We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you al toward each other aboundeth:2 Thessalonians 1:3
Paul modeled the prayer life to which each Christian should aspire. As Paul writes to his friends and co-workers, he frequently mentions praying for them and he specifies how he prays for them.
Paul’s habit of thankfulness
Across his many letters that make up our New Testament, we find references to Paul thanking God for his brothers and sisters in Christ. In Romans 1:8 he says,
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
To the church at Corinth he writes,
I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;1 Corinthians 1:4
He does the same for the believers in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:16), Colosse (1:3), and for individuals too, such as Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1).
Paul’s description of his prayer life to the Thessalonians in our verse reveal Debt, Diligence, and Details.
Paul said “We are bound…”
Paul told them that his love for God and for them resulted in his feeling compelled, or obligated to give thanks to God for them. The believers in Thessalonica served faithfully. Based upon their testimony the only just response was thankfulness. He describes this thankfulness as “meet”. It was appropriate to give thanks, which by extension implies that to not give thanks would have been inappropriate.
This attitude of thankfulness for brothers and sisters in Christ reflects Paul’s high view of what it means to be included in a local church. We owe it, we are bound, compelled, to give thanks to God for our fellow believers.
And it is a good practice to let them know that. Our culture emphasizes much about rights, but let’s focus on our responsibility to give thanks for and to other Christians.
When did Paul give thanks for other Christians? Always.
First, to be able to always thank God for others, we must be in right fellowship with God. It may seem like a bold assumption on Paul’s part that Christians would always have an open line to their Father, but it is an appropriate one. We cannot give thanks to God for others if we have allowed our fellowship to be interrupted.
Second, it takes a deliberate focus to remain thankful for others. Our enemies want us to criticize and complain about others. If we do not guard our hearts, then we will amplify the faults and differences we see in others, and once that occurs we will not give thanks for them. Why would we?
In Proverbs 10:12 we read,
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins
The wrong attitude in our hearts will stir up and find fault. If nothing appears to be wrong, it will cause it.
But Christlike love will cover the sins of others. Peter rephrases and repeats this proverb in 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
It does not mean that we ignore active sin, but rather it means we forgive sins committed. Once sin has been dealt with, love does not stir it up nor gossip about it to others.
If we focus on the faults of others, we will not be ready to find reasons to be thankful for others.
Finally, Paul was specific in what he gave thanks to God about concerning the believers at Thessalonica. Simply saying, “I am thankful for Steve” is good, but saying, “I am thankful for Steve’s joyful singing and zeal to witness” is better.
Paul thank God that the faith of the believers had grown exceedingly and the love toward each other abounded. One interesting thing about that, Paul had made those matters a request of prayer in the past (1 Thessalonians 3:10 and 3:12).
Part of the wonder of our praying specifically for others is being able to witness the answers to prayer and returning thanks to God for them.
When we stop and look at other believers as God sees them, we will find it “meet”, appropriate to thank God for them, and we will be compelled to do so.