As we approach Thanksgiving day, there are many things that I am thankful for; but this year I am especially thankful for family and friends who have blessed me in so many ways. I was especially reminded of this as I prepared my message for last Sunday based on a text from 1 Thessalonians, 3:7-13. In this passage Paul begins by asking the question: "How can we thank God enough? (vs. 9). He then expounds on his thanksgiving by describing his relationship with the Thessalonians in light of four important qualities: joy, faith, love, and strength. These are four quality, I believe, that my family and friends have imparted to me over the years. It is these qualities, and the way my friends have shared them with me, that have made our relationships meaningful and deep. I am so thankful for the people who have shared these gifts with me...
As we approach thanksgiving day, perhaps it will do us well to identify and to thank God for the people who...
Bring Joy to Our Life, (vs. 9). Who are the people who fill your life with joy? Many I know will say it is their children and grandchildren. A close therapist friend of mine takes at least one week each quarter so he can spend some special time with his children and grandchildren. He says that for him this is a week of renewal and one that brings him great joy. I know others who will describe specific people in their life whose very presence sparks joy within their heart. Perhaps we should pause and thank God for the people who bring joy to our life in ongoing ways.
Fill Our Hearts With Faith, (vs. 10). Who are the people who fill your life with faith? Throughout the years there have been many who have played that role in my life. As a young child is was a Sunday School teacher who taught me the stories of the Bible and did so in a way that was fun and exciting. In college it was the chaplain of our Wesley Foundation who guided me and assisted me in learning how to study the Bible. As a young pastor there were several "seasoned" pastors who were always available to visit with me and share words of encouragement and wisdom. Then I would have to say that throughout my life it was the author and pastor, John Stott, whose many books inspired me to the pursuit of knowledge and godly living. Finally, my parents and grand parents have filled my heart with faith as they have demonstrated for me what it means to address the challenges of life with trust in a loving and mighty God. I am thankful for all of these who have filled my life with faith.
Love us Abundantly, (vs. 11-12). Paul's actual words are, "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else." Who are the people whose love has "overflowed" from their life into yours? In these verses, Paul describes our capacity to love as sort of a "reservoir." Our reservoir may be empty; it may be half full, or it may be full and over-flowing. Thank God for the people in our life whose hearts are filled and over-flowing with love. They bless us in so many ways.
Recently a friend of mine went through the process of adopting a young child who had come into her home as a foster child. During the adoption process the judge addressed her and said, "Small children small problems, big children big problems; if I grant this adoption are you prepared to love and care for this child through every stage and struggle of life?' My friend responded, "I cannot imagine any situation in life where my love would not be over-flowing for this child who is now a wonderful part of my life." Thank God for people with over-flowing love.
Strengthen Us, (vs. 13). Paul prays that God will strengthen the hearts of the Thessalonian believers. Throughout the years I have personally been strengthened (many times) by those who faithfully prayed for me. I am especially grateful for grandparents, parents, parents-in-law and friends who have expressed (both verbally and in writing) their commitment to pray for me through the various seasons of my life. When my wife and I were married, one of our wedding "gifts" was a commitment from a friend to pray for us daily for the first year of our marriage. What a tremendous blessing this was! My hope is that I can be a source of strength for others as I pray faithfully for them.
There are many reasons for Thanksgiving that we can focus on during this season. But this year, I am especially thankful for the many people through whom God has blessed my life. I invite you too to take a few moments to identify and give thanks for the special people God has brought into your life. What a tremendous gift they are!
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.