All Things, Lord?
18 Be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20
If you are an analytical person, this passage from God’s Word should give you pause! Or perhaps…even some problems. An attitude of gratitude is easy when we receive the “good things.” But all things?
How can we possibly give God thanks at all times? For all things? Very frankly, sometimes I don’t feel grateful or thankful. I don’t know about you, but I believe we need to “dig deeper” into this passage. Can Paul seriously mean this? And if so, how do we do it?
That’s what we’ll look at closely in this month’s study.
1. Paul says (see v. 20) to “give thanks ______________.” If he had only said that, it would be tough enough.
2. However, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us to give thanks “always _____ all things.”
In good times it’s easy to “praise God from Whom all blessings flow.” But in hard times? We struggle.
Horrific things can—and do—happen even to the child of God. Sickness, sorrow, death, disappointment, divorce, abuse, murder, rape, mayhem. We’re not immune. We naturally ask:
Why Do Things Like This Happen?
Why does God allow it, and how can we possibly give God thanks always and for all things (Ephesians 5:20)?
Let’s look at some factors we must consider.
The Sin Factor
We live in a world cursed with sin, therefore filled with sorrow. The ravages of nature: hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, earthquakes. The ravages of demon-controlled men: terrorists, murderers, etc. The ravages of sickness and disease: cancer, heart attack, chronic pain. If God is a good God, if God is a righteous God, how do we account for these?
Remember this. We live on Planet Earth, and Planet Earth bears a curse because of sin. Our mortal bodies bear a curse because of Adam’s sin. We are born into this world with Adam’s sin nature.
3. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Turn to 1 Corinthians 15. The whole chapter is a treasure you should review. Focus on vv. 21-22:
21 For since by ________ [Adam] came ____________, by man [Christ] came also the ________________________ of the dead.
22 For as in _____________ all _______, even so in _____________ shall all be made ___________.
What arrived on planet Earth because of man’s sin that had never been here before? ________
How many die? __________
4. Who, then, is responsible for the destruction we see around us? _____________________
5. Can we then hold God accountable for the entrance of death, sin, disease and destruction into our world? ___________
A CLOSER LOOK
When we ask “how could God allow it?” we are implying that God somehow had His hand in it, and the responsibility rests with Him for all this! He gave mankind the freedom to choose to serve Him or not, love Him or not, obey Him or not. We chose. With our choice came our choice’s natural consequences: death and destruction. We need to put the responsibility for the world’s woes where it belongs.
The Cure for Sin and Death
6. Rather than leave us in this predicament, there was and is a way out. What is God’s “cure” for the ravages of sin and death? (1 Cor. 15:21-22). The _________________________.
Did man cobble together a cure for his sin and death?_________
By whom (vv. 20-22) was the cure brought/purchased/made possible? _____________.
The death rate on Planet Earth is 1:1. With the exception of Enoch and Elijah, every person born into our world leaves it through the portal of death. And some die “prematurely,” as our human minds process it. Cancer, accidents—these can come even upon the young without warning. Every person dies. It was not this way from the beginning.
7. At what cost did the cure come? In other words, what did it cost the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) to provide this cure? ____________________
Let’s think about each member of the Trinity separately for a moment. As best we can comprehend with our finite minds:
What did our redemption cost God the Father? ________________________________
What did it cost God the Son? _______________________________________________
What did it cost God the Holy Spirit? _________________________________________
(These are deep questions, and you may need extra time/paper to meditate on this.)
Turn now to Philippians 2:5-8, one of the greatest passages in the New Testament.
As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to open this passage to you. Again, our finite minds cannot fully take in the depth of all it contains, but He will help us grasp as much as we can.
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God [some translations read “did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped”], 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
8. Was Jesus God before He came to earth?...That is, was He Deity, in possession of all the qualities and attributes of Deity? _______
Where did He “dwell”? ___________________________________
Was he co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit? _____
In order for the Son to be clothed in human flesh, to arrive as Jesus of Nazareth, born to Mary in a stable, consider what He had to (a.) leave behind and (b.) take on. List some things He left behind and things he “took on” in order to live as a man for 33 years. Refer to vv. 6, 7, and 8 for help.)
A CLOSER LOOK
Jesus—who before His incarnation had never known pain, never stepped upon a briar, never known cold, hunger, fatigue or deprivation of any kind—willingly came to earth. He had never been subject to the limitations of a human body. He had never known mocking or ridicule—only Heaven’s worship and exaltation. In the realms of glory His “parentage” was never questioned. He had never been lonely. Never felt abandoned. Was never without the fellowship of the Trinity and the adoration of angels. His motives had never been questioned. His words had never been doubted. In fact, He was the very Word of God, made flesh. (John 1:1-3)
Allow the Holy Spirit to impress upon you what Jesus gave up to provide your salvation and to deliver you from the curse of sin and death.
Were we owed this? Did God owe it to us? ______________
Then why did we get it? ___________________________________________________
What is it in the nature of God that provided this redemption to us at such great cost?
Now, with all this in mind, are you beginning to feel a little more thankful than when you began this study?
