Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thankful in All Things?

Thanksgiving is a time when we count our blessings and thank and praise the Lord for them. But it is just one day in the year, and should we not thank our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave us life, breath, and salvation, every day? (John 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Timothy 3:15)

Of course we should, but if we are honest with ourselves, we admit it is easier to give thanks on some days than on others. Songs of praise and thanksgiving arise in our hearts and even flow from our lips (Psalm 69:30; 147:7; Ephesians 5:19) when we see our loving family seated around the holiday table to enjoy a bountiful feast, in our beautiful home, perhaps with presents already wrapped and under the shining Christmas tree.

But what if our life is not so idyllic at the moment? What happens if there is an empty chair at the table, filled just last year by a loved one who since stepped out into eternity? What if family members are separated by distance, time constraints, demands of the world, or even lack of caring for one another? What if financial hardship means there are no presents under the tree, or even food on the table?

The writings of the apostle Paul are sometimes difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16) and even harder to live by, for he said to “Rejoice always, and again I say, rejoice!” He warned against vengeance when confronted by evil in others, instead focusing on what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:15-16, 21-22).

We could argue that we can be excused from rejoicing if we are suffering from chronic illness, disability, relentless pain, mental anguish, poverty, danger, or loss of a loved one. But if anyone should know about suffering, it was Paul, who wrote this verse from a cold, dank prison cell, separated from loved ones except by pen, paper and prayer.

Paul had to endure shipwreck, beating, stoning, near drowning, imprisonment, persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23-26), snake bite, and a physical ailment that he had begged God to remove. Three times Paul prayed for God to heal him, only to hear God say three times that he would not, for His grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Through the instruction of the indwelling Holy Spirit,
Paul learned to be content, or thankful, through bad times as well as good (Philippians 4:12).

In all circumstances, Paul encouraged us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and we can see throughout his epistles that he followed his own (Spirit-inspired) advice. Then he went on to make the most shocking command of all: “In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Notice that Paul did not say to give thanks for all things, but in all things. We do not have to give thanks for our house burning down in a fire, but in this situation, we can thank God that no one was at home, and praise Him for sparing our life and the lives of our family.  We do not have to give thanks for having cancer, but we can thank Him that it was diagnosed early and that there are excellent doctors and effective treatments.

Perhaps the situation is even more dire, as it was with Job, who lost his sons, his wealth, his possessions in a few moments (Job 1), and his health shortly thereafter (Job 2). Our limited human vision may not see any silver lining in the cloud, for we naturally focus on the obstacles that block our view from the blessings God has in store. Yet Job was able to say, “The LORD gave; the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.”

We may fail to understand how God could possibly deliver us from our insurmountable problems, but His arm is not too short to save us (Isaiah 59:1). Nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26), and He will make a way when there is no way! (2 Samuel 22:33; 1 Corinthians 10:13). God is love (1 John 4:8) and has infinite love for us, desiring to shower us with blessings (Ezekiel 34:26). Yet so often we see the menacing clouds and feel the downpour, but we forget that these will bring flowers and bountiful harvest!

Paul writes that we should thank God in all things, for this is His will for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In other words, God desires that we thank and praise Him in all situations. Furthermore, whatever befalls His children is His will for us, because He allowed it, working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Praise God that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours! (Isaiah 55:9)

Giving thanks in all things reminds us of God’s mercy, which spares us from punishment we justly deserve for our sins. David, whose fellowship with God was disrupted by the snowballing effect of sin, gave thanks to God for His mercy and deliverance from his enemies. He even wrote that we can no longer give thanks from the grave, which should encourage us to obey and honor God in this way while we still have the breath to do so! (1 Chronicles 16:29-36; Psalm 6; 18:46-50; 30; 136).

Counting our blessings, and naming them one by one, as the hymn writer encourages us to do, is a wonderful way to be thankful in all things. No matter how severe the trial you may be going through right now, here are a few that come to mind. If you are reading this, you are alive; you have the precious gift of sight; you are literate; and you have access to the Internet, which places a world of information, Bible resources, and contact with fellow believers at your fingertips.

If you are born again (John 3:3-8) by placing your faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), you have the greatest reason of all to thank God! You have the gift of abundant and eternal life, forever with Jesus Christ and your loved ones in Him, ultimately in a glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:35-54) that will never age, die, sin, or feel pain, sickness, or sorrow!

Giving thanks and praise to God in all things acknowledges Who He is – our Creator (Genesis 1:1), Sustainer (Colossians 1:17), and Redeemer (Job 19:25; Psalm 19:14; Isaiah 41:14). He is perfect Love, Light (John 1:9), and Truth (Titus 1:2), completely just, righteous, and holy (Isaiah 5:16). Although we deserve eternal punishment in hell, He showers us with mercy, love, and grace in our life here on earth, and everlasting rewards in Heaven (Romans 6:23). In all things, we can thank Him for the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), joy in His salvation (Psalm 51:12; Isaiah 61:10), and wisdom to follow His lead (James 1:5).  

Even as Jesus drew near to the agony of His crucifixion, He gave thanks as He contemplated the imminent sacrifice of His shed blood and broken body, given to pay our sin debt in full. (Mark 14:23; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). We have reason to give thanks even when facing the sting of death, sin and the grave, for He triumphed over these enemies by rising from the dead (1 Corinthians 15: 55-57).

No matter our grave our circumstances, He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord! Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15).

© 2017 Laurie Collett



Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I can recall the moment at my parent's dinner table back in 1973 very soon after I was converted. In an attempt to bring the rest of our family into the Kingdom, I said grace before each meal. On this particular occasion, after saying grace, I complained to Mum about not liking garlic with my food. My father looked me across the table, straight in my eyes and said what a hypocrite I was!
I have learnt a great deal about thanksgiving since then, and as you say, to give thanks in all things rather than for all things is very applicable considering that my wife Alex is partially disabled, and from time to time an emergency ambulance has to take her to hospital - at times a scary experience.
But to give thanks to God in all things can be very therapeutic in itself, as the opposite of thanksgiving is grumbling, which if persistent, can lead to depression and other negative emotions.
Thanks for posting this, it's good to be reminded from time to time.
God bless.

Laurie Collett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Laurie what a most excellent post indeed! Thank you so much! We often fail to see the bigger picture, and often our mind dwells on what is earthly and temporary rather than thanking the Lord for the things He has planned that cannot enter into the thoughts of mere men, the heavenly and eternal joys that are free from sorrow and pain! Thank you Jesus!

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
It's interesting how the unsaved are often the first to criticize the Christian for being hypocritical! I imagine it must be scary to have Alex rushed to hospital, and difficult yet therapeutic to remember to trust God and thank Him even in these times. Thanks as always for sharing your experience and insights, and God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Susan, for your encouragement and for your thoughtful comment! Praise God that we cannot even begin to imagine the wonderful blessings He has planned for us!
God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I love the way that the Lord has a wonderful way of comforting us when we are going through hard times. That is why we must not keep our eyes on the things of this world, otherwise we will be up and down spiritually. The verse that comes to mind now is that f we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all things will be added.
It all depends on what we put first in life doesn't it.
God bless you Laurie, I hope you and your husband have both recovered fully after your illnesses.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Brenda! If we seek Him first, He will provide all we truly need. Thank you also for asking about our health -- we are doing much better, praise the Lord! We have resumed our music and teaching ministries and are scheduled to perform in our dance ministry on Nov. 27. God is so good!
May He continue to bless you richly,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Excellent point about giving thanks in the problem even when we have no idea why it is happening and thus cannot be very thankful for it.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! Happy Thanksgiving and God bless,