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. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
(2 Timothy 1:3-5)
We live in a society of compulsive, insincere thankfulness. If anybody gives your children something, you may feel compelled to prompt them, “Say thanks.” Kind gestures and gifts seem unappreciated if not acknowledged in some way, and we often respond habitually. In this passage, the apostle Paul was teaching Timothy that authentic appreciation for the good things of life starts with recognizing their source in God and expressing our thanks to Him.
At no point in the Bible are we ever commanded to thank other people. That is not to say expressing gratitude is wrong. But biblically, we thank God first and always. Paul doesn’t say, “Hey Timothy, thanks for being such a great guy.” No, the apostle wrote, I thank God for you. This was a pattern with Paul—not only gratitude, but gratitude to God. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3).
In this second letter to his protégé Timothy, Paul begins with a grateful reflection that must have given the addressee a jolt of hope. Paul pointed out the importance of remembering by remembering. He says, 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. Notice Paul tells us what he is doing (I thank God) before telling why he’s doing it (remembering).
Three times in today’s passage Paul ties his thankfulness to God with something he remembers about Timothy: I remember you . . . I remember your tears . . . I am reminded of your sincere faith.
First, Paul simply remembered Timothy himself, with no strings attached. This wasn’t gratefulness for Timothy’s usefulness to Paul, but thanks to God for who He had designed Timothy to be. Second, Paul thanked God for Timothy’s tenderness. What might be seen as weakness by others, Paul saw as a God-given strength in his younger associate. Third, Paul appreciated how God had built Timothy’s faith, preparing him to follow Christ through his upbringing by a faithful grandmother and mother.
There is amazing power in letting other people know you have been thinking and praying about them. This effect is deepened when you can tell them you are grateful to God for their place in your life.
Some of us need to thank God for interrupting a negative generational flow in our families, and many of us need to humbly cry out to God in deep gratitude for the heritage of faith we did nothing to deserve. Paul was thankful for his ancestors and urged Timothy to do the same.
Let Paul’s inspired words motivate you to practice authentic appreciation. Because once you begin to practice that kind of gratitude, you will find there is no end to your thanksgiving.
Lord, it has been a while since I paused to tell You thanks for my family. Thank You for my mother and father, my grandparents, and the unbroken sequence of people who passed on life until it was given by You to me. Thank You for how You have worked in my family in the good and bad to bring about good for me. The fact that I am capable of expressing my gratitude to You today is a tribute to the amazing work You have done in my life through the many people You have used to draw me to You. I thank You in Jesus’ name, amen.