Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 1 2020 - Romans 1:18-32 – Thankfulness breeds holiness

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul paints a grim picture of the Gentile world of his day (note the third person plural pronouns (‘they’, ‘them’) used throughout this section before he turns his attention to his fellow Jews at the beginning of chapter 2). He draws a grim picture, perhaps emphasising precisely the way self-righteous Jews viewed Gentile ‘dogs’ – this is what people are like who have no knowledge of the living God. Nevertheless the picture he paints is of a world very similar to the worst aspects of our own world.

Paul argues that people have failed to worship God the creator and instead have made idols of the things he has created. In particular they have made idols of themselves and serve their own passions, damaging both themselves and others. And it all springs from a lack of thankfulness (1:21) – from a self-indulgent use of the gifts of creation with no thought for, or thankfulness towards, the Creator. What a mess we have made of God’s world!

1 Chronicles 16 records the psalm of David that was sung when the Ark of the Covenant was brought up to Jerusalem. It is a psalm of thanksgiving, beginning with the words,

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known among the nations what he has done (1 Chronicles 16:8).

The psalm then goes on to recount the many things that God has done for his people and his gracious provision for their needs. Later in this psalm, David calls on God’s people to,

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name ...
worship the Lord in the splendour of holiness (16:29).

Thankfulness, according to David, is a powerful promoter of holiness – of single-minded devotion to the God who has lavished so many good things on us.

Thankfulness also transforms human relationships. Others are no longer seen as there simply to meet our needs but as persons who have shown us consideration and deserve our consideration in return. A simple expression of thanks can brighten up the mundane routines of service with genuine human warmth. We certainly appreciate it ourselves and so we know how much it is valued by others.

The old ditty encourages us to ‘Count our blessings, name them one by one’. It’s good advice. It’s all too easy to take things for granted, whether it’s the goodness of God or the kindness of other people. That is why 1 Chronicles 16 and so many of the Psalms take time to rehearse the things that God has done for his people or list the blessings he has lavished on all that he has made. It’s no bad idea to end each day with a recollection of the many ways God has blessed us and the way others have brought help and encouragement into our day. It prompts prayers of praise and a renewed desire to be a blessing to others in the day to come.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

Father God, when I begin to think of all that you have lavished upon me, both in creation and in Christ, I am filled with thankfulness and praise. Forgive me that I so often take so much for granted. Open my eyes to see your kindness and to appreciate the love and concern of those around me. Give me a thankful spirit that finds ready expression in words of appreciation and a life of glad service of you my God and of those around me.

Peter Misselbrook