Summary: Learn to be thankful for trials for they grow your character and teach you perseverance and patience

“Thanking The Trial”

Our family had just completed a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner. There were twelve of us seated around the table. Jerry, my son-in-law, asked each person to share what they were thankful for. The first one to volunteer was Gillian, my just turned six-year-old, granddaughter. She thanked God, by name, for everyone around the table, including her older brother and younger sister. She thanked God that Christmas was coming very soon. She got into such a thanksgiving spirit we thought she would never stop. Finally she paused for breath, and then came her last thank you. “Thank you God for me!”

This last thank you caught everyone by surprise. We could not stop smiling. She said it without any hint of boasting. But as I thought about it afterward I realized how mature beyond her years she was. Most people are so afraid of pride that we forget ourselves, yet God made each one of us. God has a plan for everyone present today.

No one was created by accident. So why should you not be thankful for you? Why should you not be thankful that God created you for a purpose? Why should you not be thankful that God gave you just the gifts and talents you needed to fulfill the purpose that He made you for? So let’s all say it this Thanksgiving time, “God, I give you thanks for me.”

Since God has a purpose for each one of us we should be filled with joy. Christians especially should be the most joyful people in the world because, to paraphrase the author of the book of Hebrews writing about the faith of Abraham, “we look forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). We don’t just look at this world. We know there is a better world coming

The word joy (Greek chara) appears fifty-nine times in the New Testament. The first recording is when the angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people,” (Luke 2:10). Matthew records that when the wise men “saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10, NASB).

The Christian faith promises joy—pure joy. Not what people call happiness, but joy. Not health or wealth, but joy. Not an easy ride and fun, but joy. Peter reminds us “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

The seventy that Jesus sent out into the villages ‘returned with joy’ because of the new authority Jesus had given them. Later on great joy came in the city of Samaria when Philip preached the gospel and healed many people, “so there was great joy in the city” (Acts 8:6). Despite being persecuted and rejected the disciples of Jesus “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).

The kingdom of God is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). The word rejoice” is used seventy-four times in the New Testament. Now I said that God promises us joy but not necessarily happiness. What is the difference? Words only have the meaning that a person gives to them. So I am defining happiness as a positive emotion, a feeling that is pleasant and positive. Joy I am defining as more a principle than a feeling. That when you may not be feeling happy you can still be filled with joy. Joy is knowing that you are safe in God, that God is in charge, that all things work together for good for all those who love God, and that eventually all the suffering and evil in this world will be utterly destroyed.

The best way to describe joy is to look at the experience of Jesus as he suffered on the cross. This was an extremely unpleasant experience. Here is how the bible describes one aspect of it, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Notice that Jesus was full of joy as he suffered on the cross. He was full of joy in pain, in suffering, in agony. Why was he full of joy? He was joyful because he knew there was a purpose to his pain. Purpose makes all the difference. His purpose was to save this world and the only way to save it was through pain and death, knowing that his death would save the world, save you and me. Jesus knew that his death would also make the universe secure for ever. Sin would never arise again. Never again would the universe know pain and suffering.

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