Summary: Paul’s ability to live a life of thankfulness dispite his hardships.
The Secret of Thanksgiving
In all things give thanks ¡V that¡¦s what Paul said. If you read through Paul¡¦s writings in the New Testament you will find that Paul had a lot to be thankful for. Here are just a few things that he gave thanks for.
Victory in Christ ¡V Romans 16:4
Salvation ¡V 2Cor 9:15
Freedom of others ¡V Romans 6 and many other places
The freedom of Grace ¡V Romans 7:5
Friends and co-laborers ¡V Eph 1:16 and my other places
Opportunities and Sufferings and Labor and passion
Paul expressed thankfulness to God almost continually as a theme of all his writings yet listen for just a minute to the life that Paul led.
Are they servants of Christ?¡XI speak as if insane¡XI more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
So how through all that did Paul continue to live a life that defined thankfulness to God? And how can we who sit here today in the midst of personal, professional, and national turmoil turn our lives into that same kind of testimony? I believe that Paul gives us his secret to thankfulness in this passage in Thessalonians.
1) Paul says ¡V Rejoice Always ¡V I believe what Paul meant here was to make Happiness your habit. Let me tell you something this morning that I have come to believe very strongly. Happiness is a decision we make not just a feeling we experience. I have become convinced that excluding those who are struggling with depressive illness ¡V happiness is far more about a decision than it is an experience. Let me tell you a piece of truth ¡V over the last 14 months I have sat with people who were dying who were happier than some of you folks are today. Literally I have been with people who had only days to live who demonstrated the joy of life ¡V the joy of Christ ¡V the joy of hope ¡V far more than many here today who have everything to live for. Psychologist Victor Frankl who survived a Nazi death camp said this ¡§The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.¡¨ He survived because he chose his attitude.
Four things that happy people do that unhappy people miss
„Y Happy people choose to focus on the positives not the negatives of life. Negatives always happen it¡¦s a matter of what you spend your time thinking about. In 1914 Thomas Edison¡¦s laboratory, a place he practically lived burned to the ground. During the fire he called his children and said ¡§Kids go get your mother. She¡¦ll never see another fire like this one.¡¨
„Y Happy people take lemons and make leomonade ¡V they find a way to turn negatives into positives. David Brinkly the TV journalist said ¡§A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have throne at him.¡¨
„Y Happy people look for the best in the world around them ¡V often you find exactly what you are looking for.
„Y Happy people are thankful for what they have not focused on what they want.
Develop a habit of happiness and you will find more to be thankful for in your life.
2) Pray without ceasing ¡V Paul shows us that thankfulness comes when we make Holiness a Habit. Let me tell you something this morning ¡V you will find no greater joy ¡V no greater happiness ¡V no greater heart of thanksgiving than when you are living the life that God has planned for you. Some of you know what I am talking about ¡V you have gone your own way done your own thing and come home to find God¡¦s plan for your life. Others of you are still stuck in the mode of doing your own thing and running your own life and can¡¦t for the life of you figure out why your always in trouble. It¡¦s always someone else¡¦s fault, someone else¡¦s problem ¡V let me tell you something and I¡¦ve said this before. You cannot play all day in the pig pen and blame God or anyone else when you come out filthy and smelling like pig excrement. I¡¦m trying to say this nicely but really folks wake up ¡V If you want to be happy start doing the things that are going to make you happy. When we return to the source of our strength and power ¡V we will find the very heart of thanksgiving because the Father is waiting to give us what we most need ¡V forgiveness and life.