Summary: To live gratefully is to worship God inwardly in prayer and reverence and outwardly in service of God and others. To live gratefully is to fully live the life of a disciple.
“Grateful Living” “1 Thessalonians 5:15-18
Contentment—basking in and savoring the gracious gifts of God in our lives was the topic of last week’s sermon. We wrestled with the idea that contentment is foundational to a life of gratitude; if we are not content we cannot be grateful.
This week we will address Paul’s practical advice to the Thessalonians on how to live gratefully. A grateful life is our response to the grace that we have experienced through the Cross of Jesus Christ. We will discover that a grateful life not only takes many forms, but it is also a life choice that we make.
FAITH IN ACTION
We all have heard the verse in Ephesians that says, “You have been saved by grace through faith and this is not our own doing it is a gift from God.” This verse is a foundation stone in our beliefs as Christians. It was a pivotal verse for the Reformation. Faith is a gift. Faith is not a work. When it comes to our salvation—our relationship with God—this is most certainly true (as Luther would say).
Paul is now reminding his readers that living and acting in the reality of our salvation and our relationship with God can often be a choice. We can choose to forgive or not to forgive. To forgive is to live in the reality of God’s love and grace. We can choose to spread gossip, or to speak well of a person. Life is filled with choices, and many of those choices are actions of faith.
In this brief passage, Paul lists a few important ways of living gratefully.
We live gratefully by being graceful to others. It appears that the Thessalonians were having some squabbles. There was bickering and dissention among them that detracted from their witness and hindered them from carrying out their ministry.
We’ve heard the saying, “It takes two to tango.” It only takes one to stop a fight, however. Relationships are bruised and broken when people refuse to forgive, try to win, and strive to at least have the last word. Disagreements can escalate to full blown fights that affect the entire community of faith.
Paul’s idea is not to repay evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. All it takes is a choice—a decision to break the cycle and allow good to prevail over evil.
The health and wellbeing of the relationship must take priority over our sense of justice, fairness, or our ego’s need to come out on top.
REJOICE AND GIVE THANKS
In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul returns to one of his favorite themes, “Rejoice and give thanks.”
There are those times when we want to pout and get down on ourselves, life, and God. AA calls it “stinking thinking”. Paul reminds his readers and us that we can make a change. We can choose not to go down that path. Instead, we can decide that we will rejoice and give thanks.
Certainly life is not always easy. We are forced to confront many challenges, open ourselves up to pain and sorrow, and sometimes struggle to keep from being overwhelmed. Such is life in a broken, sin filled world. We cannot often change life, but we can change our attitude toward life. We can choose to rejoice and give thanks.
There is great power in rejoicing and giving thanks. It helps us to persevere. It lightens the burdens of those around us by giving them hope and encouragement. Rejoicing and giving thanks also glorifies and honors God. It is a powerful witness.
Life is better when we choose to live in the reality of God’s love and Grace—when we choose to praise rather than complain.
We have so much to be thankful for—no matter what our circumstances. We don’t need to fake our gratitude; our gratitude can be sincere.
Gratitude is an action and attitude of faith. It enables us to say daily, “We believe!”