Yesterday we discussed Paul’s perspective on life, that is the importance of expressing gratitude to the Lord in all things. This perspective, which seems quite amazing against the backdrop of suffering and hardship in Paul’s life, undoubtedly was shaped by the Gospel. But what motivated him to give thanks? I believe, first and foremost, his
heart of gratitude was fueled by the fact that God, in his mercy and kindness, had given him a new life in Christ! Paul wrote often about the “gift” God had given him.
When someone receives a gift from a friend or family member, the natural response is to express thanks to the gift-giver. At the same time, the depth of appreciation naturally correlates to the quality of the gift. This must have been true for Paul exponentially. He often expressed throughout his letters to the churches how much this special gift meant to him. The”gift” Paul had received was nothing less than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ–the gift John wrote about in John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Over and over again Paul refers to what God has done for humanity’s sin problem as a “gift” from God:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and
in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given,
sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over
those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the
one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the
gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the
one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive
God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through
the one man, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:12-17)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our
Lord. (Rom. 6:23)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in
Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches
of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you
have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Eph.
Paul’s life had been marked by God’s gift through Christ. For this former Pharisee, it wasn’t just theological theory; it was intensely personal! As a former persecutor of the Church and of Christ himself, Paul had been gloriously saved from sin and rebellion through God’s kindness in Christ Jesus. An acute awareness of this gift of God most certainly fueled his joy and his thanksgiving. The apostle, who was rarely at a loss for words, couldn’t seem to find words to describe this gift!
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor. 9:15)
For personal reflection: One of the best antidotes for a heart that lacks a sense of gratitude is a bit of personal reflection. The intentional process of thinking back to the first time that God’s love became very real and personal inspires a sense of gratitude. As we revisit that occasion, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear the words naturally flow from our heart and mouth: “Thank you, Jesus, for the precious gift of forgiveness of my sin and new life in Yourself!”