You Are Not As Grateful As You Should Be

You and I are not nearly as grateful as we should be.

Many of you went to church on Sunday. You may have struggled to get kids in the car. You may have made that drive alone, remembering when your car was filled with loved ones. You may have been frustrated because you overslept, or someone said something unkind leaving hurt feelings in the air.

But you drove there. Or got a ride there. Which for nearly two thousand years going to church was a walk. For men and women of God, whether it was the dead of winter or during a blistering hot drought or an overwhelming rainy season downpour, they would pack up their families and walk to church. Sure, they may have ridden a horse sometimes, but is that really all that much better?

Sometimes that walk would be miles away. And sometimes the event took the entire day. Oftentimes we go to church and our mind drifts to what we need to do the rest of the day. What items we'll need to get at the store. What will the kids need help with for their homework. Should we mow the lawn today or is it gonna rain?

Yet over and over, throughout church history, going to church was done under the cover of darkness. Meeting in Roman catacombs. Or meeting with fellow believers in China during the heights of persecution. Or meeting with fellow Puritans in a barn, deep in the woods at midnight, hoping you're not overheard.

As you drive to church you probably don't think much about the fact that many of the roads you drove on were once frontiers. Long ago, these roads didn't exist, or were merely horse-ridden dirt paths. That in those days, it was not uncommon to be so far remote that a pastor could not regularly care for your church. You'd come together, instead, once a month to hear a man whose job it was to go from church to church in truly the middle of nowhere. These riders would go on long circuits to ensure the Gospel got out to those who otherwise had no hope. Worn, tired, and often half-starved or ill, these men of God worked tirelessly a job that would not get their names remembered.

After arriving at the church you needed no secret knock to let you in as you did in the church in Rome. As you do in places around the world today. You came in and maybe made polite conversation with those around you. You didn't for a minute consider one of these could have been recently recruited to turn the whole church in. Perhaps through fear of death or imprisonment they struck a deal and were going to give you all up. Or they just wanted the large reward for turning Christians in.

You continued to your seat. Likely, a somewhat comfortable one. Nothing like the plastic chairs that millions around the world are gathering on. Nothing like the straw patched floors and jail cells that so many Christians have been forced into for following God.

As the service starts you probably listened to the worship band. Producing music and preaching a sermon that can be heard with the help of technology. For centuries preachers would shout with all their gusto in fields or in churches, hoping that all in the congregation could hear them. For 1900 years the church would often have to strain their ear, especially if they weren't blessed with a Spurgeon or a Whitefield.

Your pastor would get up and likely have put hours into his sermon. He probably had easy access to many, many books that are thick with weight and wisdom. And not only access to books, but with the flick of his wrist he holds in his hand a computer that can access the greatest thoughts, linguistics, and commentaries ever put together. On his phone he likely has podcast subscriptions to some of the best speakers that have ever lived. Between theology, sermons, and general interest he's fully covered in terms of knowledge and know-how.

And he has no reason to fear. He won't be attacked by a mob of Arians like those in Milan with Ambrose. He won't have his sermon taken to a king or a royal bishop who will have him excommunicated.

His congregation has the Gospel in their own language and are able to read it throughout the week. They have no need to hurry, for no guards are outside. No one had to hide their faces from cameras as they entered that are logging all who come and go. He can give the truth of the Gospel with all the power and ease that is needed.

You sit with air conditioners or heaters on. Likely enjoying a hot beverage or perhaps looking forward to the pot-luck. For now, and we know this may not always last, but for now you have warm fellowship and comfort. You know that around you are several other good fellowships and Christians doing the same thing across the land. And though you prefer your church the best, but if push came to shove, there are other options.

You are not like many where there truly is nowhere else to worship in town. And whether the church is good or not, it is the only one you have. Good theology, bad theology, good worship, bad worship, whatever it is, it's all that many have.

Yes, church is not perfect, and there may be very real problems. But as someone who has run church history podcasts for four and a half years, we could definitely have it a lot worse.

As someone who lives overseas and has often sat through (or preached through) services on those plastic chairs with no air-conditioning, it's not always rosy. I don't say that as any kind of a brag. Yes, the short-term mission trip makes it seem exotic, but you get used to it and the shine wears off quick. And then it's just church, same as yours, out in the hot sun. (If a monkey shows up that does sometimes add some extra pizazz though)

Do I remind us of how good we have it to make you feel shame?

To make you feel guilty?

Absolutely not. You are unworthy of the gift of it, but aren't we all? Praise the Lord for it. He gives you these conditions and circumstances as a blessing to His church. May it be used to His glory.

You are unworthy of every gift of God. We all are. Who are we to be envious of one church, or look down on another? To feel guilty or ashamed at the way God is taking care of one part of the body? We are all the same body, so let us rejoice that right now so many are so blessed.

But if this reminder of our blessing helps you, may it motivate you to remember just a few things:

It's never been easier to ask your unsaved neighbor to come to church. Compared to those colonial, frontier, underground churches there is no cost to you or them. A small amount of discomfort compared to what those came before us went through.

I hope that you also remember that you are living in an age where comfort does not have to sacrificed in following God. But this also means you will be accountable for how you used this time. We live in a seductive Babylon of comfort and ease. Did you live in a way that showed Christ's sacrifice?

Although physically you may not be in peril, spiritually you are as in peril as any soul ever has been if you do not heed the call.

And lastly, I hope you remember to be grateful. Online it's easy to think and feel that the sky is falling all the time. But as you go out and live, remember to be grateful for how blessed you are. And how blessed you are that so many came before you and set such a firm foundation that even in this great era of decline you still have access to a Gospel that for centuries was hidden to so many.

Although the storm clouds are here, you will continue this legacy and share it to those around you and it will continue, unbroken, into the next generations.

Whether they live the same comfort or ease you do not know, but you do know that Christ's church will not be overcome.

So let us all be grateful for what we have. And for those who came before us and made it so easy for us today.