“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many” (2 Corinthians 1:9–11).
WE OUGHT TO DEFINE AS GOOD ANYTHING THAT CAUSES GOD’S PEOPLE TO GIVE THANKS. Whatever it may be that provides an occasion for God’s people to rejoice and thank Him is a good thing — no matter what the sacrificial price of that benefit and no matter how painfully it may impinge upon us personally.
There may be times when something happens that makes us glad personally and also makes God’s people glad. But there may be other times when something that makes God’s people glad involves an element of sadness for us personally. For example, in just a few weeks I will have the honor of performing a wedding ceremony for a young man and woman who are known by very many of God’s people. As husband and wife, they will do great good in the kingdom, and their wedding will be a day of happiness, not only for them but also for God’s people far and wide. Yet there may be other women who would like to be marrying this man, and other men who would like to be marrying this woman. For them, there will be an element of sadness on this day. But shouldn’t their sadness be caught up in the greater joy of an occasion that, in the larger sense, is a day of rejoicing for God’s people?
One of the remarkable things about the apostle Paul is the extent to which he rejoiced in whatever God’s people rejoiced about. If he had suffered some horrible ordeal and been delivered, such that thanksgivings to God were being made, then he was glad to have suffered the ordeal. Much more than how events were affecting him personally, Paul was concerned whether God’s people were being given reason to rejoice. And so it must be with us. Whatever causes God’s people to give thanks is a good thing!
“In submission we are free to value other people. Their dreams and plans become important to us. We have entered into a new, wonderful, glorious freedom, the freedom to give up our own rights for the good of others . . . We can rejoice with their successes . . . It is of little consequence that our plans are frustrated if their plans succeed. We discover that it is far better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way” (Richard Foster).