I recently wrote a short article that was published in a community book project. It was on the subject of gratitude. The thesis of my piece was that there is always something to be thankful for even if you are going through tough stuff. And we all go through tough stuff.
There is a man in the Bible named Paul, and he said, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
It's a recommendation with a promise. He says, "Follow my example, and the God of peace will be with you." Paul didn’t have an easy life either. (II Corinthians 11:23-27) He had been imprisoned, tortured, stoned, shipwrecked and left adrift on the open sea. He had faced all manner of danger and discomfort, and he had been struck blind. And yet, somehow, he had learned how to be content in any circumstance. (Philippians 4:11) So when he gives us the advice to focus on the positive, I’d say it’s worth a try.
If you would like to read the rest of my article and over 100 more, you can get The Community Book Project: A Gift of Gratitude on Amazon Kindle. It is free until Friday.
How often have you said this to someone? If a friend has helped you out in multiple ways, you may, instead of listing each kindness, say, “Thanks for everything!” You appreciate all of the goodness. In the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day to pause and be thankful for the abundance of blessings we have in our lives. (Although I’m Canadian, and we celebrate Thanksgiving in October, many of my readers and some of my friends are American. So this post is in honour of their holiday.)
It’s fairly easy to be thankful for the good things in life. Dealing with the less pleasant things is a little harder. Did you know that the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the people of Thessalonica, instructed them to be thankful in everything? (I Thessalonians 5:18) Notice that it doesn’t say to be thankful for everything, but to be thankful in everything. Things may not always go well. In fact, we know that they will often not go well. (John 16:33) But we must always have an attitude of thankfulness to God. This won’t necessarily be how we feel, but we are instructed to choose to be thankful—thankful to God for His power, His goodness, His love, His sacrifice through Jesus on the cross, His gift of salvation to us, and perhaps most importantly during times of trial on this Earth, the promise of an eternity free of hardship and pain. That’s a lot to be thankful for.
This verse is actually only part of the sentence (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) which is part of the final instructions in the concluding paragraphs of Paul’s letter. (I Thessalonians 5:12-22) In these final instructions, Paul encourages his readers to respect their leaders, to live peacefully with each other and to help their brothers and sisters to live in a way that reflects Christ. The exhortations in verses 16-18 are more individual. They involve our personal relationship with God. No matter what our circumstance, we are to always rejoice. Even when we face trials of many kinds, good can come from the struggle. (James 1:2-4) We are to pray constantly. That doesn’t mean that we need to be on our knees with our head bowed and our eyes closed, although there are times when that kind of concentration in prayer is appropriate and beneficial. However, no matter what we are doing throughout our day, we can have an attitude of communion with God. We can consider Him in all of our decisions; we can pray while we are going about our daily tasks. If we consider and trust Him in all aspects of our lives, it will be much easier to be joyful and to be thankful.
Last night as I was pondering all my problems--instead of sleeping--the old hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness came to mind. It was inspired by Jeremiah's words in Lamentations 3:22-24 and the author's own circumstances. Thomas Obadiah Chisholm experienced God's faithfulness in the everyday provision of his needs during times when he was too ill to work. Interestingly, both the Bible passage and the hymn say that God's mercies are new every morning. That doesn't mean that our needs will be met weeks or months in advance. That wouldn't require a lot of trust, would it? I have concluded that I need to spend more time focusing on all the things I have to be thankful for, and trust God to meet my needs for everything else. Of course, I might need to be reminded of that now and then!
