Reflecting on Our Responses- A Thought for Thanksgiving 2008

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5.16-18

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” -Colossians 3.17

With today being the celebration of the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I was faced with the decision of just posting as normal or of doing a cliched theme post about giving thanks and what that means and blah blah blah. But after careful consideration, I have decided that the boring old theme post might be much needed at this point.

To begin with, as a nation, particularly as Christians in this nation, there does not seem to be a lot to be thankful for at this time. The economy stinks and most of us are probably not too thrilled about the person elected to lead us through it and whatever else may come over the next four years. And while many of us are turning to passages like Romans 13.1 to comfort us that God places people in authority in accord with his will, I doubt that too many of us have gone beyond that into what God says about thanksgiving.

As 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18 above says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” Are we doing this? We may all know this, but are we actually doing this? If it is as the last line says, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” then we must set our minds to it so that our will will be conformed to his.

Rejoice always? Yes. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. . . . For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (1.3-5, 8-10)

If this apostle, who had been shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, and who knows what else, was capable of giving thanks to God and rejoicing in his circumstances, knowing God was at work in it, then we should be capable of rejoicing in whatever financial or political hardships may come, since the same God who was at work in Paul’s day is still at work, unchanged, in ours.

Pray without ceasing? Yes. Throughout Scripture we are told to pray for just about everything, and here we are told to be doing that without halt. Particularly in times of hardship and trial, the unceasing prayer life allows us access to the Father, that he might speak into our hearts giving us peace and comfort, either by revealing his will for it in us or just by comforting us with his sovereignty. We all too quickly neglect prayer, thinking that what goes on is in need of something much bigger than some fancy words spoken in solitude. Yet, as we are made aware by James, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5.16b). So is it with us, that our prayer may have the power, if not to change the situation to our liking, to at least change our heart to the liking of God and granting us patience towards his holy design.

Give thanks in all circumstances? Yes. I think I am the worst at this. I complain so much. Of course, I dress it up and say that I am critiquing things, or providing constructive criticism, which I believe I am a lot of the time, but on occasion that “critique” is just a complaint. I am complaining because something is uncomfortable or difficult for me and so instead of rejoicing about it, praying over it, and giving thanks to God, I simply whine about it until my wife no longer has the patience to listen to me any more. I do this, which is in clear contradiction to all that I am supposed to be about.

Colossians 3.17 throws down the gauntlet by saying, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Whatever I do, whatever I say, if something comes out that is not wrought with thanksgiving then I am not in line with God’s will for me in that situation. Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that “being thankful” and “being permissive” or “being liberal” are synonymous; I think we can be thankful even through biting words. However, if our words or actions display ill-will or discontent with what we have or who we speak against then our misgiving is not against the object of our attention but instead it is against God, as if we are saying “Why’d you let it be like this in the first place?”; and questioning God’s intent is not a position I want to take.

So, with another Thanksgiving Day coming and going, another set of football games and a myriad of casseroles, I want to do the cliche thing and call us back to a right spirit of thankfulness to the Lord. As I have told my wife, sometimes things are cliche because they are just so right, and I believe that is the case with this. It is God’s will for us to be constantly rejoicing, constantly praying, and constantly giving thanks to him, in all circumstances, and there is no time better than Thanksgiving to start doing this.

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