Summary: We always have a choice of how we respond when things go wrong. Why not thank the One who is always right, even when our circumstances seem wrong, who is always good, even when circumstances are bad.
Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For a discussion of the benefits of being thankful please see the message in this series on Ephesians 5:4. Today, please notice the emphasis of this exhortation to thankfulness. Paul says to give thanks always, for everything.
Always, for everything
Recently I attended a funeral. A 48 year old man died of complications associated with a lung infection he had about 18 months ago. I’ll call him Jack. Jack was so sick from the infection that he would die without intervention. All the ordinary antibiotics were ineffective. Doctors said they may be able to save him if they used stronger antibiotics, but they were likely to damage his kidneys. His wife, I’ll call her Jane, had to make the decision. She chose the more vigorous treatment to save his life. The antibiotics saved him from death, but they damaged his kidneys. For 18 months he suffered great pain and difficulty, but he was able to be with his family, and they were able to prepare to tell him goodbye. His wife, daughter, and son all spoke at the funeral. The funeral was inspiring and sad.
Jane spoke about Psalm 50. She said it was one of his favorites, and that near his death he wanted to hear it again and again. His favorite verses were
4 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” . . .
3 Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me
and to the blameless I will show my salvation.”
Jack was a good man. He dedicated his life to service and teaching people preparing for Christian ministry. Jane said she was not ready to thank God for Jack’s passing. But she prayed for the time when she would be able to look back on these events and thank God. One can’t help but empathize with her. We all face circumstances that are painful and confusing. Jane is not expressing a loss of faith in God. She is expressing a very human response to a situation we will never understand. Still, Paul tells us to give thanks always for everything. How can we do this, and why?
We always have choices.
There are times we can immediately see the benefits of a difficult situation, others we can’t. I have often had discussions with a young man or woman who was recently in a relationship with the perfect mate. But the perfect mate turned out to be not-so-perfect, and they broke up. I have often seen that this was a blessing. But the person going through a break up rarely feels blessed by it. I, also, have faced many situations that didn’t go as I had wished, and only saw the benefit of those unexpected and unwanted changes years later.
Dr. Paul Brand was a medical doctor who served leprosy patients in India. One day, returning from a conference, traveling by train, he realized his foot was numb. A twinge of fear pierced his heart for a moment. One of the first signs of leprosy is numbness in the extremities. He did the classic test on himself, and poked the heel of his foot with a needle. A small drop of blood came out, but no pain. He began to calculate. How would he take care of his family? Would he be able to continue to practice medicine? How would his relationship with his wife change? A few minutes later his foot began to ache. It was numb because of the way he was sitting. His foot had fallen asleep. He said his relief was immense. It also started his mind thinking about how pain can be a gift. A book about these experiences was written years later, The Gift of Pain. Dr. Brand argued that God has given us the gift of pain so that we can avoid those things that will destroy us if not dealt with.
There are many things we can be thankful for. Some people advocate keeping a thankfulness journal, saying every day you should start your day by listing things your grateful for, counting your blessings. Paul advocates we should go beyond this. We should be thankful for all things. Maybe this is why the Psalmist calls this a sacrifice. Maybe this is why the Law of Moses had a provision for a “thank offering”. When we thank God, even in the inexplicable difficulties we face, we acknowledge that there is One who is higher than our circumstances, who loves us so supremely that we know we can love and trust and thank Him in all situations. We always have a choice of how we respond when things go wrong. Why not thank the One who is always right, even when our circumstances seem wrong, who is always good, even when circumstances are bad.