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Sermon Overview + Prayer: "The Ground of our Gratefulness"

1 Thess. 1:2 "We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers... 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you..."
A study of Paul’s letters reveals the high priority he assigned to giving thanks to God for those he loved and served.
Father, in Jesus name, I ask that the Holy Spirit remind me again and again of those that you have allowed to touch my life with your goodness, mercy, and grace. Help me to be specific in my gratefulness in order to honor your manifold kindness, as well as to be specifically inspired to emulate their example.

The entire opening chapter is a communication of his gratefulness to God for them...
And what Paul, Timothy and Silas specifically and especially remembered about the Thessalonians were the evidences of God’s saving and empowering grace that characterized their lives, their:
“work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear the innumerable blessings all around me for which I can give thanks. Prompt me with the joy of always being able to enter your gates with thanksgiving and your courts with praise. And give me practical and creative ways to express my gratefulness to those closest to me, whose care and kindness, whose godliness and servanthood, I might often take for granted.

Paul’s practice was to thank God for evidences of grace in individuals and churches that are immature and flawed and in need of doctrinal and ethical instruction and correction.
This is where he begins and where we must begin in our assessment of our church and those who are members of our church.
Lord God, please search my heart for any inclination to compare, judge, evaluate, or assess...leading inevitably to personal pride or self-condemnation. Help me to see where I might relate (or not) based on that assessment.

And then Paul transitions to the “ultimate” cause of his thanksgiving, the most profound reason for Paul’s thankfulness to God for them in verse 4-their divine election: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…”
Father, never let me become overly familiar with the wonder of your having loved, chosen, and forgiven me and my brothers and sisters. May “being loved by God” always be the ultimate and final word in defining me and others, whether in success or failure, prosperity or adversity, strength or weakness. We are eternally loved by God!

Only the power of the Holy Spirit can penetrate and transform hearts granting the miracle of the new birth through the proclamation of the gospel resulting in repentance and faith.
Lord, help me to pray in specific ways for the Holy Spirit to bring the gospel, in word and power, to the hearts and minds of those I love and pray for.

Paul introduces the doctrine of election at the outset of this letter for the purpose of comforting the Thessalonians in the midst of their affliction and persecution. And if you look behind divine election you will discover divine affection.  If you are a Christian, you were chosen by God because you were loved by God. So, if you want to please and glorify God, here is the way you can do this – receive His undeserved love for you...a love that does not fluctuate...a love rooted in eternity past.
Heavenly Father, having chosen me in eternity past, let me never believe that I can earn more of, or in some way diminish, your infinite love; and thereby deny the sufficiency of Christ’ perfect sacrifice and your perfect love.

OVERVIEW OF SERMON: 
Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church is a deeply heartfelt expression of thanksgiving for the work of God in their lives. Paul models gratefulness in his prayers and calls the church to a similar practice. This gratefulness sets the tone for the rest of the letter. CJ pointed out that Paul highlights evidences of grace in the lives of the people within the Thessalonian church, which is a practice we should follow. Paul expresses the ultimate cause for his thanksgiving and grounds for gratefulness – their divine election, which he could be confident of from the preached word and the evidence of grace in their lives. CJ ended the sermon by explaining the immeasurable comfort and sweet assurance brought by the doctrine of election.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which are you more aware of – evidences of grace or areas of deficiency? How do these verses transform your thinking and/or prayers?
  2. As CJ expressed, the Thessalonian church was made up of average, odd characters that were chosen by God. How does that change the way you read this passage, and how does that change the way you view fellow members of our church?
  3. Paul is not commending the Thessalonians impressive display of godliness, but instead highlights God’s grace as the cause for the changes he has seen in their church. How can you specifically and rightly assign glory to God for observations you have had of his supernatural attributes in our church?
  4. The doctrine of election can be contentious, but Paul showcased it as his grounds for deep gratitude. What is your first reaction to the doctrine of election, and how does this passage and the way CJ addressed the doctrine change the way you view it? What would it look like for this doctrine to become a comfort, assurance, and guiding theme of the Lord’s love for you?