For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
Selflessness- living for more than yourself
Paul lived for more than himself. Our memory verse reveals this in Paul’s life and ministry. “For it is all for your sake” points back to two things. First, the straightforward manner in which he communicates Christ (2 Cor. 4:1-6). Second, the suffering he has endured because of the message of Christ (2 Cor. 4:7-12).
Paul could have altered the message or the means of communicating the message and gained a bigger following. He could have gutted the truth from the gospel to avoid offending people’s pride… it would have brought him less pain and suffering. But that wouldn’t have served those in Corinth. To alter the life-giving message of the gospel is self-serving.
Paul lived for more than himself, and that is why he says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:7–10)
Grace awakens gratitude
We must be careful to notice the subtle connection Paul makes here. We could draw it out like this; Paul lives for more than himself so that grace will awaken gratitude in people’s hearts.
Another way we could view this is by saying the degree of thankfulness or gratitude reveals your understanding of grace in your life. If there is little gratitude in your life, you have little regard for grace, which in turn points to a shallow view of God.
Paul says this much in his letter to the Romans. Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” A defining characteristic of unbelievers is ingratitude toward God.
Sam Crabtree, in his book Practicing Thankfulness, makes this point
“More than a mere word, gratitude reveals each person’s core—his priorities, his presuppositions, his understanding of God and his ways. As Al Mohler puts it, how grateful we are is “the key to understanding what we really believe about God, what we really believe about ourselves, and what we really believe about the world we experience.” (Crabtree, Practicing Thankfulness, 12)
Gratitude glorifies God
Most people in civilized society know they are supposed to say “thank you” when someone does something for them or gives them something. Surely the thankfulness Paul is talking about here is more than some cosmic social obligation.
Understood Biblically, gratitude is an expression of worship. Giving thanks is the overflow of an awareness of a good God and His good gifts in our life. Gratefulness, then, is proof that we are delighting in God.
When was the last time you enjoyed a good book, movie, or cheeseburger? I can guess your response… you told somebody about it… you didn’t keep it to yourself! C.S. Lewis says, “…we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consumption.” (Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 95)
God is glorified as you enjoy the outpouring of His grace in your life and as you tell others about it.
I close with a beautiful picture of worship found in Revelation 7, the host of Tribulation saints and others gathered around the throne. Their song will be our song, the song that Paul is inviting us to in this verse:
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:9–12)