One of the graces God gives us is people whom we can serve in order to strengthen their confidence in and allegiance to Jesus (Romans 1:11–12). Regardless of how difficult and time-consuming this ministry can be, we can rejoice in our knowledge that the situation, the insight of what to do, and the ability to do what is needed are all manifestations of the Holy Spirit in and through us for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4–7). Therefore, we should be thankful for these people, shouldn’t we? After all, as Paul writes, “who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even [them], in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming” (1 Thessalonians 2:19)?As I was thinking about a subject for this year’s Thanksgiving prayer, I was struck by how thankful the Apostle Paul was for the people Christ had given him to serve. While he is known to be someone who spread the gospel, it seems that he invested most of his time working with the people who had responded to his preaching: “Paul left and went through the region … strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23). From his many letters we learn that he was thankful for all of these souls. For example, he writes to one of his more problematic congregations: “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which he gave you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in him” (1 Corinthians 1:4–5). So, join with me in being imitators of Paul—as he exhorted us to do (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1)—and offer a prayer of thanks for the gift of people to serve in Jesus name.
Abundant grace, extravagant and free,
From you, through Jesus Christ, enriches us
With faith and love, so all your saints can be
A part of something truly glorious,
For grace’s joy produces words and deeds;
It changes us and causes us to find
Creative ways to meet our neighbors’ needs,
Empathic and pragmatically kind.
How marvelous to find your faith and love,
O God, abundantly available
To strengthen us for service in Christ’s name!
How wonderful to celebrate the love
You make so readily accessible
By giving thanks to magnify your fame!