I Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
There are some things in life as a believer that we must discern by His Spirit inside of us. Ideas and notions that are not clearly defined in the Word of God or from the pulpits in the House of God that require a little internal intervention. There are even times when God’s Word tells us that in our self-indulgence and spiritual ignorance that we still grope around in broad daylight as though we were blind people in total darkness. But in I Thessalonians 5:18, there is no cleverly hidden meaning ready to jump out at any time. It is a clear objective set forth for those who call themselves Christians. “Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this IS God’s Will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Like a flashing vacancy sign at a local hotel or even better the “HOT” sign at Krispy Kreme, there is no question the message that the Lord is telling us today. Well, I am not thankful…
It’s an honest admission from an exhausted runner who has run the race of faith not finding a finish line yet. I woke up in a bed far from home after another night of tossing and turning. My heart is on the verge of breaking for the countless time. The careful order of our life that I thrive on compromised again to the point it is becoming expected. How can I be thankful in ALL circumstances when that situation involves my precious son? How many times must we come to the point of life meeting death to convince the Lord that we mean business with our faith and will not give up on confident hope? I am not giving in so please don’t get me wrong, but if God’s Will for my life as a believer is to be thankful in all circumstances including this one than it is going to be a sacrifice because I am not thankful at all.
Psalm 50:14-15 (NLT)
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble and I will rescue you and you will give me glory.
What is thankfulness anyway? It is marked by gratitude and appreciation. How can I be thankful for three years of pain and heartache? Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. How does the young mother who loses her precious daughter be thankful as she cries each morning of her loss? Despite baring three more daughters and one more child on the way will she ever be thankful for that instant when everything was lost? What about the other mama strong in the faith who prayed faithfully for her daughter to win against her war against cancer only to wake up this morning with two grandchildren to raise and a child now friend long gone? Lord, how do we sacrifice in the moment we have given up our all? Today there is a father who holds two tiny infant girls. He is a widower. His wife now with Jesus because her pregnancy caused a rare form of cancer. She held her girls briefly but now she is absent. Who will tell them all the wonderful secrets of being a girl? There are many people who are reading this today in the quietness of morning behind a closed door or in the dark of night weeping because unlike the rest of the world – they know the pain that I speak of. They have come to the end of the “good things in life” and are struggling to find God’s Will in the midst of heartbreak and tragedy. I understand not as fully as some who I have described because our son is still with us, but nevertheless I have felt the sting of resentment and twinge of frustration when it seems there is no Light in the midst of our darkness yet the Spirit of God recalls His Word and whispers to our heart to praise. We must respond. We must make thankfulness our sacrifice to God.
Psalm 30:6-12 (NLT)
When I was prosperous, I said, “Nothing can stop me now!” Your favor, LORD, made me as secure as a mountain. Then you turned away from me and I was shattered. I cried out to you, O LORD. I begged the Lord for mercy, saying, “What will you gain if I die if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness? Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me. Help me, O LORD.” You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
When I was prosperous, I said, “Nothing can stop ME now.” It is easy to praise God in the good times and be strong in the faith when everything is going in our favor. But opposition and affliction often produce the opposite response. We change our opinion of God when our circumstances change – it’s sad but true. Doubt is usually the first thought that comes to our head when bad times arrive. The first thing we want to know is “why me, God” or “what did I do wrong” or “did I miss His Will?” It is all about me in that moment. Who will be the first to admit when things are going well our time spent with the Lord diminishes, our conversations with Him become few and far between, since we do not need Him – we choose to invest our time and energy in enjoying His Favor and Prosperity but never fully appreciate our God. We like His Stuff, enjoy His Favor and use His Power but forget about the Lord. That is until trouble comes knocking and like a scared puppy we run right back into His Presence and hide beneath His Altar. We cry out for provision, protection and most of all peace. What does the Lord do? He turns our mourning into dancing. Mourning means someone had to die. The Lord turns sorrow into joy. The only kind of sorrow that the Lord desires in our life is that of true repentance that turns our heart back to the Father. Those who make a sacrifice of thankfulness to the Lord will continually experience restoration, renewal and revival found in His Presence.
Hebrews 12:27-28 (NLT)
This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.
We are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakeable. We must be unshakeable people. The Kingdom of God is the same yesterday, today and forever just like Jesus Christ. In fact, the only thing keeping the Lord from returning today is His Mercy, Grace and Unfailing Love as He waits for as many as will to respond to His Call. This world is filled with trials, temptations and trouble. It should come as no surprise as Jesus already told us it would be. When it hits home, it goes from being something we pity for others to a personal problem. It is in such times that we are shaken. The question is will we be moved. Will we leave our first love to embrace bitterness? Will we turn our praise into complaints? Will our faith dissolve in doubt? Will hope rise within us or some ugliness that we did not see lurking in the cold, dark shadows of our heart? It is important that we know this since thankfulness is God’s Will for our life. Trials do not make me thankful. Temptation does not produce gratitude. Trouble is not all about appreciation. Thankfulness is a quality of the Kingdom of God. It is a sign of satisfaction and the emblem of contentment produced only by faith in Jesus Christ and hope of His Soon and Coming Kingdom.
