THANKFUL FOR MY CHURCH FAMILY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Thanksgiving is upon us and we are told to be thankful for our family, friends, health, nation, and even spiritual things like the Word of God and our salvation. But there’s one thing that we usually don’t hear in this list – it’s our church family. So this weekend I’m preaching a message titled – “Thankful for my Church Family.”
Romans 1 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.
Overall Background: Unlike the churches in Galatia, Philippi, and Ephesus, Paul did not start the church in Rome. We don’t know who did – maybe it was someone on a business trip or someone on a military assignment or maybe it was a family or a group of people but somehow the gospel made it to Rome and the church was born. In fact, when Paul wrote this letter to them, he had never even been to Rome as an apostle. But, he heard about them and listen again to what he says in Romans 1 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…” Paul had never even travelled to the church family in Rome but he was already grateful for them!
According to a survey by AAA that came out last Wednesday, this Thanksgiving week 46.9 million people in America will travel about 50 miles or more from their homes to visit family and friends. It’s the highest number in the past 8 years, about 300,000 more than last year. That’s a lot of travel! But, did you also know that according to some estimates as many as 16 million people in America travel to their church every week? Could be more but I’m being conservative. But keep in mind, that’s 52 times a year. So, 16X52 = 837 million trips to see the church family throughout the year! 46 million trips just at Thanksgiving versus 837 million trips throughout the year! But, if you talk to most church going people, not many are grateful for their church family. In fact, most of them are unhappy with their church family. Some are disappointed with their church family. Yet, others look at their church family as a burden, an obligation, and treat it as dispensable/unnecessary. “It’s alright but I can live without it.”
Question: How do you see your church family? Are you grateful for this church? Do you realize what God has done in your life through Clearview? How do you see this place? How do you talk about this place to others? Are you saved? If not, you will never truly appreciate the benefits you are receiving here.
This morning we will learn to be thankful for our church family like Paul was for the church family in Rome. Let the Holy Spirit bring an attitude of gratitude for this church.
I. REASON TO BE THANKFUL – FAITH
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
Background: The reason Paul is grateful for the church in Rome is because of their faith, which is being spoken of throughout the world. What does “faith” mean here? The Greek word “pistis” has two implications:
- Saving Faith – it means receiving the message of the gospel. It means believing that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and He is alive today. Later in Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:21 Paul says, “…it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” I can give you many other examples but here’s the point – Faith, first and foremost, means being saved by believing in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s the point – the church in Rome had the reputation of being a gospel preaching, soul saving church.
Churches today are trying to make a name for themselves, such as “contemporary church,” “old-fashioned church,” “young people church,” “missions minded church,” “Bible-teaching church,” “community focused church,” and many other titles. Paul is not grateful for the church in Rome for any of those reasons but for their faith in the gospel. My goal as a pastor of this church has always been and will always be to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every man, woman, boy, or girl, no matter what they look like and where they come from. That’s why the motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible.” That’s why I’m thankful for this church family.
Application: Are you thankful for Clearview? Are you grateful for the focus we have at this church? Are you saved? Have you placed your faith in the work of Jesus on the cross? The goal of this service and everything that goes on here is to get you saved.
- Life of Faith – it means living daily by faith in God and His promises. It means trusting God to guide, provide, and protect the direction of our church. You have to understand the background of this church in Rome in order to appreciate that compliment from Paul. The church in Rome was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. One early historian (Suetonius) tells us that in AD 49 Jewish believers were being expelled/kicked out of Rome because of their faith. More than likely some of these Jewish Christians had family members and friends who were taken away from them. You can only imagine their pain. The Gentile believers in the church were Roman people or other nationalities that also believed in the gospel. What an interesting combination! They don’t have a whole lot in common. Oil and water coming together but blood is uniting them. In spite of all this, the one thing that is being heard about them is that they are a family of faith. Meaning: They are a church that believes in God for great things. They are a church that believes that God will provide and we can trust Him with the impossible.
Almost everything we do here can be duplicated. Good preaching – you can go and listen to a great talk by some great speaker. Good music – you can go to a great concert. Good programs – you can join some club. Good outreach – you can join some relief organization. But there’s one thing the world cannot duplicate – it is our faith in God. Clearview stands today because of our faith in God. People in this community are still scratching their heads as to what is the secret of this church! Rich, poor, black, white, young, old (led by some Indian guy whose father is a Muslim convert) keep coming to this church and it keeps growing! How? It’s our faith that God will do great things. Listen carefully – if we stop trusting God for great things, we begin to make sense to people. Let’s be a mystery! Let us be known for our faith in a powerful God!
Application: Are you thankful for the life of faith in this church? Are you adding to the faith are you taking away? Are you an asset or are you a liability?
II. RESPONSE IN THANKFULNESS – PRAYER
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,
Background: Paul wants the Christians in Rome to know that because of their reputation of faith, he is not only thankful for them but he is also praying for them. Many times people mention their church but it’s not in prayer. It’s in gossip, criticism, anger, and disappointment. If you have a problem with Clearview, start praying for it and see what God will do. He will not only change Clearview but he will also change your heart towards Clearview. But Paul begins the verse with – “For God is my witness.” Now we’ve all said that to someone at some time – “Praying for you.” “We’ll keep you in prayer.” Paul wants them to know that this is not fluff. So he adds, “For God is my witness.” Meaning: God knows that I’m not lying to you. “…whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” Meaning: God knows that I am no hypocrite. I serve Him very sincerely from my inward self. “…that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” And what is Paul praying for? I can think of a few things he must have mentioned in his prayer:
- God build their faith in You.
- God help them to not lose heart.
- God make them more like Jesus.
- God give them a hunger and thirst for your Word.
- God ground them in your truth.
- God protect them from the Enemy.
- God keep them united, loving, kind, and patient towards each other.
- God help them to keep winning more and more souls in the kingdom of God.
But there’s something more. Listen to verse 10 “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.” Paul wants to visit them. Why? Listen to verse 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established. Meaning: Paul wants to strengthen them in their faith. He wants them to be established. How will this happen? Listen to verse 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Meaning: Paul is saying, “I will bring my faith to you and we will put your faith and my faith together so that together we will have a stronger faith – first in the gospel of Jesus Christ and then in the power of God to do the impossible. In the end of his letter to the Christians in Rome, he returns to this. Romans 15 30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.
Isn’t it true that when you get around people of faith, your faith begins to grow? They believe in a big God and you start believing in a big God! They believe that God’s gonna do great things and you start believing that God’s gonna do great things! They believe that nothing is impossible to God and you start believing that nothing is impossible to God! As a pastor my heart’s desire is to get you to build your life unhesitatingly on the gospel and trust God with the impossible here and at home. Then, I need my faith to grow. Bring your faith to me so that my faith will grow. Many of you have done that for me time and time again.
Application: Do you fuel the faith at Clearview or do you quench it? Are people trusting God more at Clearview because of you or are they trusting God less because of you?
Conclusion: In our time people look at the church as non-essential, just something extra. In fact, it is looked upon as more of a burden than a blessing. I’m thankful for my Clearview Church Family. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my marriage would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my children would be if it wasn’t for this church.
Same goes for you – many of you still have your life together because of this church. Many of you have your marriage together because of this church. Many of you have your children walking with God because of this church. Are you thankful for this church family? Do you belong to this church family? Are you saved