But he doesn't.

Instead, he does something quite remarkable - something we ourselves must be careful not to miss.

The first matter of business Paul gets to in this letter is giving thanks to his God for this motley crew of justified sinners.

This is something that can become quite foreign to us if we are not intentional in our prayer lives in making thanksgiving to God for our brothers and sisters a priority.

This is not Paul seeking to puff them up or tickle their ears. We know that later on in this very letter, he says some pretty hard things to these same believers.

What Paul is doing is demonstrating his genuine love for them. Or, in the words of Sam Crabtree, his is exercising the spiritual gift of "practicing affirmation."

As any good coach or parent knows, constantly nit-picking the faults of others can lead to the discouragement and despair of the very people we are trying to 'help.' However, as we all know, any kind of genuine and legitimate affirmation of any kind (no matter how 'small') of progress or achievement pays off great dividends, and helps 'soften the blow' when those rebukes and disciplines are necessary.

As I write this, I ask myself, "When have I last spent time in prayer thanking God for the growth in grace of some fellow believer? When is the last time I've come alongside one of my joint-heirs in Christ and told them I see God at work in their life? When is the last time I've thanked my gracious God for saving those who God has placed in my life and fellowship?"

Thankfully, Scripture is a lamp to my feet and life - including my prayer life.

Brothers and sisters of GCC, let us pray that this kind of thankfulness to God for others would increasingly infuse our own prayers, as they seem to characteristically infuse Paul's (see Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, Philemon).

Some suggestions from our very text might include:
  • The activity of God's grace at work in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ (both in conversion and sanctification).
  • The evidence of God's grace in "enriching" our brethren with gospel speech and knowledge.
  • God's abundant grace in bestowing various spiritual gifts (further spelled out in chapters 12 and 14).
  • God's sustaining grace and faithfulness, which will hold us fast to the end, when we will stand guiltless before our Savior.
  • God's electing grace in calling us individually and corporately into the fellowship of His Son.
As we follow Paul's own example, may a greater unity - something that seemed to be lacking in the Corinthian congregation - be fostered in our midst, to the glory of our glorious triune God.

In Christ, and for His church,
pastor ryan

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