Colossians 4:2-5 (NLT)
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
I am not thankful for cancer. I hate it with all that is within me. I am not thankful for all the sticks, probes, injections and pokes that our son has endured. I am not thankful for all the time that he has missed from school delaying his goal to graduate from college. I am not thankful for all the things that I have missed with my other children caring for the one who needs me the most right now. I am not thankful for all the other faces who I fell in love with in this fight who are now gone like a single breath. I am not thankful for the pain, suffering, tears and sorrow that this awful experience has produced in our life. I hate that we still must face this every day. I loathe the next round of chemotherapy and its ravaging effects on this young man’s body. But as many in this same situation will agree, I am thankful for Jesus Christ. Even when that is all that I am thankful for it is enough to make a change. Sometimes the most powerful message is preached not when our situation changes but our heart changes going through the situation. I would be overjoyed if our son had gone into remission after the first ordeal but he did not. I could have had a pity party with rounds two, three and four of cancer’s attack against his body. God was with us every step of the way. Nothing like experiencing the fragileness of one’s mortality or that of a loved one to devote your life to prayer. But if that prayer never changes from our own selfish wants and desires to praying His Word with a thankful heart, we will not change.
Paul made the statement – “That is why I am here in chains.” If you look for purpose in the hardships of life – you will not find them. Grace makes punishment unacceptable when it comes to our relationship with God. We have the Holy Spirit who explains the Word and guides us through life so discipline is not necessary only yielding. When we are subjected to trials, trouble and tragedy, it is natural to look for some hidden meaning. We dig into our belief system and challenge what we find by comparing it to what we are experiencing. This is the true wealth that we are after – to find the Truth and allow it to free us. Who the Son sets free is free indeed! Are you? Are you truly experiencing freedom in Jesus Christ? Free from worry, cares and burdens? If not you can be, when you are overflowing thanksgiving will come at the darnedest time in unthinkable circumstances. Yesterday, I was waiting on our son to finish his physical therapy appointment. Texting and checking emails, I was on the verge of tears and completely overwhelmed. Yes, we fought to have his transplant approved but this does not lessen the severity of the procedure or pain of this process. No less than ten people who saw me waiting stopped to offer encouragement. “We have been praying for you.” “Your faith has encouraged us.” “We knew that you would win the fight.” It was in that moment that I realized just how many people knew we were Christians, and were watching our walk. “Pray that I will proclaim the message clearly as I should and live wisely…” I am in no one comparing my life or my walk to that of Paul who was an incredible apostle of God but I am only saying that I think that even I am not thankful for the events leading up to this moment. I am thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and maybe just maybe it took all of this to teach me its infinite wealth and stability in my life.
Ephesians 5:1-4 (NLT)
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.
Imitate God in everything you do. Live a life filled with love following the example of Jesus Christ. His Sacrifice was born of His Great and Unfailing Love for us. Thankfulness comes from recognizing and accepting His Love. It is the product of prospering faith. As our heart is broken in life, we become ready to receive God’s Love as a necessity for our life. God does not break our heart, but renews, restores and revives the brokenness caused by sin that has left a cavernous void in us that we try to fill with the things of this world. When everything falls apart and life seems short, it is human nature to look for something more out of life. It is then that the Light of His Love becomes attractive. Faith that is allowed to grow will become confident hope that will makes us immovable from the Love of God given through Jesus Christ. (Colossians 2:6-10) As I build my life on faith in Jesus Christ, deep roots connect me to the hope that I have found in Him. Truth begins to wrap itself around my heart and His Spirit works it through my life. Suddenly I become so wrapped up in Jesus Christ I am able to see past the light and momentary trials that we are facing even though they seem permanent and terminal. I may not be thankful for all the trials, temptations and trouble we are facing. But I am thankful for Jesus Christ. The Word instructs us to be thankful IN all circumstances not FOR all of them. Maybe the good in this sacrifice of thanksgiving is that it produces character than identifies and embraces God. The faith that is produced when we have no choice but to endure is powerful, strong and unshakeable. It is certainly worth having though no one willing will seek the fire of refinement to find it. Our God is a consuming fire. His Love is unfailing and overwhelming. Lord, remind me today and in the struggles up ahead to “be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for (me because I) belong to Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-22 (NLT)
Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.