For the apostle Paul, there was another huge motivator for expression of thanksgiving. It was gratitude for what Christ had done in the lives of those with whom he had had the privilege of sharing the Gospel. As he started new churches throughout the region, those new churches were made up of real people, individuals whom Paul had led to Christ. He spent time with them, he knew them, and he loved them. Time after time, he wrote letters back to the churches, expressing thanks to God for those precious saints whom he knew personally. He rejoiced to see how the Gospel was powerfully at work transforming their lives.
To the Church in Corinth, he wrote:
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. (1 Cor. 1:4-6)
To the Church in Rome, he wrote:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Rom. 1:8)
To the Church in Colosse, he wrote:
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. (Col. 1:3-6)
To the Church in Thessalonica, he wrote:
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 1:2-3)
To the Church in Philippi, he wrote:
I thank my God every time I remember you. (Phil. 1:3)
Paul knew the believers who made up these churches as well as the circumstances of their lives. He knew how their lives had been before encountering the life-changing power of Christ. His observation of the stunning changes the gospel had made in their lives gave Paul abundant reasons to rejoice and give thanks to God for them.
For personal reflection: Are there any Christians around you in whom you have been able to see God change over time? Have you witnessed life-transformation in someone that you have had opportunity to disciple or encourage in Christ along the way? Reflect on some real-life examples of God’s trophies of grace. See if that doesn’t cause your heart to give thanks as you remember them.