I’m sitting here on my couch, feet propped up and sipping coffee – it’s devotion time. My thoughts consistently fall back on several difficult events of the past several months, some fresher than others and some I’m still in the midst of. A season of adversity is an appropriate title to describe them. No, I haven’t been persecuted, flogged, or beaten – although there have been times I’ve felt that way emotionally and spiritually.
No physical beating here – but that doesn’t change the sting on the inside.
Coming into full time ministry was a shock of sorts. It was almost enough to make me call my former employer and ask for my old job back. I wish I could say that was a joke…it wasn’t. No I’m not writing to air out dirty laundry. What I am writing about, however, is an honest, transparent, admittance of struggles. There is something refreshing and fabulous that happens to me when I open up, either through verbal or written words. I live my life with two main goals. The first is that Christ is immediately recognized all through me and that my love for Him is transparent. The second is that others see me as human. That may sound absurd or silly. Physically its apparent that I’m not a member of the ape family, although Nicky might say I smell like one at times. What I mean is that people see the real me – a simple guy who loves Christ, his family, and his church, and yet still struggles at times. I’m not some super Christian with a cape around my neck and special Bible powers!
Although the cape sounds like fun!
My intention is to remind you, just as God did for me this morning, that events, past or present, are all under His command. He orders them, allows them, supplies through them, sticks close to us while in them, and calls us to be thankful for them. I want to take a few moments and in light of Thanksgiving, examine what being thankful in all events looks like. But first we need to see what those events cannot do.
They never separate us from God
The enemy’s goal is to drive a wedge between you and God. Remember, he cannot hurt God directly. So Satan attacks that which God loves most – you and I.
The enemy will attack you, hurt you, in order to hurt God. I chuckle as I write that because scripture like Romans 8:38-39 (which I sheepishly admit that I often forget) screams loud and clear against what the devil can do.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
I want you to catch something in that verse. Paul says “nor any other created thing”. What things that you know of have not been created? Don’t strain your brain too hard – there’s only one. God. God is the only thing that is uncreated. So that means everything else, including Satan and all of Hell, is created and is part of that statement, “nor any other created thing”.
In light of that, read the verse again. Go ahead – I’ll wait right here till you’re done.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God. About the only thing that can separate you from God is you. You can choose to believe lies the enemy fires at you or you can chose to put up your shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16) and extinguish his flaming arrows. The choice is yours.
Stop just for a moment and consider what you are going through, right now – doesn’t matter what it is. What does matter is that it simply cannot separate you from God…Ever!
We are to be thankful in them
This is one of those irrational Christian things that can mess with our heads until we try it. Giving thanks, as Paul writes in Ephesians 5:20, for everything, includes the good events as well as the not so good events. Everything isn’t some things…it’s…everything! Pretty simple stuff.
When we give thanks, irrespective of how we feel, God gives us joy, irrespective of the events in our lives. How does that work? Glad you asked! To explain, let me draw a line connecting a few verses together to help see this.
First we need to look at Jesus’ words about His joy.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Jesus says to “keep My commandments”. That simply means respond in obedience to what God has to say through scripture. And when we do that, Jesus says, “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
So, having His joy in us is a result of our response to Him in obedience. That’s wonderful! But that doesn’t answer how giving thanks in the not so good events brings joy. Let’s look at the second verse to connect to.
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in what? Everything! That word ‘everything’ that Paul uses in his letter to the Thessalonians is the same word he uses in his letter to the Ephesians. It means “the whole, the all, entire”.
It means giving thanks with a few dollars in the checking out and giving the same thanks when there’s nothing in the checking out. It means giving thanks when your healthy and giving the same thanks when your body is afflicted. We are commanded to give thinks in everything. And if we respond obediently, we are promised His joy in return!
Looking back over the last several months, I can see where certain events challenged me. I can see God’s hand working in and through them. However, in some of that time, I also don’t see myself giving thanks as commanded here. I’m a bit saddened by this. These were opportunities I missed to grow and deepen my relationship with Him and discover that I am victorious irrespective of my circumstances.
Remember Paul with the “thorn in the flesh”? No one knows exactly what the “thorn” was. I don’t think it matters. What does matter is that Paul discovered that no matter the circumstances he found himself to be in, no event was greater than the presence of Christ in his life. No event, good or bad, could hold a candle to the power of Christ that was within! And in that he was victorious! He may not have been delivered from his “thorn”, but he was victorious nonetheless!
We can truly have joy in all circumstances and events in life. It’s not a joy we somehow manufacture. It’s a divine joy that is discovered as we respond to Christ in obedience! It’s there, ready for us to tap into and begin drawing from! It’s living the abundant life!
Yes! We absolutely can give thanks in everything, even the difficulties of life. And if we can give thanks, even in the difficulties, then we are a most victorious people indeed!