In our desire to be thankful as Ephesians 5:20 prescribes, it helps to get a perspective of where we were, who we are (members of a fallen race) and what our predicament would be apart from God’s infinite love and grace. This alone helps us to be thankful.
9. The Sin Factor affects not only mankind, but our world and all that’s in it. All nature is under a curse.
Turn again to Romans, this time to chapter 8, verses 21-22.
21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the _______________ of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation _____________ and ____________ with birth pangs together until now.
Creation right now is in “the bondage of corruption.” Earthquakes. Floods. Volcanoes. Drought. Wildfires. Tornadoes. What happened to the Garden of Eden!
Nature itself has a curse upon it. When you see problems in nature, and when you have problems in your own body, understand that this is not the world as God created it to be, but a world marred by sin.
How can we thank God in all this?
First, we reflect upon our redemption. Then—
10. If we know the Lord, if we are saved, God is one day going to undo all this.
See again Romans 8:21.
“Because the creation itself also shall be _________________ from the bondage of corruption __________ the glorious _________________ of the children of God.”
It’s going to happen. One day every vestige of disease will be gone. The lamb and lion will lie down together. The desert will blossom like a rose. “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as waters that cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) Creation will be delivered from corruption.
One day God is going to rectify all this, and we can be thankful.
There are other factors to consider as we strive to thank God “always for all things.”
The Chastisement Factor
If you’re in a hard circumstance, it may be that you’re under the chastening hand of God.
Turn to Hebrews 12:5-6
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be ______________________ when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord ___________ He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
He goes on to say,
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with ______; for what _____ is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which ______ have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
11. How many believers are going to experience chastening at some point? (v. 7) _____
For reasons of space, we won’t print it here, but continue reading through verse 11.
What positive results do you see in verses 9-11? In your Bible, circle these words:
profit partakers holiness yields peaceable fruit righteousness
All these are reasons to be thankful to God for a painful situation—look at the outcome!
If your suffering is chastisement, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you; it means He does love you—too much to let you get away with sin. He is dealing with you as with a son.
The Dependence Factor
Turn to 2 Corinthians 12:4. God sometimes allows problems to cause us to depend upon Him, to “crowd us to Christ.” When Paul experienced his “thorn in the flesh” and sought God earnestly to remove it, the end result was Paul’s complete dependence on God and brought one of the most comforting verses in Scripture:
9 And He [God] said to me, “My __________ is _________________ for you, for My strength is made perfect in __________________.”
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my ____________________, that the ____________ of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities [sickness], in reproaches [people criticizing and carping], in needs [doing without things], in persecutions [being harmed or put into prison, beaten], in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Review that list again when you don’t feel thankful.
Our weaknesses become strengths assets when they bring us to Jesus Christ and help us depend on Him. If our troubles bring us greater dependency on Christ, thank God for them.
There are five more factors at work in this question of thanking God for all things—even the hardships: The Maturity Factor, The Patience Factor, The Ministry Factor, and The Glory Factor. To hear the complete message, request CD #1881 at our order line (800-274-5683) or here on our web site.
In closing let’s consider The Mystery Factor.
Dear friend, you may be saying, “Nothing you’ve said satisfies my mind. You don’t know the heartache. You don’t know the trial. You don’t know the difficulties I’m going through.”
12. You may not know why; you may not understand. But we must grasp that God is a sovereign God and bigger than any of us can imagine.
Turn to Isaiah 55:8-9
“For _____ ______________ are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are _____________ than the earth [think how high that is!], so are ____ _________ higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Never make the mistake of saying, “If I were God, I would do thus and such.” You’re not God. You don’t have an idea of what God is up to.
The apostle Paul said, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)
“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God,” (Deuteronomy 29:29), and “…we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
At times we say, “God, You owe me an explanation.” It’s all right to ask for an explanation, but it is never right to doubt God’s wisdom, God’s love, or God’s goodness. If God loved you enough to send His Son to die for you, you never have to doubt His love again.
You may not understand. But trust God, obey God, regardless of the circumstances or the consequences. Real faith is not receiving from God what we want but accepting from God what He gives. You may never in this world figure it out, but you know that God is sovereign. Charles Spurgeon wrote,
“God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart."
The three Hebrew children were told to bow down before a pagan idol or they would be cast into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). They responded, “King, we don’t even have to think about it. We’re not going to worship your idol. Our God is able to deliver us. But even if He doesn’t, we’ll go into that fire praising our great God.”
Day by day, regardless of what happens, give Him thanks. You may be in a situation you’ll not get out of until you begin to give thanks.
Now, I’d like to tell you that when you’re in difficulty, if you’ll begin to praise God, it will work out that way all the time. I can’t promise that, but you will enjoy life a lot better if you learn to thank God even when you don’t understand. It just may be that God is not about to get you out of your circumstance until you have enough faith and love to sincerely say, “Thank you, Lord. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I know Who. You are sovereign, God, and in the midst of this sorrow, in the midst of this difficulty, I give You thanks, even when I don’t feel like it.”
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