Summary: Gratitude is like oxygen to the soul.
Giving Thanks in All Circumstances
Brad Bailey – November 27, 2011
This has always been a special weekend to gather… a time in which we actually GIVE THANKS to God…we share what we are grateful for.
As many have noted…gratitude is quality of life that has been in recession. In just the past 20 years in which I have been pastoring here on the Westside… I have felt the challenge in the midst of our cultural shifts… where stopping to be thankful is almost impossible amidst all the activity at hand… where even the holiday of Thanksgiving is overtaken by enticements of Black Friday.
It might be natural for some of us to feel a little guilty that we haven’t been as grateful as we should… haven’t stopped to give thanks like we should.
But guilt can confuse the issue. It can imply that our lack of gratitude is simply leaving God short. We might think of God as just being like the perturbed parent who after giving their child something…and hearing nothing… says “You’re welcome” with a mastery of sarcasm. While God is deserving of our thanks…beyond what we can even begin to grasp….gratitude is is what we need.
God calls us to give thanks not just because it is deserved but because…
Gratitude is the vital way we take hold of life’s goodness… which is God’s goodness.
Gratitude is like oxygen to the soul.
Gratitude proves quite literally to be that which produces healthier and happier people.
That is why the Bible instructs us to be consistently thankful.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
This is an inspiring proposition… which too often may feel like an insensitive platitude if thrown at us in the midst of hard times.
“How can I be thankful when this is the first Thanksgiving since my mother died? How can I be thankful when my family is in such disarray? How can I be thankful when I’m in the middle of chemotherapy? How can I be thankful when I haven’t been able to work?
Giving thanks in all circumstances is not a call to some superficial charade. Giving thanks in all circumstances is not a call to suppression of grief.
Grieving is not the same as complaining. Grieving can be a partner to gratitude. What we grieve the loss of… we are honoring as significant. If you are grieving for the loss of a loved one… it is a form of gratitude.
So the first quick point that can help us.. is to know that:
1. We can give thanks in all circumstances because we don’t have to understand all of them.
Paul does not suggest we give thanks FOR all circumstances…. But IN all circumstances.
The difference is essential in keeping a healthy life with God. If we think we have to give thanks FOR all circumstances… it means that we either have to understand how all circumstances are in fact good… or that God causes circumstances that may not be good.
But the Scriptures NEVER presume that we will or can understand the purpose at hand in all of life. It is simply beyond us to understand everything.
If we take the Psalms as a model for prayer, then we should certainly feel free, even obligated, to share with the Lord our frustrations and disappointments.
David questioned God. Job questioned God. Even Jesus did it when hanging on a cross.
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
Their greatness was not in accepting that everything was good…but in being free to acknowledge what they could not understand... and then accepting their limitations.
Spiritual greatness is not a matter of understanding everything…but of trusting God beyond our understanding.
It is a matter of learning to trust God with what we don’t understand by what we do understand.
The Scriptures tell us that God can work good in all circumstances…not that all circumstances are good in themselves.
I can give thanks in all circumstances because I can leave some to mysteries I can’t understand.
2. We can give thanks in all circumstances because we can direct the focus of our souls.
Paul is stating what we should do because we can do. We can choose to give thanks.
The Psalms, which reflect the inspired worship and prayer which God desires… teach us the significance of directing our soul.
Psalm 103:1-5 (GW)
Praise the LORD, my soul! Praise his holy name, all that is within me. 2 Praise the LORD, my soul, and never forget all the good he has done: 3 He is the one who forgives all your sins, the one who heals all your diseases, 4 the one who rescues your life from the pit, the one who crowns you with mercy and compassion, 5 the one who fills your life with blessings…