Paul had 101 reasons to be ungrateful if he looked at his circumstances. Paul would have thrown in the towel if he fixed his attention upon the sins at Corinth.
But here in v8-9, there is a spiritual key to being a thankful person.
8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
He didn’t look at the circumstances. He didn’t look at the people. His eyes were fixed on the “He” in v8. He, of course, refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus will keep the Corinthians strong to the end. Right now, Paul sees clearly that the Corinthians are stumbling. They are deep in sin. Yet, he has confidence in the gospel seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed, if it is a living seed, will bear fruit, eventually.
Does that fruit ultimately depend on the Corinthians? Does finishing strong, does making it to the end ride on our performance? If so, then our confidence would fluctuate based on how we are doing at present. If we are doing well, then it seems hopeful that we are going to reach the end and make it into heaven. If we are hardened by sin, then who knows? We might not make it.
But thank the Lord that Jesus himself promises that the work that He began in us, he will carry it to completion. As a church, as leaders, we do our part. We plant seeds. We water. We preach the Word of God. We gather for prayer. We meet for discipleship and encouragement. But as Paul says in 1 Cor 3, God is the one who makes things grow. He is the one who saves. And He is the one who sanctifies and matures us.
We need to see life as a marathon. We may stumble out of the starting blocks. We may sprint ahead and have an early lead, but along the way, we can trip and fall. We get tired. We may go through seasons where there is no fruit. But eventually, we’re gonna make it to the end because Jesus promises, it’s His responsibility to take His children all the way, He is the one who is gonna take us home to be with him for all eternity.
That’s why Paul can be so steadfast in his thanksgiving. God, the one who called them and who called every believer into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, God is faithful. That’s why we can be thankful.
Great things happened this year at our church. And I praise God for this past year. But the true test of thanksgiving is, can we be just as thankful next year if we stumble and there are no visible signs of His activity and faithfulness? If we can learn anything from Paul, we have to learn the secret of being a thankful person. Finding a way to look past circumstances and seeing past a person’s present sins and being thankful for one another. As long as I know, that brother, that sister, I witnessed the testimony of Christ being confirmed in them, we can be thankful. It might have been 5, 10, 15 years ago, but I saw it. I witnessed the grace of God in that brother, that sister. And so I can have confidence that God is going to turn things around, eventually. If the gospel seed was planted and it is a living seed, fruit will be born.
Let’s learn from Paul. He gave thanksgiving to God for a bunch of believers in Corinth who were this lost in sin. His source of thanksgiving comes from the fact that the gospel of Jesus does not depend on us. Our salvation doesn’t depend on us. Our ultimate sanctification doesn’t depend on us. Even reaching the finish line doesn’t depend on us. Everything begins and ends with Jesus Christ. He will keep us strong to the end. We can be confident because God, who called us into fellowship with His Son, is faithful.