Lois asked if I was writing a Thanksgiving blog.
“Yeah. But I don’t know what to write.”
“How about ‘in everything give thanks'”?
Right. Fitting. Also a sermon for me. No, for Lois too. My PLS and cancer are diseases we both have to endure–and give thanks in.
Here are Paul’s words, part of a closing exhortation to the Thessalonica church . . .
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).
It’s a triplet of closely-related appeals. “[G]ive thanks” presupposes we have blessings to rejoice over. (I do!) Prayer(spoken or singing) is how we verbalize joyful thanks.
” . . . this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” adds punch to the appeal. It’s what God wants. And here, part of the puzzle of knowing God’s will for us is solved: “give thanks in all circumstances.”
That includes adverse circumstances. Not only good times, but bad. All the time, no matter what.
My nature doesn’t work that way. When I’m hurting, I pray without ceasing, “Father, heal my hurt”–and maybe complain about it. My default response isn’t “thank you, Lord.” When the dermatologist said, “You have malignant melanoma”, I didn’t hang up the phone and break into thanksgiving. Paul isn’t telling us to give thanks for all circumstances. He’s urging us to give thanks in them. Still, it’s hard.
I have a confession. ( I hope no one’s keeping track of how many I’ve made!) I’m one of those guys who thinks it borders on fanaticism to give thanks in all circumstances. I mean, some circumstances are horrid. Not just a tummy ache. Deathly.
Then I remember what God is doing. It’s the old Job-thing. If I give thanks, even in suffering circumstances, it shows I’m serving him for him, not just for what he gives–and he is glorified. That means his reputation is somewhat at stake if I limit my thanksgiving to good times and mope in the bad.
But , giving thanks in all things is for me, too.. It lifts my head from the pit up above to the greater One–“my glory and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3). Giving him thanks sets my eyes on him.
But for what to give thanks? It’s hard to thankfully rejoice over mere food when I’m in pain. Here’s where “for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus for you” comes in. I’m in Christ Jesus! I’m connected to him by faith and the Spirit! I share in his life! Here’s what that means . . .
. . . In Christ Jesus I was given grace before the world was created, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the ages began . . . ” (2 Timothy 1:9b).
. . . In Christ Jesus I was chosen by God before creation. ” . . .he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:9).
. . .In Christ Jesus God loves me with a love from which nothing can ever separate me. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39).
. . . In Christ Jesus I am redeemed, forgiven for all my sins. “In [Christ Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace . . . ” (Ephesians 1:7).
. . . In Christ I am made right with God, Christ’s righteousness imputed to me. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
. . . In Christ Jesus I am a new creation. “So if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
. . . In Christ Jesus I am God’s child. ” . . . in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26).
. . .In Christ Jesus I am, here on earth, already seated with Christ in heavenly places. “[God] raised us up with [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus . . . ” (Ephesians 2:6).
. . . In Christ Jesus all God’s promises are YES for me. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
. . . In Christ Jesus I am being sanctified and made holy like him. ” . . . you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
. . . In Christ Jesus all my needs will be provided for. “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
. . . In Christ Jesus God’s peace will guard my heart and mind. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
. . . In Christ Jesus I have eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 3:23).
. . . In Christ Jesus I will be bodily raised from the dead when he comes again. ” . . . for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:22,23).
I have more to give thanks for than my mind can contain–even when my “light and momentary afflictions” seem heavy and endless. But giving thanks in all circumstances doesn’t sound so fanatical now–not when I ponder what I have “in Christ Jesus”. It makes my heart sing in prayerful, joyful thanksgiving! Lois and I wish you a rejoicing Thanksgiving! In Christ Jesus.