The apostle Paul was under arrest in Rome for the second time. His first arrest had ended in his acquittal and release from prison. The second time would end differently. Paul knew that it would end with his death at the hands of his Roman captors.
You might think that Paul’s heart would be heavy and filled with fear, but Paul’s second letter to his young coworker Timothy shows something different.
He wrote, “I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did.” He thanked God for Timothy, for Timothy’s faith, for the instruction given to Timothy by his mother and grandmother. He recalled his own suffering for the sake of the gospel and pointed to God’s grace—filled with thanks for what God had done for him in Christ. He looked down at the chains confining him but said with gratitude, “But God’s word is not chained.” He looked back on some of the sufferings he endured as he proclaimed Christ—but thanked God for rescuing him from all of them and praised God for delivering him “from the lion’s mouth.” Even now facing death, he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:7,8). In the most difficult times, Paul wrote from a heart filled with sincere thanks to God for his gracious blessings.
The year 2020 has been unlike any in our memories. Yet just as the apostle Paul viewed his dire surroundings and his past struggles as opportunities to see and rejoice in God’s grace, so we have much to be thankful for even in these difficult times.
God has worked in us a renewed appreciation for worship and fellowship with our fellow Christians. Congregational leaders across the synod developed innovative ways to ensure that worship and the weekly proclamation of the gospel could continue. Throughout the synod, God’s people have not neglected their thank offerings that support the work of their congregation and synod. New mission opportunities continue to open up before us even as the nation and world have shut down. We appreciate the freedom to worship when in the past that freedom was easily taken for granted. We value more than ever the blessing of work and a job.
Children are looking forward to school like never before. We’ve experienced family closeness and communication. We’ve been reminded of just how much we depend on God to keep us safe and healthy and what a blessing it is when he does. In a nation in political and social turmoil, we are motivated to express our values through our participation in the political process. And looking at all of those things that have gone so terribly wrong, we also hear the Shepherd’s voice calling each of us to repent, to turn to him, and to treasure his daily forgiveness.
Yes, in many ways this has been a year we may want to forget. But in so many other ways, despite the chaos and confusion and uncertainty, we will say and sing again, “Now thank we all our God!”
Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 107, Number 11
Issue: November 2020