Thought for the Week - 4th MarchPastor Gareth Watkins
Romans 1: 20-21
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made,
even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God,
nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts,
and their foolish hearts were darkened.
After writing about Paul last week, I reflected on the other attributes of Paul. One attribute was that he knew how to thank God. His thankfulness to God reveals a key part of his Christian life and his ministry. Still to this day, you can tell a Christian’s walk with God with their thankfulness to God.
Paul gives us lots of insight into his Christian life through how thankful he was to God. Today in church life, people can be very knowledgeable, educated, and powerful – but how thankful they are reveals in them something unto God. It doesn’t matter how much we know or how powerful we are, our relationship with God is key. Paul’s thankfulness reveals his heart to God.
The verses above reveal as much about God as they do about Paul. Paul wrote the letter to the Christians in Roman. He shows something of God’s attributes: God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen by the things that are made; you can’t compromise or apologise for the eternal qualities of God; because creation didn’t glorify or thank God their thoughts became futile and their hearts darkened.
These things are shown to us by Paul, because Paul knew them. He couldn’t write what he did if he didn’t know it. Paul is living that – He knows how to be thankful to God because of all those attributes that God is and has. Underlying Paul’s Christian life, values and teaching, is this invisible and eternal God; this power he can’t compromise or make an excuse for. He glorifies in himself God and he is thankful in himself for God.
Even though from time to time Paul’s life could be viewed as not successful – he was beaten and stoned, he was abandoned and incarcerated, and things at times would have looked like all was lost – he is thankful to God. We start to see these things coming through time and time again, throughout the New Testament and the letters that Paul writes. For example we read:
- Romans 1: 8 – First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
- 1 Corinthians 1:4 – I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.
- Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
- Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.
- Colossians 1:3-4 – We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;
Underpinning Paul – his ministry, the energy and vibrancy of his ministry – is knowing this eternal Godhead, and knowing his thankfulness in his place under that Godhead. As much as effective prayer was an important part of Paul’s life, recognising where he is under the life of God, and being thankful for it, is important too.
In Romans above, Paul knows those invisible attributes of God are clearly seen. He is thankful for it. Unfortunately people today want to undermine God. They don’t want the invisible attributes of God. They want to take things that God has done – like creation – and make it into something they can deal with. Paul sees the creation of God – the stars, the order of life, the way things are, what God has put together – and is thankful for it. He sees the power and eternal presence of God. Often people don’t want to see God’s power and the eternal Godhead itself. Paul sees it and is thankful to God in it. Out of that knowledge and that place, he is able to reveal these things to us, because he’s in the place himself to understand it.
What an incredible quality of Paul – to see God and to be thankful in all things. It gets challenging in life. In all of these things, Paul manages to put these things under the Godhead and under the incorruptible life that God has brought for him, and he knows to be thankful in all things. Are we thankful of God in all aspects of who He is? Are we thankful to God and all the things He’s allowed us to go through? Are we thankful to God for all the things He’s given us and situations He’s allowed us to be in?
In Philippians 4:6 we read:
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God
We read of people like Richard Wurmbrand, who was thankful to God in spite of the most seemingly awful circumstances. How can they be thankful to God when they’ve been tortured, starved and beaten? Similarly, how can someone be thankful to God when their mind is tormented, when they’ve been abandoned and abused? I don’t know. All I know is that it is a place we need to get to because it holds Paul in a very strong place. That place of thankfulness is special to Paul.
People like Paul know God, glorify God and are thankful to God. The opposite is true as well. People who don’t necessarily know God can turn it around. People who backslide can turn it around. In Romans above, Paul shows people do in fact turn those things around. The verses show that although people know God they didn’t glorify Him or were thankful, and so they became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts became darkened. Most of us can admit to a time like that in our lives.
Paul knew that. He was birthed rightly. Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and he was blinded. He had to do as he was told. He had to wait for a Christian man who was frightened of him to come pray with him to take the scales from his eyes. Paul knew God thereafter in the right way. He was saved by Christ going forward in the right way, and he knew his place under this Godhead in the right way. He knew he was without excuse.
However, when a person has a futile or foolish heart, it produces a backslidden or degenerate state. Charles Finney writes of the evidence of a backslidden heart. These include:
1. Formality in religious exercise – going through rotas and rituals without connection to God.
2. Desire religious enjoyment – sole purpose for going to Church to enjoy and have a nice time, not to connect with God.
3. Religious bondage – set in beliefs and actions.
4. Ungovernable temper
5. Censorious spirit – fault-finding, picking holes etc.
6. Loss of interest in spiritual conversation – not excited in what God has done or shown people.
7. Loss of interest in the newly saved
8. Loss of interest in personal sanctification – we do what we want, it’s our life to live and no one will tell his how to live.
9. Absence of prayer meetings for the slightest reason
Paul knows how to be thankful to God. He says that if people aren’t being thankful, “professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). Being thankful to God is one of the keys to Paul’s successful life under God. What have you got to be thankful to God for? If we haven’t got anything, or aren’t able to say what we’re thankful for, then we haven’t been birthed correctly as Paul was. Paul being birthed correctly knew his place under the Godhead, under the eternal powers and things unseen, and he knew to be thankful in all things.
Being thankful is throughout the Bible. In Ephesians 5:19-20 Paul writes:
always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We need to be thankful to God in absolutely everything. For the tough times, for the knowledge of Him, for the blessings He gives us, for the people in our lives, for God in the midst of all the trials, for our salvation, for Jesus Christ, for His continued presence with us. Surely we need to be thankful! And yet all the while we can become futile in our dark minds.
Are we thankful to God? Can we be thankful to God today? If we are thankful to God, what are we thankful for?
Ask God to open something in your heart that was key to Paul’s existence. Ask God to show you something special. Our hearts can become so easily entwined in the things of the world, even though the blessing He gives far outweigh the trivia of life. We go through tough times and times that we can’t work things out, but in it all come back to thankfulness. Since the beginning of the world, the invisible attributes of God are clearly seen. Be thankful that we are under these things, saved by Christ. Put ourselves under the fact that we are underneath the eternal power of the Godhead. Put ourselves under and be thankful for the fact we can glorify God because His presence is with us constantly and sustains us.
If we get any doubts, as Finney described, bring them back into the middle of these verses and say God I am thankful for you. Let Him deal with it. The truth is He knows our circumstances anyway. But it’s up to us and our thankfulness.