On Wednesday mornings and Sunday evenings we are being filled up on the book of Romans. As I was preparing the study for this Wednesday I came across an intriguing concept. What are the marks of true spiritual service? How can you look at somebody and tell that they're really serving with their spirit and not out of some other much lesser motivation? And I think there are ten marks of true spiritual service. Here’s the first one. True spiritual service is marked by a thankful spirit...a thankful spirit.
I came across this idea in Romans 1:8.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
You know, if there's anything you learn about Paul, it's that he had a thankful heart. Do you know that in every single epistle that he wrote he expresses thanks for the one to whom he writes...except for one? And that was the Galatians who were being distracted by another gospel and were functioning in the flesh. All the rest begin with thanksgiving. Now let me tell you something. The reason he wrote those letters, with only a few exceptions, was because those churches needed to be corrected, which is not an enviable task – it’s a good way to get bit by a sheep. But even where he had to step up to that task he could find something to be thankful for.
Paul had a thankful spirit (that means his God-given gratitude was deep and abiding). In verse nine he mentions serving with his whole heart. Serving with gratitude was placed deep within his heart by God. Paul seemed to always be able to see God's purposes being accomplished. He was always able to see God's Kingdom advancing. He looked for that. He anticipated God working; and was never disappointed (see Romans 5:1-8). And Paul manifested what, I believe, you find in the heart of all true servants of God. He lived out an attitude of gratitude that was born of knowing God’s promises, believing them, and then noticing God being faithful.
And Paul expresses his thanks. He doesn't say, "Thank you, Romans." No, thanking the Romans would have been flattery. And he doesn't say, "I'm so thankful for what God has done for me." That would have been blindly selfish. He does say, "I thank God...(not the Romans)...for what He's done...(not for me, but)...for you." He got genuine joy out of somebody else's blessing.
You might be interested to know where he was when he wrote this. He was in Corinth. And you know what was going on? The people in religious and political power were plotting to kill him (see Acts 20:2). In that particular situation he still is filled with thanksgiving. I guess we could say he took his own advice (see Col 3:2 & Phil 4:8-9). He was thankful.
Let’s encourage and pray for each other. Let’s make our church very good ground for new people coming in. Let’s be living parables of God’s heart.
John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."