Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Give thanks in ALL circumstances"

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."

Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, gives some pretty clear directions. I can imagine that the question arose among those believers as it does among most, "What is God's will?" Paul outlines it pretty concisely, black and white, in terms that are fairly easy to understand yet maybe not always so easy to fulfill.

He instructed them to be joyful. When? ALWAYS.

To pray. How often? CONTINUALLY.

To give thanks. About what? In ALL circumstances.

Okay. Well, that's not so bad. I can do that. I can be a joyful person. I pray. I'll list my blessings. I'll count them as long as things are going my way, on my good days, when I'm experiencing good health, when my children are behaving, when the bank account's looking plentiful, the people at work are easy to get along with, my husband and I are in harmony, the neighbor's are all mowing their lawns and keeping the noise down, when the other drivers on the freeway are following the speed limit (not too fast and definitely not too slow) and aren't cutting me off in traffic, when life is turning out the way I painted the picture, when I've chosen obedience and I'm not feeling like a failure, when I'm not experiencing conflict with anyone or with myself, when the sun's shining on my parade, and life is going according to my plan, working out according to my timetable, and I think God must be really happy with how things are looking. But, what about when things aren't like this. What about when the car's broken down? What about when finances aren't holding out? What about when the diagnosis looks bleak? What about when my children aren't behaving like I think they should and I know everyone else has an opinion about that too? What about when the plans I had so clearly made aren't turning out the way I had hoped? What about when my dreams and desires and hopes and wishes suddenly seem unreachable or impossible and I know it's beyond my control? What about when there's more conflict than harmony? What about when there's death or loss or sickness or betrayal or any of the other dark moments that we as humans are bound to face? What about when there's not sunshine but bucket loads of rain on our parade? What about when our dark days turn into dark weeks or months or maybe even seasons and no one seems to be noticing? What about when we feel like a failure and we wonder if God will ever be able to use us again? What about those moments when everyone irritates us and we're really not sure why? What about when we so desperately want to hear a Word from God but it seems like there's a wall that can't be penetrated dividing us from Him? What about those moments? How easy is it to give thanks then?

As Jesus faced death on the cross, He prayed a simple but profound prayer. "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Even so, not my will but yours be done." What if we could learn in every moment of our life to exercise what Paul is suggesting to the Thessalonians is the will of God? To rejoice, pray, and give thanks even if we don't feel like taking the cup we've been handed, even if we would rather whatever we were facing to pass from us, even when we're in the middle of great strife. What might happen if we learned to pray, "Father, if it's possible could this pass, but more than anything Father, your will!!!! Father, your will is for me to rejoice, for me to pray, for me to give thanks. So right now in the middle of this . . . (you fill in the blank) I want to learn to rejoice. I want to find reasons for rejoicing. I want to rejoice in you, that you are my hope, that my salvation is found in you. Father, I want to live in constant communion with you. I want to sense you so closely that truly I am in prayer continually, hearing your voice, responding to your leading. I want to ask what you think about even the smallest details of my life. I want to give thanks that even as bad as this season is it's doing its work in my life, it's drawing me close to you, it's teaching me of your Sovereignty, your provision, your faithfulness. Father, teach me to be thankful." What might happen?

I'm finding that as I ask God to stretch me, to make me uncomfortable, to break my heart for the things that break His; He's doing just that. I'm beginning to see in myself the stark contrast between the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and the person I am. I'm so very thankful that God sees my heart. He knows that I love Him and that I long to love Him more. I believe and I long for Him to help my unbelief. I love Him and I want to love others like He loves them. I want to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks. I want to do His will.

So, here it goes--rejoicing and thanking God for the many gifts that flow from His hand. . .

61. 27 children gathered at the bottom of my steps to hear the Easter story. Hearing my daughter and her friend share the Easter story. Watching each of those little heads bowed as we thanked God for sending His son to die for us so that we might live for Him.

62. Easter egg hunts that remind me that while we hunt for eggs it's only a reminder that on that first Easter they went to find an empty tomb because the Savior had risen. He's alive!!!!

63. So very thankful for a creator God who shares His creativity with His children. Anna Claire's creativity and artistic ability amazes me. I'm so thankful that she can see beyond the obvious, that she can plan and dream, that she is not bound by any of the constraints that I have. She truly has an imagination that I can explain with words.

64. Over 11,000 gathered in one place to participate in an Easter worship service. Powerful!

65. A reminder that when we take our concerns to God in prayer, He hears. Carrington and I had a moment this week when something rather small in the whole grand scheme of life was missing. We prayed and asked God to help us find it. God led us to its whereabouts. A great moment to stop and praise Him for caring about the concerns of His children.

66. 4 young girls running down the street as it began to rain, determined to finish hanging invites to an Easter egg hunt. Their response, "We're doing this for God. We're not finishing until it's done."

67. Family afternoon naps.

68. New rose bushes.

69. A garden ready to be planted.

70. A friend sharing about his mission trip to the Philippines.

71. Easter Sunday lunch with family, watching grandparents hunt Easter eggs.

72. Routines that become rituals, making family time extra special.


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