Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"In everything give thanks." Seriously?

It is sometimes called “The Thanksgiving Psalm”. And even a casual reading reveals exactly why. It begins by using the repeated phrase, ‘Bless the Lord’.  And it ends with those same words while declaring in between the numerous reasons for why this deserved to be done. It is Psalm 103.

It lists the Lord’s benefits of healing power, loving kindness, tender mercies, graciousness, strength, justice and forgiveness. It ends by again re-emphasizing that those who benefit from God personally, and know Him intimately, are to  “Bless the Lord”. That means to properly worship Him and to speak well of Him often concerning His great person, power, protection, promises! No doubt exists about what God expects of His people and why.

But in the New Testament  there is one passage in particular that confirms this spiritual duty both quickly and directly. The Apostle Paul shared it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church and in verse 18. “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In this one brief sentence the whole concept of being thankful is narrowed down by just a few key words. He relates that we are to be thankful in ‘everything’. That aspect is fairly clear. And even more clear is exactly why this is to be done. It is simply 'God’s will' for His people – all of them! It really could not get much easier to grasp than that!

But sometimes God's people have questions about this verse and the idea of being thankful about ‘everything’, Would this then include even the most terrible and difficult of circumstances? Would it include sin? That seems very hard. That seems very unreasonable. And that seems almost impossible by most any standard.  And the answer to these legitimate concerns is summarized by one other key word at the outset of verse 18. It is the small word ‘in’. The passage does not say to be thankful ‘for’ terrible, unfair or evil things that enter your life or your world. That would be unnatural. But it does say to find things to be thankful for  ‘in’ the midst of negative and painful experiences. That is what is possible and expected according to author of Scripture.

For the Christian, there are always things to be greatly thankful for. Nothing that happens in this life can remove, negate or alter having a forgiving Savior, a loving heavenly Father, an earthly spiritual family, a heavenly destiny and the indwelling Holy Spirit. A person who is missing these blessings, although having a near problem-free life otherwise, has little to be really and ultimately thankful for.

In an article in ‘Time 100’ Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California, summed it up as well as can be done. I highly urge you to read his full remarks here.  He gave the following foundational reasons as to why he was thankful this year even after losing his youngest son to a tragic suicide. He wrote, “No matter how good things are in my life, there are always problems I must deal with, and no matter how bad things are in my life, there are always blessings I can be grateful for.”

He listed the follow areas for which he remains greatly thankful even when times become tough:

- I’m thankful that although life is not always good, God is always good. I know without a doubt that God sees all I go through, he cares, he grieves with me, he is close and his strength is available at all times.”

- I’m thankful that, even though I don’t have all the answers, God does. In tragedy we seek explanations, but explanations never comfort. It is God’s presence that eases our pain.

- I’m thankful that this life is not all there is. It’s not the end of the story. One day God will right all wrongs, even the odds and settle all accounts. Justice will be served. Evil will not win.

- I’m thankful for the hope of heaven. I won’t have to live with pain forever. In heaven, there are no broken relationships, broken minds, broken bodies, broken dreams or broken promises. The Bible tells us, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”

- I’m thankful that God can bring good even out of the bad in my life, when I give him the pieces. It’s his specialty. God never wastes a hurt if we give it to him.

These are the words from one who owns true perspective on thanksgiving. These are the thoughts of a godly believer. And these are proofs of spiritual maturity. Not only so, these are evidence of someone who recognizes that thanksgiving 'in' all things is always ‘the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’

Have a blessed and very ‘thankful’ Thanksgiving!

Bill Breckenridge

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