Summary: Thanksgiving is a time when we pause to celebrate and give thanks to God for everything he has given us, and the best way to give thanks to God is to pray.
Thanksgiving was approaching, and a family had received a Thanksgiving card with a painting of a Pilgrim family on their way to church.
Grandma showed the card to her small grandchildren and observed, “The Pilgrim children liked to go to church with their mothers and fathers.”
“Oh yeah?” her young grandson replied, “So why is their dad carrying that rifle?”
Today we are celebrating the Canadian Thanksgiving. It is a time when we pause to celebrate and give thanks to God for everything he has given us, and the best way to give thanks to God is to pray. Giving thanks is one of three types of prayer, the other two being supplication and intercessions (which means speaking to God on behalf of someone else). Regardless of the type of prayer we use, we must remember that prayer is not just for our sakes or needs.
Supplications are petitions for certain definite needs. They are humble requests made because of certain situations which God alone can help. When our supplications are granted, we need to give thanks. When we take our concerns to God, God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.
In the reading we heard from 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul tells us to pray for those in authority. Here in Canada this is appropriate right now because we are in the middle of a federal election campaign. Complaining about people in authority is easy, but God also tells us to pray for them. These prayers should include requests for the peaceable and wise rule and prayers for their salvation. Such prayers acknowledge that all authority is ultimately God’s authority and that God is the ultimate King.
We are also to pray for salvation for lost souls. This puts us at odds with Paul. He argues that although God wants everyone to be saved, that does not mean that God will save everyone. People must either accept the Gospel or reject it. Believers should still pray for everyone, even those who seen unreachable. If we think that some people do not deserve the gift of salvation, then we are not as all-loving as God is. Scripture clearly states that God wants everyone to be saved and know the truth of salvation. There are no exceptions. No one is beyond God’s saving love.
Salvation is available because of the one person who was both man and God and who could represent humanity and reconcile humanity to God. That person is Jesus. Jesus served as a mediator between these two otherwise irreconcilable parties. Jesus is the only way to God.
The cross is the site of the most important transaction in history. Jesus served as a ransom to redeem humanity from slavery. The image is that of a slave market, with human beings as the slaves of sin. The price paid to free them was Jesus’ own death. Jesus substituted his own innocent life for our lives as slaves to sin and dying the death we all deserve and sparing us from the judgment we deserve.
False teachers were probably saying that salvation was restricted to the Jews, prompting Paul to write that Jesus gave himself for the sake of everyone and that God appointed him to teach the Gentiles. Paul’s calling has authority because God gave it to him and because he was faithful to it. Godly obedience makes a Christian’s testimony believable so that unbelievers may hear it and receive it.
We have many gifts from God to be thankful for. These gifts range from the universal offer of the Gospel and salvation to everyone to God’s love for everyone to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for everyone to a church that is for everyone. The last one is hard to believe when you consider that some churches have allowed the world to control their agendas.
The passage from 1 Timothy links God’s grace with our concern for the church’s conduct in a world that lives by non-Christian customs. Churches that appeal to their own kind are the churches that most often grow in numbers. A church that reflects a culture of affluence and success is more likely to be successful. While God can and does bless people with success, we must remember to give thanks to God for that success. We must use that success to show God’s love to the world. One way we can do this is to pray.
Paul’s desire is for us to have compassion for the lost, to understand the depths of their pain and misery, and to come ultimately to God pleading for their salvation. Paul wants us to come to God on behalf of people who have no standing with him. We are to intercede for the lost.
We must not be “carnal Christians.” We must not live to please and serve ourselves instead of pleasing and serving Christ. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in asking God to provide us with what we need or want that we forget to pray for others. We need to ask God to help us be sensitive to the needs of others, just like many people in this area are being sensitive to the needs of Syrian refugees by coming together to arrange to bring some of them to this area. We must take advantage of every opportunity to approach God and lay our concerns at his feet.