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"Thanking God and Taking Courage" (posted November 20, 2019)

   When the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
   - Acts 28: 15

This verse from the Acts reminds me of one of the Christian virtues which is within the reach of all of us. In this verse we read that Paul "thanked God and took courage."

Thanking God is, in itself, an act of the simplest nature, requiring no outward ceremony, no elaborate preparation, no profound study of Scripture, no special energy of Christian service, no advanced growth as a believer. In thanksgiving the heart rises spontaneously to God as to the Great and Good Giver, just as when we receive a gift, a letter, or a parcel, and at once the mind is sensible of and grateful for the kind thoughtfulness of the sender.

In each moment of our lives, events are occurring, some more striking than others; but though we cannot understand it, each one is governed in accordance with the gracious disposition of the God and Father of all. In proportion as we recognize this divine ordering, the heart within us leaps upward in a little tribute of thankfulness-- in a vocal or a silent song of praise.

At the time of the above incident, Paul had just experienced a wearisome journey of some five months since he left Caesarea as a prisoner to Rome for his trial. His protracted voyage was marked by many vicissitudes, including hunger and shipwreck. Now he was nearing the metropolis of Rome, where he had through long years most ardently desired to preach the gospel of God; but it could not have been to him a pleasant reflection that he was at last approaching it in bonds and in the charge of a military guard.

Truly his circumstances at that time were such as might be expected to depress his sensitive nature. But at the sight of the brethren who had travelled some seventeen miles or so to meet him, Paul "thanked God and took courage." The kind interest and gracious concern of these men to whom he was unknown by face stirred his warm heart to its depths. He forgot the perils of the past, the weariness of travel, and the shame of bondage at the joy of seeing those who loved the Christ whom he served, and who had put themselves to some pains in hastening to greet him.

Yet while he would undoubtedly be grateful to the kind brothers for their affectionate interest, his first thought was to render thanks to God. And when we inquire why this was so, I think the answer must be, not that the expression of gratitude was a purely apostolic excellence, but that thankfulness to God was a habit with Paul as a disciple of Christ.

At any rate, we can trace this habit in the letters of the apostle. The salient features of a man's personality are usually displayed in his written communications to others. And if a man frequently alludes in the course of his public and private remarks to the practice of giving God thanks, we may fairly conclude that this subject is one of those uppermost in his mind.

William J. Hocking

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