Friday, December 18, 2009

November gathering - Give Thanks in Everything?

Thanksgiving is just around the corner...a time of mixed emotions for many people.  We're commanded to give thanks in all circumstances.  Was He serious when He said that?  Surely He didn't overlook some of the enormously difficult situations some of you have faced or are facing, right?  Yet hidden within each of God's commands are precious blessings and promises, and a way to obey we might not realize at first glance.  Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to gush with thanksgiving over a loss.  That's not what it means. :)

Jesus ‘did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,’ and chose always to make Himself ‘nothing,’ to be perfectly obedient and submissive to His Father, even unto death – death on the Cross (Phil 2:6-8).  
*have I chosen utter dependence upon God?  If I depend on Him for everything, being thankful is all but automatic

In John 5, when Jesus healed the man at Bethesda, He required the man to pick up him mat and walk.  The man had to take responsibility and take action or he never would have realized the healing that had taken place.  
*until we reach the end of ourselves, we cannot fully realize His promise to sustain us, to provide for us, to meet all of our needs, or to be strength when we are weak.  As long as we continue striving to take care of these things ourselves, we’ll be in the way and cannot see God work.

            *Philiippians 4:19  And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
            *That’s a promise – He WILL meet ALL your needs.  Will you believe this even when your circumstances seem to indicate otherwise?
             *We don’t get to choose our trials, only our responses.

When God calls you to a seemingly impossible task, your job is to give Him what you have.  He’ll do the rest.  (Example of feeding the 5000 from 5 loaves and 2 fish).  We’re called to be thankful in everything.  That seems impossible, right?  But because God called us to do it, with Him it IS possible.

Do we ask for strength to be thankful? Or strength to have our dreams fulfilled?  If we can separate from our deepest desires for a moment, we’ll realize that if our dreams are fulfilled but we are not growing spiritually, we will not find the true fulfillment we seek.  The things in our lives are only rich and awesome and full of joy when they accompany God’s presence.  His presence is the common factor in peace-filled lives.  Fulfillment of our dreams does not guarantee peace or joy or even happiness.

1 Thessalonian 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circimstances…” It does not say to give thanks for the circumstances. We are not expected to give thanks for the loss of a much wanted baby.  If God commands us to find something worthy of being thankful for in the midst of that loss, He will enable us.

Psalm 107:1
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

*It is a command to give thanks.  Why?  Because He is good.

Psalm 107:15
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love

*Here's another reason: His love is unfailing.  You won't find better than that anywhere.

Mark 8:7
They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.

*Jesus gave us this example to follow.  He gave thanks for the little He had, and trusted God with the result.  He didn't grumble or insist that the disciples find more food.  He just gave thanks for what He had and went from there.  If we're not thankful for little, what makes us think we'll be thankful for much?

Ephesians 5:19-21
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
*ALWAYS giving thanks.  If you look hard enough, or look outside of your own situation, you will find plenty of reasons to give thanks.  This is a command, and you can be certain that God's blessings follow obedience in this command as with all others.

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

*Command: do not be anxious.  About ANYTHING!  What to do when you're anxious - pray, give thanks, ask God.  Amy shared her "formula" for applying this verse.  Have you prayed?  Have you really talked to God about this?  Have you given thanksgiving?  For what things?  And have you specifically asked God to intervene?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
*This is not an easy verse to flesh out. But whenever God calls, He equips.  He has called us to obey, to be joyful, to pray, to give thanks.  So we are guaranteed that He will help us do these things.  It's not a natural human response.  It's supernatural.   

When we look at the Psalms we see that the psalmists were honest. They are dramatic and transparent in their laments. But inevitably, the vast majority of the psalms turn a corner. When we cry out to God, He hears us then reminds us of what is worthy of praise. (Note: the circumstances do not change in the psalms. The person writing the psalm changes.)  If we were to write a psalm of our current struggles, what would the second half of your psalm read like?  Go ahead and try it!  Write down or cry out your first half.  List everything that is hard, disappointing, crushing, wrong, unfair and unjust.  Then...take a deep breath and choose to remember God's promises, His faithfulness, His past provision, and the blessings you can count on that are coming.  The first half of your psalm is still there, but now it is in perspective of the truth of the second half.  

In these holidays when you are pressured to put on a ‘happy face’ it is best to be honest with God and ask Him to strengthen you with the truth of the Bible.  There is much to be thankful for – while being transparent in our pain.

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