In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul wrote, “For this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?” (3:7–10).
Paul and the believers at Thessalonica shared in the effectiveness of a mutually beneficial fellowship in Christ and for the spread of the gospel. They comforted Paul and his companions; Paul and his team prayed for the Thessalonians. Paul and his associates evangelized and discipled the Thessalonians; the believers in Thessalonica encouraged Paul and his friends by their faith and obedience. Therefore, Paul asks, “For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you . . .?” He understood God to be the one responsible for providentially orchestrating their effective fellowship with one another. The indirect object of the verb “return” is “God”; so, the apostle’s directed his thanksgiving to God. While his thanksgiving was directed to God, it was related to or concerning the Thessalonians. Timothy had brought Paul and his companions good news of “your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us” (3:6). Therefore, Paul goes onto pray for them to abound in love and holiness, becoming pleasing to God at the return of Christ (3:12–13).
As 2022 begins, what thanksgiving do you have to return to God? As the passage emphasizes relationships in ministry partnerships, who are the people God has providentially provided in your life and ministry for whom you are grateful? Start off 2022 thanking God for those with whom you get to do life and ministry.