Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. —1 THESSALONIANS 5:18
Giving thanks in all circumstances is not easy! In fact, it is a skill that takes time and practice to master. The curious thing is, thankfulness can only truly be mastered through adverse circumstances.
You see, it is easy to be thankful when life unfolds the way we want it to, when others do things the way we want them to and when all goes according to planned. It is altogether another skill to be thankful when things don’t turn out as planned, when in fact, nothing is going according to our liking, when life dishes out more than we bargained for and then rains on our parade.
It is through moments of trail and difficulty that we realize that thankfulness is a decision. It is an act of our will, an opportunity to master and direct our feelings and to submit to God’s sovereignty
The mere fact that the Apostle Paul directs us to be thankful in ALL circumstances lets us know that there will be adverse circumstances in our lives. Moments when thankfulness is not naturally our first choice of response. It is then that he encourages us, invites us, even calls us to a higher level, to choose thankfulness even in those difficult times. By directing us to be happy in ALL circumstances, Paul also eludes to the fact that thankfulness is possible.
In Philipians 4:11-13 Paul states, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through (Christ) who strengthens me.”
“Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God”
Excerpt From: Chambers, Oswald. “My Utmost for His Highest.” April 23
I love this quote! It is liberating and a great reminder of what & who I am supposed to be. As a full time missionary it is easy to become completely consumed with “the work”. Spending time focused on “what” God has asked of us instead of focusing on Him.
For the first 7 years of full-time ministry we spent hours upon hours “working”; early mornings, and late nights, with little regard to ourselves, our family, our marriage, or even God. It was as if He was our Master Sargent. We came to Him for our orders and then ran off to “work”. Doing “the work” was the most important thing. Completing the tasks He had asked of us & doing a good job.
Then one day about 8 years in, He graciously allowed my world to fall apart. My physical health failed and I could no longer “do” “the work”. It was in that dark time that I realized that God longs to be the center of my attention. He loves & adores me. Yes, the ministry He has called me to is important, but more important than “that work” is and should be my relationship with Him. It was then that I began a new quest. One to put Him first and foremost in my life.
This quest is difficult; for the world around me is racing. It demands my time and energies: letters to write, questionnaires to complete, video conferences, building projects, monthly statements & fund raising, outreach teams to plan, boys to rescue, music to select, choir to direct, clothes to wash, meals to prepare, homeschool to facilitate, girls & a husband to spend time, connect, encourage and love. How does one have time to get it all done? And yet it is a rare thing. Like stopping to fill your car with gasoline, my time with God is the fuel that keeps me going. God calls me & draws me in. My time with Him refreshes and renews me, giving me the strength, perspective and wisdom to do “the work”.
So now, I continue to do “the work”, but my focus has changed. “The work” is no longer my priority. God is my priority; spending time with Him and concentrating on Him….listening then doing. Who would have known how much more effective (& content) I would be.
We live in a great big world with people who speak different languages, whose skin is different shades of brown and who have different color hair and eyes. Apart from that we are all pretty much the same. We all (for the most part) have 2 eyes, 2 ears, 1 nose and a mouth, 2 arms, legs, hands & feet. We all have 2 lungs, a stomach, 2 kidneys and a heart. Why is it that skin color so often stands between us?
Would you instead consider that there are only 2 kinds of people in this world; those who know Jesus as Savior and those who do not. That would pretty much sum up the race issue. In any case, those who know Jesus as Lord should treat other Christians as brothers and sisters & should treat nonbelievers lovingly, for God died for all of our sins and invited us all to be a part of his family.
So let’s not build walls between us because of the color of our skin. Instead, lets start loving our neighbor, no matter what color they are.
…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – Romans 12:10-18
Over the years I have read many diatribes about poor missionary children who grow up in countries outside of the United States. Please do NOT feel sorry for my children. One thing is for sure my girls have had experiences they never would have had growing up in The States. First of all they are fully bilingual, a skill that will serve them well in years to come. They have also learned how to live with and live without the comforts of life. (Another skill which might come in handy in their adult life.) They know how to ride a public bus. They have learned that the value of people does not consist in the size of their wallets. They have grown up in a culture where people are more important than things and where elders are still respected as a vital part of the family. And they have met and made friends with interesting people from all over the world.
I’m glad our girls are growing up in Mexico! They have learned to see the world differently than they would have had they grown up in East Tennessee. For one thing they have grown up colorblind. When our girls were little they attended a semi-bilingual (90% Spanish, 10% English) kindergarten. That’s where they really learned to speak Spanish. It was a wonderful experience! One day they came home telling me a story about a little girl in their class. When I asked if the little girl was Mexican or American, they replied, ” We don’t know mama, how can you tell the difference?”
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. – Acts 10:34-35
It is common to get a glimpse of what God wants of us and then take off running. Although hitting the ground running demonstrates zeal and enthusiasm for following God, unfortunately it lacks important essence of discipleship such as, prayer, proper preparation, and counting the cost. In our eagerness to serve God, our lives oft times lack essential Fruit of the Spirit, such as righteousness, peace, patience and self control.
Over time and through failure, God has a way of allowing us to see our weaknesses. Weaknesses which highlight our need for Him. As we experience failure, He draws us near and expresses grace towards us. These disappointments serve to increase our dependence on Him.
Ultimately we realize that God gives us glimpses of His will to point the way. His purpose is to enlighten us, never intending for us to rush ahead, but instead desiring us to follow Him. From this perspective it is easy to see that slowing down is not a bad thing, in fact, It is a necessary part of faithfully serving Him.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3