Mary Adams (9 March 2011)

Note: In light of all the "distress of nations" going on in our lives and in our world today, we must not forget our Heavenly Father has not forgotten us, nor will He ever....MEA
  In everything give thanks...
I questioned that in my mind.  Should a person lying in bed, hurting, give thanks?  Or someone enduring torture? Or someone just devastated by a flood or an earthquake?  Homeless? A loved one died?  Enemies persecuting?
Have we not read the scripture found in Isaiah 57:1:  "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come".
In everything give thanks. We sometimes overlook the last words of that scripture: "this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (1 Thess 5:18), And it is talking to Christians, people who say they love Him and serve Him. 
NO!  NO! NO!  God is a loving God...I can't thank Him when bad things happen to me!   How can we be honest in such a prayer?
Concerning thanksgiving, there is an ongoing battle in our minds.  It involves us, Satan, and God. The battle between God and Satan was already won when Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, so that is not the problem.  But some people have a battle with God and blame Him for everything that doesn't go their way.  They do not read the scriptures.  God says very plainly that He watches over us and that Jesus came to give us life--more abundant life!   So that leaves only one other reason we find it hard to give thanks in everything: We allow Satan to rob us of victory in Christ by enticing our mind to doubt His love and not seeing the will of God in Christ Jesus that concerns our lives. 
Saul, (who later became the Apostle Paul) was constantly in distress.  He was stoned, he was beaten, put in prison, shipwrecked, faced lions, and on top of that he was deserted, abandoned and rejected by fellow Christians.  "The more I love, the less I am loved" he wrote.  Have you ever had that feeling?  But from the very first of his miraculous encounter with Jesus, the Lord had told him he would suffer many things: "For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name' sake". (Act 9:16)   Paul had sought the Lord three times for God to relieve him of the "messenger of Satan" who was sent to buffet him. Yet God allowed that buffeting to remain, telling Paul "My Grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul came to see that because of the "abundance of revelations" that had been given him, God was allowing this buffeting so that he would not become puffed up and think of himself more highly than he should.  Paul could then praise and thank God for this "thorn in the flesh" and wrote, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake, for when I am weak then am I strong."
What a great man of God!  Yet, we forget that he was chosen to become the apostle to us Gentiles.  And how did that come about?  Because of another man: Stephen.  He too was chosen, but not in the same manner as Paul.  He was already doing great wonders and miracles among the people and preaching powerfully.  Why, then, did God allow him to be stoned to death? Because the things the Jews heard him preach "when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart and they gnashed on him with their teeth, cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears and ran upon him one accord and cast him out of the city and stone him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul." (Acts 7:54) Saul, (who later changed his name to Paul) heard Stephen cry with a loud voice, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."  What happened there could not be erased from Saul's mind, even though he continued to persecute the believers and putting them into prison.  Later, Saul had a personal encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus.  "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?  It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
Blinded by the bright light that appeared, Saul later felt the hands of a Christian disciple laid upon him to receive his sight. That disciple, Ananias, had heard the Lord speak to him.  Though apprehensive, knowing Saul as a great persecutor of the church was told by the Lord to not fear him, "Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel."
God's kingdom plans.
Job was severely tested when he suffered the loss of everything he had.   Yet we read he said these words, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21) Job should have rightly said, "Satan hath taken away." He had lost cattle, children, all his possessions, and was covered with sores, for Satan was allowed to test his boast that Job would curse God if Satan was allowed to touch him.  It was not God that caused Job's troubles.  But Job did not yield to that temptation.  He honored the Lord by his blessing, and in return, God honored his faith by restoring his health and returned him twice as much as he had before!
Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt by his brothers, "but God was with him".  Falsely accused, Joseph was put into prison for 13 years but later released and made Prime Minister of Egypt by Pharaoh. He began storing up food because God had showed him a famine was to occur. Later, when his brothers came down to Egypt to buy food, Joseph made himself known to them.  His words to them were not of anger at remembering what they had done, but "God did send me before you to preserve life." He saw the purpose of God's plan. (Gen 45:3) 
Corrie Ten Boom and her sister were thrown into a Nazi death camp because their family had hidden Jews and helped them.  Now their sufferings really began.  Being Christians, they knew they must be a witness for the Lord...but among so many Jews who rejected him?
Their sleeping quarters were deplorable.  Crowded together in bunks, the beds were full of lice. Corrie and her sister daily read the Bible to the women and prayed with them.  But one day it became so unbearable, Corrie cried out to the Lord  about the miserable conditions, especially about the lice.  Her sister, Betsy, said to Corrie, "But Corrie, it is because we have a lice-ridden barrack, the guards do not bother us here and we are free to keep reading the Bible and ministering to these Jews."   Corrie then gave thanks to the Lord...for fleas!
We can never understand our requirement to give thanks "in everything" until we realize that it does not mean we must enjoy going through our trials, but rather that we see our trials and sufferings as part of the plan of God's for His Kingdom and for us personally. God knows what He is doing--because He always loves us and never forsakes us.  He still is watching over us.  He still knows every hair that falls from our heads. 
Without my many trials, I would never have learned about the faithfulness of God. Without pain and suffering in my body, I could never have seen what prayer and trust in God can do.  Without the many times people abandoned me and spoke evil of my name, I would never have learned forgiveness and the heights and depths of  a love that passeth understanding. Without the times when God parted my Red Seas and brought me safely to the other shore when Satan would have overrun me with his chariots, I could never have known His miracle power. 
I have so much to be thankful for...
Phil 4:6 'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

'Therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." (Heb 13:15) This strange scripture says that Praise is a sacrifice. Paul was quoting from the book of Jeremiah where Jeremiah foretold  that as a result of this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in the midst of Israel's adversity there would one day be great joy and praise heard in the land. 
Finally, our Lord himself left us with the greatest example.  In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed a remarkable prayer:
"Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.." (Mark 14:36) 
What cup?  His imminent death by crucifixion! Jesus prayed with an "exceedingly sorrowful heart". 
Was it possible for God to take that cup away?  Jesus said so, But he added, "nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt".
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done?  Easy to recite that prayer, but only when our hearts are ready to yield to His will for His kingdom over our will for ours, can we truly become thankful with overcoming joy and peace. 
And now we know how it is possible for our human "whys?" to give us the peace of God which truly does "surpass all comprehension" and turn our sorrowful hearts into joyous rejoicing as it did to our Lord who "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross..." (Heb 12:2)
And it is the "joy of the Lord" which is our strength!