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Thankfulness and Anticipation!


In Acts 28:15, where Paul is under arrest, a prisoner on his way to Rome, it is recorded that ‘he thanked God and took courage!’ The occasion of Paul’s words of thanksgiving and anticipation was a meeting with some of the brethren of Rome, who had travelled down to two of the villages along the way to meet with him. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. Acts 28:15. It was the meeting with, and the fellowship with his fellow believers in Christ, which evoked such a marvellous response within the apostle. That short time of fellowship blessed Paul, built him up spiritually, and led him to praise God for what had passed and to trust him for the future. May we also be encouraged to thank the Lord for the past, and to trust him for what is to come!

Firstly, let us see Paul’s attitude to the past. HE THANKED GOD! There’s a lesson for us there, for thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. “Warren Wiersby illustrates this problem in his commentary on Colossians. He told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.”

But WHY did Paul thank God for the past? Surely He would be thankful for the very existence of the Church as a group of God’s people! Surely it is the Lord Himself who has drawn us together and caused us to actually exist as a group of His own people! Peter expresses the providence of God in these terms: “Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” 1 Peter 2:10 And in a more personal sense, have we not so much to be thankful for, that God took people who were sinners, and who had utterly rejected God in their hearts and their lives, who were without Christ, and without hope and without peace, away out in the world, and He called us, and he convicted us of sin, and convinced us of the need for salvation, and brought us to the cross and forgave us sin and pardoned us and brought us into the Kingdom and family of God! “This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” Mark 12:11. We should truly thank God, both for our own personal salvation and for drawing us together as a band of His elect people.

Secondly, Paul could also be thankful for his preservation, as we must be for our preservation to this day! The church is always surrounded by evil and temptation and satanic forces. But the Lord has preserved His people! The Lord dwells in the midst of His people, and is a wall of fire around them in times of danger! As well as preserving us, God has blessed us and bestowed us with his gracious benefits.

Thirdly, Paul can certainly thank God for His divine approval upon his work. So must we! Despite the pressures upon the church from ecumenism, the charismatic movement, liberal theology and worldly Christianity the cause has not died, the light has not gone out, and the Lord is still with His people! And is it not for His approval that we seek?

Like Paul, we too must be thankful to God, but just how do we do that? Firstly, I believe that we must vocally express our thankfulness. At every opportunity, let it be known that you are thankful to the Lord for what he has done! Don’t give His glory to someone else! Don’t give it to an earthly helper, to take it for yourself, don’t attribute your heavenly blessings to ‘luck’ or ‘good fortune’ – tell people that the Lord has been with us, and has blessed us and has kept us and that we are thankful unto Him.

Also, we must thank Him in a spiritual manner! Thank Him today from the very depths of your soul! Our spirits should be filled with the spirit of thanksgiving! And we must thank Him together! All God’s people should be involved in the giving of thanks unto the Lord for His work in our midst! Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. Psalm 150:6. When we see the work of the Lord continuing, we should all thank him, from the youngest to the oldest saint! And that praise should be harmonious, and pleasing to the Lord! It is also important that we thank Him in practical service! The blessing of the Lord toward us demands a present response! Not only should we speak forth the praise of God in words, but in deeds! Our thankfulness to the Lord is best expressed in continuing service! Our lives should show forth our praise of God!

Paul was THANKFUL for the PAST, but our text tells us that he also TOOK COURAGE for the future! Great trials lay ahead for Paul, including imprisonment at Rome, and the prospect of being brought before Caesar to account for himself. To be brought as a Christian before an ungodly man, deluded into thinking that he himself was divine, and who had the absolute power of life and death was an utterly terrifying prospect! But Paul could take courage in the Lord! Our God is still as powerful! God is still all sufficient, and all powerful. He has never altered, for there is no shadow of turning with the Lord, so take courage! Our Saviour never changes! The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever! We have lived by faith in him and he has not disappointed us, so take courage! Our Comforter still guides us! The blessed third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is still guiding his church and still convicting sinners of their sin and their need of the Saviour. He is still dwelling within God’s people, and he is still the first-fruits, the guarantee of heaven, and the hope of eternal glory and abiding within his church forever, so take courage! God’s promises never fail! It is His providence that shall guide us in future days! CH Spurgeon wrote, “Your ‘labour’ is already set aside for you to accomplish by the hand of his wisdom. Remember, you are not a child of chance. If you were, you might indeed fear. You will go nowhere in the future except where God shall send you. You shall perhaps be thrust into the hot coals of the fire, but God shall put you there. You shall perhaps be much depressed in spirit, but that heaviness shall be for your good, and shall come from your Father. You shall have the rod, but it shall not be the rod of the wicked–it shall be in God’s hand. Oh! how comfortable the thought that EVERYTHING is in the hand of God, and that all that may occur to me during the future years of my life is foreordained and overruled by the great Jehovah, who is my Father and my friend!”

Ultimately, we take courage because of the certainty that we have in the future! For those of us who know Christ as Saviour and Lord, and who are born again by the Holy Spirit, we have an assurance – that we shall one day be brought safely home to heaven to be with the Lord!

So be thankful for the past, and take courage for the future!

From → Bible Study

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