Saturday, November 21, 2020

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. This year, it may be more difficult for many to appreciate God's hand at work in every detail of our lives, working all things together for good for those that love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The COVID-19 pandemic, loss of loved ones, illness, political unrest, unemployment, struggling economy, isolation, loss of opportunities we normally take for granted, difficulty celebrating with large gatherings of family and friends -- these have all taken their toll in many households and lives.
Songs of praise and thanksgiving easily 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. As the Internet meme asks, what if today you had only those things for which you thanked God yesterday? Do we daily thank God for the breath of life, a steady pulse, food to eat, clothes on our back, a roof over our head, friends and family?
No matter how severe the trial you may be going through right now, here are a few more blessings 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
Edited and reposted from the archives 



Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Secular psychologists and psychiatrists will readily admit that thanksgiving and prayer are exceptionally good for mental health and wellbeing.
But if my experience is anything to go by, to give thanks to God is a sign of Christian maturity.
I have seen enough times how a child is specifically instructed to say "thank you" by his parents whenever someone gives him a gift, whether it be candy, a toy or game, or any other good thing. An adult, on the other hand, will just automatically say "thank you".
Giving thanks to God in all circumstances took me years to achieve, but even now I can still stumble on this matter.
God bless you and Richard.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
God's Word instructs us in His will for us, which includes thankfulness. Yet, as you say, if we obey His command, we will be blessed by feelings of peace and gratitude, and improved outlook and good mental health. He does not make rules capriciously, but sincerely desires to bless His children.
Thank you as always for your insightful comment. May God bless you and Alex,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie, when I look back on my life I see that what I thought were bad times worked together for good and were meant to be. It is always good to learn from what we thought were mistakes and these experiences always make us stronger. Whenever my husband might complain about certain situations I always remind him that there are people in the world who have no food and don't have a home to live in. God bless.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie

You mentioned I Thessalonians 5:18. So many times we forget that regardless of our situation, we are exactly where God wants us, even though we may have ended up in the situation as a result of sin and rebellion against him. It is his will that we learn both to obey him, and to appreciate the things he has done in our lives. As Frank mentioned, learning to give thanks even when things seem to be going against us is a sign of mature faith.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Yes, we are so blessed that He even uses the bad times for the good of His children, and knows and provides for all our needs. We have so much to be thankful for. God bless you too.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! When we rebel, it is no surprise to God, for He knew how we would react from before the beginning of time, and He also knew how He would use the consequences of our actions for our ultimate good and His glory. May we be mature and thank Him in all things.
May you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I think you meant to leave a comment on my recent post but you left it on an older one done in April. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Sorry about that, Brenda! Sometimes my scroll down button works too quickly! God bless.