As a teacher and preacher, it is always my desire to be genuine, honest, and true to the Biblical texts. I still believe that the Bible, all of it, is God-breathed and is given by God so that the servants of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). There is a thought that has been lingering on my mind as of late, and I wanted to take a moment so share.
Before I dive into what God has put on my heart, I want to share something you may or may not already know: Being a follower of Jesus is not easy. Anyone who claims that following Jesus doesn’t come with its challenges probably isn’t truly following Jesus. The Lord Himself says that we are to follow Him this way: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 ESV)
Today the cross is just a symbol or a fashion statement, but it wasn’t always this way. In Jesus’ day, the cross represented humiliation, suffering, and death. Did you know that is the life that Jesus calls you to? I’m sure not many people are going to flock to hear that message. We are called not just to follow Jesus, but to deny ourselves. This self-denial is a willing sacrifice to the Savior who sacrificed so much for us. It is a sacrifice that is volitional and a response of loving obedience for all that Jesus has done for us. We don’t just deny ourselves, the call is to die to ourselves as we live for Jesus.
I’ve found out in my very limited time that living for Jesus isn’t always easy, but unless I’m living for Jesus I’m not really living at all. That’s where today’s focal scripture comes in: Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV) The Bible is full of powerfully plain and incredibly difficult verses like these. You don’t have to wonder what God is calling you to do, you just have to wonder how in the world you can live that way.
Today I want to talk about having a heart of gratitude. Think about some of the prayers you’ve prayed over your life and how you’ve seen God move. You’ve prayed for sick loved ones, and God has answered with miraculous healing. You’ve prayed over dire financial situations, and God has provided for your needs in dramatic ways. You’ve prayed for freedom from addiction and sin, and God has delivered you from the depths of despair. Doesn’t it seem so easy to “give thanks” in those moments?
Its taken a moment to get here, but this is the thought that has been lingering: How often do we give thanks in the midst of the mundane? How about those countless days where we didn’t have any sickness going on in our family, did we give thanks then? How about those moments where we had more than enough, did we stop to praise God for His provision in those times? How about the times where we aren’t facing trials and tribulations, just the regular everyday moments of life… did you give thanks then?
If I’m being honest, I don’t do that as well. Those types of reoccurring blessings are things I’ve just taken for granted and expected to be a part of my life, until they aren’t. Then I get mad, complain, grumble, and want to question God’s goodness. I’m sure I won’t get too many “amens” with this blog post, but what about you?
So… coming from one saint who is in the midst of sanctification to another, its time for us to take a honest hard look in the mirror. How in the world can we give thanks in all circumstances? There are a few essential things I think we need to remember:
- We can’t do this without the Holy Spirit’s help
- Scripture wouldn’t call us to do it if the Holy Spirit can’t equip us to do it
- Circumstances change, Jesus never does
- No matter what we face, we don’t have to face it alone
- This world isn’t our home, we are just pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land