September 19, 2011

Don't Ask Questions. Just Give Thanks.

This morning I was running late for an appointment and scooting down a busy city street in my car. Unlike most mornings, the street was empty of traffic. I thought, “Thank you Lord that traffic is clear.” Then my mind drifted on to, “What’s going on? Why is the road so bare?” My thoughts would have continued to wander off into la-la land except for the message which came back to me,

“Don’t ask questions. Just give thanks.”

I have been very aware lately of the need/command to give thanks and I am discovering the magical workings behind doing so.

It is easy to give thanks for things we are obviously blessed by. My norm is to thank the Lord for my family, health, safety, job, dogs, house, food and other simple pleasures. These are obvious blessings which make each day more enjoyable. It is natural to recognize these as blessings and there is no challenge to keep God’s command by thanking Him for these things.

“Thank you God that my family is saved, safe and healthy.”

However, we are instructed:

“Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I Thessalonians 5:17-18

Do we honor this command literally; acknowledging and thanking Him in ALL circumstances?

This passage tells us three things:

First, if the word “this” in the passage modifies the word “everything”, then everything is God’s will. In everything thank Him because He is responsible for everything.

Second, if the word “this” in the passage modifies “give thanks”, then the act of thanksgiving is always His will every moment without exception.

Third, who does this instruction apply to? It applies to you! This is the will of God “concerning you”; not your neighbor, not Christians who are more devout than you, not the most recent lottery winner, but you (and me)!

The reality you find yourself in today is His will and your thanking Him for that reality is also His will. You are in it because he put you there. He is watching and listening for expressions of gratitude.

“Trusting God” by Jerry Bridges encourages us to pause and reflect on the circumstances behind which God is in control. For example, he takes a deeper look at God’s control over the weather. The sun does not rise without God’s permission. Rain does not fall. The wind does not blow. The rivers do not hold water nor does the ocean abide by the boundaries of the shore. Natural disasters do not descend without God’s intervention. These things are literal “acts of God”. Each day we should acknowledge how God elects to manifest His will as seen in the weather and thank Him for His choice for that day.

Keeping this suggestion in mind, we can conceive of God’s activity among the neutral events of our lives. My car started today without trouble. I received a package in the mail on time. My dog didn’t have an accident in the house. No flat tire. No roof leak. God deserves thanks for these mundane events. How disadvantaged we would be if He removed His generous hand.

“Thank you God for the gentle rain today.”

And yet there is another rung of thanksgiving; that is, giving thanks during unfortunate hardships and sufferings. These circumstances are also under the jurisdiction of God’s will and part of His ordained plan.

I previously wrote about Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie in Ravensbruck concentration camp thanking God for the fleas which infested their barracks in a concentrated effort to observe God’s command to give thanks in all circumstances. It was later revealed that the flea infestation prohibited the guards from entering the premises. This allowed Corrie and Betsie to evangelize to thousands of prisoners before the prisoners were put to death. What the devil intended for bad, God intended for good.

I wonder if their prayer of thanksgiving actually INFUSED the fleas with a power to intimidate which didn’t exist before their prayers of thanksgiving. Could their thanks have distributed positive power to the fleas? Can I do that too? Can I infuse negative circumstances with positive power just by thanking God when it appears there is nothing to thank Him for? I suspect there is a magic in thanksgiving and I aim to find out.

Maewussia Osgood, a widow at the age of 24 and a mother of three said in hindsight of her husband’s helicopter crash, “Giving thanks IN all circumstances does not mean being thankful FOR all circumstances.”

Logic states that it is impossible to thank God for the devastation left behind through tragedy and yet logic permits us to embrace God’s unseen hand at work producing fruit through that tragedy. Herein lies our obligation to thank God in all circumstances and herein lies the fountain of perpetual blessing.

If thanksgiving precedes a descending of power; then, therefore let us give thanks.

“Thank you God that Charlie Osgood is at this moment enjoying the riches of glory while his wife and children remain on earth glorifying you with their lives and storing up treasures in Heaven until you see fit to reunite them.”

It is instinctive to ask questions – How long will things be good, God? - Why are things so bad? And yet giving thanks is always the verdict regardless of the answers. Why not skip right to the giving of thanks. Don’t put God on a waitlist or open yourself up to distraction by asking questions. Just give thanks.

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