November 1, 2017
“Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
How is it possible to give thanks to God “always for all things”? On the surface, it seems impossible.
If you never experienced tribulation, you wouldn’t need comfort, would you? Then you wouldn’t know “the God of all comfort.”
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God is the source—He has cornered the market on comfort and comforts us. He wants to enable us to comfort others. When we do, we show them the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
When you go through sorrow and anguish while “giving thanks always for all things,” people are going to see and take comfort from what you do. They’re going to believe in the God who carried you through.
Because of what we went through when our little Philip went to heaven, over and over again my wife Joyce has comforted mothers who’ve lost babies. Paul learned this. While in a Roman prison he wrote Philippians. He’d suffered every conceivable hardship and heartache: shipwreck, beatings, mocking, persecution, hunger, thirst, and character assassination. Yet Paul said, “But…know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel ” (Philippians 1:12). Why? It put the stamp of authenticity upon Paul’s ministry. Paul said, “I’m in prison. Thank You, Lord,” because it extended the Gospel of Christ.
Some say, “People are Christians just for what they can get out of it. But put them in the frying pan—give them a little persecution—they’ll fall away like flies.” That’s exactly what the devil said to God about Job: “You’ve surrounded Job with all Your goodies. Take them away, He’ll curse You to Your face.” God said, “You don’t know My servant, Job. He loves Me not for what I’ve done for him, but for who I am.” And the life of Job—and Paul—shut the devil’s mouth. If trouble can be used to bring others to Jesus Christ, can you thank God for it?
Affliction is an effective teacher.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray…" (Psalm 119:67).
"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:71).
Most of us would not say, “It’s good that I’ve been afflicted”…not without some hindsight. But consider God’s priorities for you.
What does God value most in your life? Health? Wealth? Ease? Fame? Service? Usefulness? None of these—not really. God’s plan is that we be conformed to the image of His Son.
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:28-29).
This is what God is after in our lives, working on us to make us like Jesus. Sometimes trouble brings an increasing maturity, a God-likeness.
Maybe you’re in trouble right now asking, “Why doesn’t God do something?” Have you ever realized that God may be doing something? He may be teaching you patience. He’s doing something the whole time. If God is bringing you to maturity, teaching you patience, then can you thank God for it?
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified" (1 Peter 4:12-14).
When trouble comes, do you ask, “Why me, God? How did You allow this?” Peter answers, “Calm down. Don’t think something strange happened.”
When we know our persecution is for His sake, there is a joy that’s almost unspeakable when we say, “Lord Jesus, this is because of You. I'm sharing the fellowship of Your suffering.” When you go through trouble for Jesus praising Jesus, it brings exceeding joy. If trouble brings the glory of God into your life, can you give Him thanks for it?
You may be thinking, “All this is fine, but you just don’t know where I am, what I’m going through, the questions I have.” I understand that I don’t understand. Some things we’ll never know until we get to heaven.
Look up into the sky on a clear blue day as far as you can see. How high is that?
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
If you don’t have it all figured out, just thank Him by faith.
"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Some sacred secrets you’re not going to know until you get to heaven. We live by promises, not by explanations. “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is trusting and obeying God, regardless of whether we understand. God is sovereign, good, and faithful. Don’t wait until you understand to praise and thank Him. Sometimes, like Job, you will get so baffled you don’t know what to do. Job got into an argument with God. He said, “I’d like to get You in a law court. You owe me some answers. Where are You, God?” All His promises seemed to evaporate. Nothing made sense.
It’s all right to question, but never doubt God’s wisdom, goodness, or sovereignty. Sometimes you’re just going to have to say, “God, You told me in everything to give thanks always, and I do, and I don’t understand it. It’s a baffling mystery to me.” But if we know God is in control, can we thank Him?
It’s not over yet.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
It doesn’t “balance out”—there’s no comparison! Our sufferings today aren’t worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.
We’re not immune in a sin-cursed world. But there’s coming a better day, and we can give God thanks.
One day God is going to pull back the curtain of night, pin it with a star, open the door of the morning, and flood your life and your world with His glory.
Praise Him for little things. Praise Him for big things. Obey God and “give thanks always for all things to God in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”