The Gratitude Of Serving God

I believe one of the greatest testimonies of a genuine faith in Christ is when gratitude is present in a person’s life in the middle of difficult circumstances. It is a reminder that they are living out of a hope that is not rooted within themselves.

The Apostle Paul regularly demonstrated that supernatural gratitude in the midst of very difficult trials.

While writing from a Roman prison, Paul wrote these words found in 2 Timothy 4:3: “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”

“Thankfulness” is not normally what we associate with someone waiting for their day of execution. But as Paul mentioned two verses earlier, his hope and identity was not rooted in his circumstances. His hope was in the life that he had in Christ which allowed him to be thankful and grateful despite what was happening in his physical world.

He writes of thankfulness toward God by first mentioning his role as a servant of the very God who has given him eternal life. He says, ‘I thank God whom I serve…” The word “serve” refers to the act of giving of yourself for the benefit of someone else. A servant is known by the one they serve. Their identity is not rooted in themselves. Paul often referred to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. He viewed his purpose and joy and hope through the lens of the one that he not only served but the one he belonged to. His life existed for someone else. This is why he is able to say in Galatians 2:20 that he no longer lives but Christ lives in him. His life existed for the glory and purposes of Christ.

And his gratitude in service to God was not based on how God used him but rather that Christ is made known in him. Too often we delight in God when he uses us in a way that we want to be used. And our gratitude can become the result of what has been given to us as we serve. And so If we are used by God and we are given affirmation by people, we praise God for using us. If we are used by God, and it provides a financial benefit, we praise God. if we are used by God, and we receive personal satisfaction in how our gifts are used, then we praised God.

But what if God uses our life and it does not benefit us from a human perspective? What if God uses our life and it does not bring the praises of people? What if God uses our life and it cost us everything we own? What if God uses our life and it does not meet our expectations for what we thought life would be? Do we still have gratitude?

Paul sat in a Roman prison able to write the words, ‘I thank God whom I serve…”

His service wasn’t leading to his benefit from a human standpoint. His service to God had brought him to the lowest point in socety — waiting to be executed for crimes against Rome.

And yet, Paul is able to write words of thanksgiving because he wasn’t serving for his own benefit. He wasn’t serving in order to gain a reputation, social status, wealth, power, freedom or even comfort. He served so that Christ would be glorified. And Paul recognized that even in suffering (and specifically in suffering) Christ was made known through his life.

In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul wrote, “for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

How many people can honestly write the phrase, ‘I delight in weaknesses’? But he so delighted in serving Christ and making him known, that he knew that in his weaknesses and insults and hardships, his own self was laid down and the power and greatness of Christ was make known. He knew that in this season of life a Roman prison was the means that Christ desired to be glorified through Paul.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That is the heart of servant. I do everything so that God is made known. If he is known in my comfort or discomfort, in my happiness or sorrow, then may it be for is glory.

And so Paul can praise God in the prison and out prison, in captivity and in freedom because they are all used for the glory of God.

When I have that mindset I get to see every circumstance as an opportunity to surrender my life so that Christ is glorified. May I not only have the heart of servant of God but may I know the joy of a servant of God desiring to fully and completely live my life for Him and Him alone.

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