November 27 2013
Ephesians 5:20; I Thessalonians 5:18
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a wonderful holiday for so many people, when families get together and celebrate the blessings God has given them. At least, that is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be! For many, it is a troubling time, bringing to mind the sadness of lost loved ones, broken families, financial hardship or challenging medical problems. What are we to do – especially as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ – when we face tough situations?
As a pastor I have counseled many people who are going through difficulties of one kind or another. I have sometimes asked them a question, and I think their first reaction has been to throw something at me! I say to them, “Have you thanked God yet for what you are going through?” “What?” they might say. “I’m supposed to thank God for this hard thing in my life?!! No way!!!”
But what about what God says in His Word? Look at two scriptures that tell us plainly what we are to do:
• Ephesians 5:20 – …giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….
• I Thessalonians 5:18 – …in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Taking the ideas in reveres order, we are told to give thanks In And For All Things – in all situations! And I think it may be easier to give thanks in all situations rather than for all situations! That’s because we can always grit our teeth and say “Thank you, God, even though I am going through this tough time. I thank you that You are with me, You will strengthen me and will see me through this.” But to thank God for the difficult trial?
• “God, thank You that I have cancer.”
• “Father, thank You that my son is rebellious.”
• “Lord, thank You that we lost our home, we are broke, and we have no place to live.”
…you get the idea.
Why are we supposed to thank God In And For All Things including the very tough problems of life? It is because God will do what He promises in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” And what is His purpose for His children – toward which He will “…work…all things together for good…”? Romans 8:29: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” He never said it would feel good or even seem to be good from our perspective. It says God is doing a work in us that will make us more and more like Jesus. And that is hard work – and sometimes very painful – as He removes the rough and ungodly edges from our lives, and prepares us for His heavenly kingdom.
But one thing we can be sure of – again in Romans 8, this time in verse 18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Also in II Corinthians 4:17 and 18 Paul writes,
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far
more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the
things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things
which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul went through a lot of terrible suffering on earth. Just read his description of it in II Corinthians 11:25 through 28! And he could say it was all “…light affliction… but for a moment…”?
When we are there in heaven, we will look back at our earthly troubles and say, “It was all worth it! Look what I have now! Back then it seemed so long, but compared to eternity, it was really only a moment! Now I have perfect love and joy forever! And what I went through then prepared me to be more and more like Jesus. I can now enjoy His perfection in my life for eternity!”
So thank God In And For All Things! It takes faith to believe He is doing a work in us that will be for our good and His glory. But by faith – this Thanksgiving and every day – thank God In And For All Things!