Summary: It’s easy to be thankful in good times, but we need to be thankful in the tough times, too.
Thanksgiving in the Tough Times
October 16, 2005
Where do you see yourself being with God? In what kind of environment do you believe it is that God views you? Because some times of our lives are not as delightful as others, it’s important for us to have a clear view of a certain reality, so we can face those times in a way that glorifies our Father, our Brother, and our Comforter Helper- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Psa.149.4- this tells us how God views us, as his children. This tells us that He delights in us- He takes great, incredible pleasure in us. He enjoys His people. This is an overarching ‘emotion’ that God feels toward us, as His children, and is a reality that we must be careful not to forget or overlook.
Psa.23- the Shepherd Psalm- declares, similarly, the way that God works with us, as His children. We all know this psalm, but it’s easy, in times of stress, trouble, and difficulty, to overlook the simple message of love, support, guidance, delight, and pleasure that this gives us of the view of our God toward each of us.
Last week, in Thanksgiving Sunday, we considered, together, the need to be proper stewards of thankfulness. That is easy when things are going well. When your hydro bill comes in less than you expect for a month, it’s easy to be thankful. When your children come home with good grades on mid-term exams, it is easy to be thankful. When you go through a day, or a week, without some of the normal pain that has come to be part of your life, it’s easy to be thankful. When you plan a shopping routine, thinking ahead about where you need to go, the order so you avoid line-ups and crowds, and everything goes according to plan, it’s easy to be thankful. In these situations, it’s easy to feel that we have the ‘stewardship of gratitude’ under control- that we have become godly in that regard, and to even be thankful for this apparent spiritual height having been achieved.
What about the other times? What about those times when your hydro bill is significantly greater than you expected in a month? What about the time when your children struggle, study, prepare, and still come up with a low grade on mid-term exams? What about when you have unrelenting pain and when the physical afflictions of your life go on and on and on? What about when you go shopping, having planned your route to avoid crowds, and everyone else made the same plan so you end up taking 3 hours for what you expected to complete in 1 ¼? What about those times when you know you aren’t doing very well with the ‘stewardship of gratitude’? What are you to do then? What are we to do then?
Today, we need to look at the reality of life and what God, who sees us banqueting with him constantly, wants us to do with this stewardship of gratitude. Are there times we’re meant to simply ‘take this stewardship of gratitude and shove it’? Are there times when we’re to accept that it’s fine to whine, complain, grumble, grouse, and be, generally, negative?
Let’s look at some passages that will help us with this tough reality of life.
First of all, please look at the calling of Saul, who became Paul. We know the story of the Damascus Road. We’re familiar with how he was struck down and had a very dramatic conversion, as some of us might have had. But there’s an element of his calling that we might neglect to give proper focus to, in our exulting in how Jesus was glorified in Paul’s conversion, which offers us hope for the pesky neighbour we might have, the surly cashier at Canadian Tire, the politician who seems to be so far from God and leads in government bills that seem to take us away from him, or the ungodly leaders of countries who seem to oppress their people.
Acts 9.10- 14, 15, 16- notice that suffering was to be reality in Paul’s life. For some reason, he was being called to suffer. This was part of his ministry. Certainly, he was to take the message- the gospel- to many strata of society of the time. But, in addition, he was to suffer for the name of Jesus. It wasn’t a gratuitous suffering. It wasn’t for no purpose or reason. It wasn’t suffering just thrown in to ‘teach him a lesson’. We don’t see any of that. He didn’t earn this calling to suffer because of the way he had treated the church prior to his conversion; again, there’s not even a hint of that. This was simply God’s will for his life and was part of the reality of Paul’s life.