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Being Grateful

November 24th, 2016

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in  Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)


Being grateful is both a grace gift and a Christian discipline, not a Christian emotion. We are not to be grateful only when we feel like it, but by faith we are to regularly give thanks to God. The passage above from 1 Thessalonians does not mean that everything that happens to us is God’s will, rather that it is God’s will that in every circumstance we are to give thanks.

When trouble comes we can claim Romans 8:28-29:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

In the midst of difficult and frustrating circumstances, even when our hearts are broken, there is something good God is doing in our hearts through that event. He is recreating us inwardly into the image of Christ.

We read in Malachi 3:3 how God purifies His people.

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver.

The refiner would carefully watch over the silver as he refined it through heat. If he walked away and neglected it, it would be ruined, so when it says “He will sit as a refiner” it describes the attentiveness of the refiner to his work - making sure that the fire is not too hot or too cool. He would gentle skim the dross and the impurities off of the silver as the heat separated them from the silver or gold. The refiner would know that his work was complete when he could see his face reflected on the surface.

God watches over us carefully, and through all our trials He looks to see His face reflected in our character. He measures them carefully, not walking away and leaving us to the terrors of spiritual aloneness. Rather as our loving heavenly Father, He carefully and attentively watches over us.

I don’t know if you have ever read the 23rd Psalm in the Living Bible, but it beautifully describes the love and watchfulness of our Good Shepherd.

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!
He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.
Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.
You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies.
You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow!
Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with my all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.

Today stop to thank God for His goodness to you, for His faithfulness, His blessings, and for your own salvation. Gratitude does more to our own souls than we can ever imagine.

Thank Him also for the challenges you face, for the things that you have asked for that He has deemed not to give you. Let Him skim off the dross and impurities of your heart until He can see His own face reflected in His work of grace in your life.

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Gratitude in All Things

November 26th, 2015

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonian 5:16-18

We in Christ Jesus have a perspective given us by God, in which we see life differently. We have reasons to live in continual joy and gratitude - in constant conversation with our Heavenly Father. We rejoice not merely “in spite of” our circumstances, or “in the midst of” our circumstances, rather in Christ we “triumph over” our circumstances in this life because of His eternal purpose to glorify and bless us. We are more than conquerors in Him who loves us (Romans 8:31-39).

The meaning of the passage above is not that everything that happens to us, or around us, is the will of God - for clearly many things are not! Rather it is the will of God that in the midst of all things we be grateful and joyful in Christ and in His eternal purposes.

Yet all things that come into our lives still come by the permissive hand of God, who entrusts to us trials of various kinds. One person is entrusted with a trial of a financial nature, like Elijah being fed by ravens, trusting the Lord day by day for life and sustenance. Another is entrusted with a trial of a physical nature, like the Apostle Paul with his thorn in the flesh. Another is entrusted with a trial of a social nature, living and working with difficult people, like childless Hannah who constantly heard the provocation of Penninah (1 Samuel 1:6-7). Another is trusted with persecution and rejection, and like Christians through the ages, faces bias against him.

Another is entrusted with grief, like Mary and Martha at the loss of their brother Lazarus (John 11), and must make sense of life without the presence of their loved one. Another is entrusted with unrelenting obligation to spiritually care for others, like Moses who came constantly before the Lord for the strength of His presence and for the knowledge of His ways (Exodus 33:12-23), about which even Paul said, “To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” (2 Cor. 2:16, NLT).

The list of difficult things that God entrusts to us is virtually endless, but over and above all of these matters is a greater spiritual reality, without which all such commands to be joyful and grateful would make no sense. God has not in these commands placed another burden on us. He has not said that in spite of whatever else we are struggling with in life, that we must also put on a happy face and pretend to be perfectly delighted with our circumstances. In fact, we read in Ecclesiastes 1:18, “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

There is some wisdom in not constantly complaining to others about our problems, because (a) most people don’t care, (b) it will not help our attitude or situation to do so, (c) in fact, to complain usually makes them worse, (d) people have their own problems as well, and (e) to focus on the negative distracts us from the positive things in our lives. Quite often we see people who have been incredibly blessed in life complaining about something that is in actuality nothing more than a minor inconvenience - like someone sitting in a brand new luxury automobile complaining about a five minute delay in traffic.

These are conciliatory reasons not to complain, matters of wisdom and convenience or that are a consolation in nature. But this is still not the point here, in this section of God’s Word.

The Apostle is, rather, teaching us that the Christian life itself, the miraculous and spiritual reality of each believer in Christ, is of such a nature that our hearts may already be transposed to our eternal reality in Christ. He had just finished instructing us on the Second Coming of Christ, and he has lifted our minds out of this world and put them in eternity. He has not merely said, “Cheer up! Things are not that bad!” or “Things could be worse.” Rather he has said that in light of the eternal purposes of God, in light of His promises to us, whatever happens on this earth is a mere pittance of blessing at best. In Christ are all the treasures of the love and grace of God.

John Chysostom, one of he greatest preachers in the history of the Western Church, was Archbishop of Constantinople, and was driven into exile and died away from the earthly and ecclesiastical  splendors of his office. Yet his favorite expression was “Glory to God in all things.”

And we have the assurance that the trials we face here will be used of God to mature us for eternity. It is not the biblical perspective that these trials merely make us wiser here on earth - some of them do serve that purpose, but not that only, and not that mostly. Romans 8:28-30 describes the eternal plan of God for each life, and it is not only to become wiser here on earth, but rather to take on the very character of Christ for all eternity. God looks to our glorification. That is His goal.

Romans 8:28-30: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have  been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

If the only benefit of our sufferings were merely to make us smarter here on earth, then they should cease after a certain point in life, but they do not, they continue up until the end. God’s purpose is to complete in Christ, to remove all imperfections, to glorify us in Christ, until He and He only remains.

So we rejoice in everything, in every circumstance, for none of them deter God from His purpose to save us and redeem us, and all of them can be used of God to accomplish this purpose, and they will all pass soon enough and we shall enter into the glory of the Lord for eternity.

Do you want to live in constant joy and gratitude? Set your hearts and hopes on the eternal plan of God to redeem us and to complete His redemption in heaven.

Philippians 3:20-21: But our citizenship is in heaven. 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.

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