God loves us so much, and He gave (and gives) of Himself for us. He wants us to follow His example. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
God wants us to be pure and holy. This takes discipline and self-control. (Ephesians 5:3)
Our words should be gracious, uplifting and grateful. (Ephesians 5:4)
We all make mistakes, but a person who has accepted Christ has accepted Him as Lord and wants to be like Him. (Ephesians 5:5)
Don't bow to peer pressure. (Ephesians 5:6-7)
Live as children of light--full of goodness, righteousness and truth. Find out what pleases the Lord, and then do it. (Ephesians 5:8-10)
Darkness cannot overpower light, but light can overpower darkness. (Ephesians 5:13)
Make conscious decisions about how you live based on God's will. (Ephesians 5:17)
Don't get drunk, because you will lose your self-control. (Ephesians 5:18)
Let your joy come from the Spirit rather than from drink. (Ephesians 5:19)
Always be filled with gratitude to God. (Ephesians 5:20)
The way we treat each other should reflect our reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
God has roles for husbands and wives, but neither is expected to submit to abuse of any kind from the other. If both do their parts, and follow Christ's example, what a team they would be! (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Please share your thoughts on Ephesians 5 in the comment section.
Just a week ago, we were sharing New Year’s blessings with all our friends and family. I was wishing them happiness, peace, prosperity and good health. “May this be your best year ever,” I would say. “I wish you all the best.” I was optimistic for good things to happen, but the truth of the matter is that nothing much changes just because we turn over a new page on the calendar. We still face the same rebellious children, the health scares, the unhappy marriages, the financial difficulties, the unexpected tragedies. It’s just that now we are facing them when we had our expectations set for something so much higher, just because the year got a new number. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being optimistic, but saying “Happy New Year” doesn’t take all our troubles away.
Many years ago, when I was in my first year of university, I learned a new song, well new to me anyway. One of the verses said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” This comes from the King James Version of Isaiah 26:3 which in its entirety says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” In more contemporary English that might be, “You will give perfect peace to those who stay focused on you because they trust in you.” What a great promise that is!
This verse doesn’t mean that we will be exempt from all trials or heartaches, for we know that in this world we will have trouble. (John 16:33) The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to have trouble, (II Corinthians 11:23-27) but based on Isaiah 26:3, he wrote the very practical advice found in Philippians 4:6-7. Pray and give thanks. We will face situations that seem unbearable to us, but if we focus on God, bring all our cares to Him in prayer and thank Him for His many blessings to us, He will grant us a peace that defies explanation, peace that is not like the world gives (John 14:27), peace that will protect our hearts and minds.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I will be spending it with family, and probably eating far too much of a meal that I don't have to cook. I have so much to be thankful for, and I pray that you will all be similarly blessed.
To honour the occasion I am sharing with you Linus' Thanksgiving Prayer.
The tenth commandment is that you shall not covet. (Exodus 20:17) In Proverbs 23:17-18, the term used is envy. They mean the same thing. Don’t be jealous of what your neighbour has that you don’t. I’ve been guilty of this lately. I don’t envy any particular neighbour, or desire anything that was gained through inappropriate means as Proverbs 23:17 suggests, but I have certainly desired to have things be different than they are. I and my family have been going through a lot of strife lately, from car accidents that resulted in injury, unceasing pain and the hassle of replacing a vehicle with insufficient funds to family members with brain cancer and kidney transplant rejection and friends who are suffering from cancer or have lost loved ones. Everything just seems to be so hard lately, and I envy those who appear to have things more under control than I do. Of course, that is just my perception and possibly an illusion. I guess we all have our struggles.
The point of these two verses in Proverbs seems to be to trust in the Lord. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” We must trust God to be God and realize that although we don’t see the value in whatever hardship we’re enduring, He does. He knows the plans He has for you, and they are good plans. (Jeremiah 29:11)
I think the key is to control your thoughts. (Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:2, Philippians 4:8) Instead of focusing on how someone else is better off than you are, focus on what you can be thankful for. Focus on the hope you have for your future, and know that when we get to eternity in heaven there will be no more pain, no more sorrow and no more strife. (Revelation 21:4) We also need to focus on the character and promises of God. We know that He is a good and loving Father (Ephesians 2:4) who desires to give good gifts to His children. (Matthew 7:11) We know that even though all things are not good, all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) There is hope not only for peace and joy in eternity, but also for things to be better on the other side of this trying time.