“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:18
There’s a difference between giving thanks FOR all circumstances and giving thanks IN all circumstances. You don’t give thanks for all the dirty dishes in the sink at the end of the day — unless you’re some kind of sicko; you do thank God for the food he gives you to dirty all those dishes. You don’t give thanks for the car accident; you do thank God that nobody was seriously injured. You don’t give thanks that Molly White is in the hospital; you do thank God for the opportunity to minister to Molly and her husband Pete and for deeming you somehow worthy to minister in the name of Jesus. You don’t give thanks that Vernon died; you do thank God that death is not the bottom line, death is not the last chapter. Thank you, Lord, that God in Christ is the ultimate power with the ultimate authority and he always writes the final word! Thank the Lord that resurrection and life belong to us in Jesus!
I always get a kick out of listening to little kids pray — I’m talking about little kids: three, four, five years old. They give thanks to God for everybody and every thing. If we’re at the table, they thank God for everybody around the table and every food item, the plates, the napkins, the silverware, the Kool-Aid, and what they hope is for dessert.
If we’re praying in the living room, they thank God for the couch and the fireplace and the TV and the remote. If we’re in the bedroom, they thank God for the bed, their pillow, their blanket, their clothes, their shoes, and they name every single stuffed animal and every doll and lift them each to God in praise. It’s everything.
Everything they see is a gift from God. Everything in the world, everything going on around them right now, at this moment, all of it is a blessing from God and he is to be thanked profusely.
Why do we lose that?
Joyful souls and prayerful spirits and grateful hearts — that is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.
It’s Tuesday. Feels like Monday. Tomorrow’s Wednesday. And I’m running behind. We concluded our “Marriage Matters” sermon series on Sunday with “Sex and Marriage.” I’d like to reproduce a lot of that sermon in a series of three or four posts here in this space, but it’s probably not going to happen this week. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, let me share a couple of links with you.
Erica Grieder has written a column in the current Texas Monthly about the San Antonio Spurs, claiming that they are not only the best franchise in the NBA, but the best professional sports team in the history of the state of Texas. She makes a pretty good case and she taunts Cowboys fans with a parenthetical “Prove me wrong!” You can read her column by clicking here.
Jim Martin has written an excellent post about being grateful on his blog “God Hungry.” As always, he makes a point that hurts: sometimes we say “Thank you” to everybody in our lives except the people we love the most. You can click here to read his post.
We took our annual Central Boys Night Out trip to the Ballpark in Arlington last Friday to see the home team get clobbered by the Pirates. Didn’t much matter; we had an absolute blast. Dale won the homerun pool, I took home the double-play pot, and Speck lucked into the final-out bucks. Lou went to his first big league game, Andy wore an orange bandana around his neck, and we made Greg wear an Adrian Beltre shirt. We also learned that if you’re a cop, like Doug, you don’t have to go through the security line like everybody else. On the way we saw where Bruce grew up in Quanah, and on the way back we quietly lamented the idiocy that would destroy the baseball temple in Arlington and rebuild it next door with a retractable roof. And we all ate for the cycle.
In good times and bad, we have much for which to be thankful. Much. Odds are that you personally rank in the top ten percent of the wealthiest people in the world. And, yes, we are thankful. We are thankful for all the wonderful blessings of our lives: our families, our children, our friends, our jobs and houses, our cars and money. And that’s good. It’s very good to acknowledge God as the giver of all good gifts. Everything you have is a gift from God. We thank him for every good thing we see.
But beyond that — way, way, way beyond that — we enjoy the blessings of a righteous relationship with God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everything we’ve been given, all our possessions, every blessing you could possibly count this week finds more significance because of Christ. Every blessing is richer, it’s better, it’s deeper, it’s more significant, it’s more meaningful because of Christ. In fact, all thanksgiving is because of, related to, and in the name of Jesus.
The things the Scriptures long for, the blessings the psalms yearn for, the promises the Bible begs to be delivered are all fulfilled for us in Christ Jesus. He is our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption.
So, you’re thankful today? “Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)
You’re thankful for a particular person today? “I always thank God for you, because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus!” (1 Corinthians 1:4)
You’re thankful today even in tough times? “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus!” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
You’re thankful for salvation? “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
In Ephesians 5:20, Paul tells us to give thanks to God “for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7
Prayer is not a technique. It’s not a formula. Prayer is not a technology which we use to get a force or a “higher power” to do what we want. When Paul talks about prayer, he’s talking about a prayerful understanding, a prayer attitude, a particular way of looking at life. Paul wants the Christians in Philippi to have a prayerful relationship with God based on everything he’s written in the letter up to this point.
In order for prayer to result in peace, Paul expects Christians to be still blown away by their salvation.
I think the fact that we are saved by the amazing grace of a merciful God should startle us every single day. The fact that a holy and righteous Creator sacrificed everything in order to save a wretched sinner like me — it should overwhelm me every couple of hours or so. Several times a day, I think, I should be shocked by it all over again. My salvation is impossible; yet it’s real! My salvation is beyond comprehension; it’s a miracle!
And Paul is careful to remind the disciples in Philippi they can’t ever forget it.
He starts the letter by reminding us that God is bringing this wonderful miracle of salvation to completion (1:6). We are pure and blameless, he says, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus (1:10-11). In chapter two, Paul points out again just what Jesus did for us. He gave up everything! All this grand, sweeping poetry about the sacrifice of our Lord who, he says, is right now working inside us according to his wonderful purposes (2:13). Then we’re told that our righteousness is not our own — we don’t have any righteousness — all of it comes from God (3:9). It’s an outrageous gift from our God!
We are beloved children of that merciful God. We are chosen subjects of that glorious Lord. And we are privileged citizens of that heavenly Kingdom…
“And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” ~Philippians 3:20-21
You are in the Lord, Paul says. You are in Christ. And don’t you ever forget that you never did one crying thing to deserve it.
Every now and then, we might think that we’re better than other people. Sometimes, we might even think we don’t need nearly as much of God’s mercy as somebody else. Prayer will not result in peace unless we are still shocked by our salvation and driven daily to new levels of humility and gratitude to God because of it.