May 15, 2015

Rejoice and Give Thanks

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Bible Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

There are some folks who just don’t seem to get it! When things are really dark and dismal, they talk about rejoicing and giving thanks! Annoying, aren’t they? After all, when the lights go out, you are supposed to weep and howl, right? Just a minute! If the lights start to go out and you know that your father controls the switch, and he has told you that you won’t be left in darkness, it just isn’t the same. It’s like somebody dressed up as a bogeyman is trying to scare you when you know it’s just a jerk with a sheet over his head.

I never cease to be amazed at the insights Paul had to suffering and difficulty, which gave him the strength to survive the darkness of a prison cell and the difficulties which he constantly faced. In his letter to the Corinthians, this man opened his heart and told of the beatings, the rejection, and the hostilities which he faced. Floundering around on floating debris after your ship goes down isn’t exactly a Mediterranean cruise. He experienced all of that. Yet he called these “light and momentary troubles” (2 Corinthians 4:17). He made what I gripe about seem pretty insignificant.

Driving to Guidelines’ office, our car was rear-ended by a youthful driver whose license had long been suspended. But we escaped without any real physical damage. What’s a stiff neck compared to the concern of a young mother who says the doctor thinks her unborn baby will be a Down’s syndrome child, never able to live a normal life?

At times Paul despaired of even living, but he never called for euthanasia to become law to eliminate those difficult situations facing us in life. No way! Steadfastly he held to his conviction that “He who had begun a good work” in his life would continue that until he met his Savior. From a prison cell—not a resort hotel on a white sandy beach—he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

Either you have to be a religious fanatic, a sort of imbalanced lunatic, to write such things, or else you have to be possessed with a quiet certainty that God the Father runs your life, and that He is engineering the circumstances no matter how dark, no matter how desperate, no matter how much it seems that the bad guys are really running the show.

Friend, where are you in relationship to what drives away your joy and happiness? Someone said, “Under the circumstances I’m not too bad.” Circumstances, though, are like a heavy blanket which will smother you. God wants you to know—no matter what the circumstances—He’s above them and He wants you there too.

In every set of circumstances, in every situation, says Paul, I can praise and thank Him. Why? Because things are not going the way I want them to go? No, because God is above these difficulties and can and will use them for His glory. Others may mean it for evil, but God means it for good.

The knowledge that God is in control and that you belong to Him are tremendous attitude adjusters. They lift you out of the dungeon of self-pity and despair and help you to trust Him for just today. “Before you know it,” says a paraphrase of Philippians 4:6, “a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Yes, the dimension of faith makes all the difference.

Resource reading: Philippians 4