“Faith-Filled Thanksgiving”

Read I Thessalonians 5:18

Because God is sovereign, wise and good, we can trust Him. If we are to honor Him in our times of adversity, we must trust Him. There are some corollary responses to trusting God that are important. They provide tangible evidence that we are in fact trusting God. One of those is thanksgiving.

In I Thessalonians 5:18 Paul instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” We are to be thankful in bad times and good times, for adversities as well as blessings. All circumstances whether favorable or unfavorable to our desires are to be occasions for thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is not a natural virtue; it is a fruit of the Spirit, given by Him. One of the most indicting statements in the Bible about natural man is Paul’s charge that “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21).  The unbeliever is not inclined to give thanks. He may welcome circumstances that are in accord with his wishes and complain about those that are not, but it never occurs to him in either case to give thanks.

Thanksgiving is an admission of dependence. Through it we recognize that in the physical realm God “gives [us] life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25), and that in the spiritual realm, it is God who made us alive in Christ Jesus when we were dead in our transgressions and sins. Everything we are and have we owe to His bountiful grace.

The time when we have difficulty accepting Paul’s instructions to give thanks in all circumstances is when those circumstances are bad. Suppose one person is healed from a dreadful disease while another contracts one.  Paul’s theology is that both, as believers, should give thanks to God.

The basis for giving thanks in the difficult circumstances is trusting that God is sovereign, wise and loving, as these circumstances are brought to bear upon our lives. In short, it is the firm belief that God is at work in all things – all circumstances – for our good. It is the willingness to accept this truth from God’s Word and rely upon it without having to know just how He is working for our good.

To derive the fullest comfort and encouragement from Romans 8:28 – and thus give thanks in all circumstances – we must realize that God is at work in a preactive, not reactive fashion. That is, God does not just respond to adversity in our lives to make the best out of a bad situation. He knows before He initiates or permits the adversity exactly how He will use it for our good. God knew exactly what He was doing before he allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. Joseph recognized this when he said to his brothers, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God…you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 45:8; 50:20).

Thanksgiving in all circumstances, whether favorable or unfavorable, then, is a tangible response to the trustworthiness of God. If we trust Him to work in all our circumstances for our good, then we should give Him thanks in all those circumstances – not thanksgiving for the evil considered in itself, but for the good that He will bring out of that evil through His sovereign wisdom and love.

~ Adapted from “Trusting God” p.205-208 by Jerry Bridges

Devoted in Summary

Read Mark 12:28-34

I am more persuaded every day, as I examine my own relationships and as I observe others in theirs, that relationships are first fixed vertically before they are ever fixed horizontally. Paul captures this dynamic in surprising words in Galatians 5. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (v. 14). Now think this through with me. If you had just written, “The entire law of God is summarized by one command,” what would you have written next? Well, I would have written, “Love God above all else.” That seems right. Is it not the greatest of all of God’s commands (Mark 12:28-30)? Is it not the command that must always be first and foremost in our hearts? It seems that good theology would require that this is the “one word” of which Paul is speaking. But that’s not what Paul writes. He says, the entire law is fulfilled by one word, and then he says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What? How does that fulfill all that God has called us to as his children?

Paul is on to something very important here. He knows two things. First, he knows that only people who love God above all else will ever love their neighbors as themselves. It is only when God is in his rightful place in my heart that you will be in the appropriate place in my life. This is because, if God is not in his rightful place, guess who I insert in that place? The answer is easy: myself. In my marriage, I have had to make this confession – my problem isn’t first that I have failed to love Luella in the way that I should. No, my deeper problem is that I have not loved God as I should, and because I haven’t, I put myself in his position. I make it all about me and therefore do not love Luella in the way that I should.

Paul knows a second thing: that one of the ways our lack of love for God is revealed is by the lack of active love that exists in our relationships. John says it this way: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (I John 4:20). Love for others really begins, continues and is daily motivated by love for God. When his purposes are more important that your desires, when his glory is more valuable to you than your temporary moments of glory, and when his agenda activates you more than your plan for you, you will be freed from your bondage to self-love and be freed to love others. It really is true. Our relationships need more than horizontal fixing. They need vertical rescue, and for that there is ever-sufficient grace of a willing and patient Savior.

~ “New Morning Mercies” August 9th by Paul David Tripp