Daily Devotionals

Give thanks in all circumstances

Week of Nov. 21

Courtesy: Daniel Bramlett
The Apostle Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5.18). I find this hard. Do you? I have no intentions of penning some cliché-d Thanksgiving message you’ve heard a thousand times before. My intention is to offer you one reason for ‘thanks’ that applies in every circumstance.
Are you ready? Here it is: be thankful for Death
I see a paradox unfolding when I read the New Testament. Over and over again I watch the people who follow Jesus put themselves in potentially fatal situations and then give God thanks for their rescue (or their torture, exile, or death; i.e. Stephen, Paul, Peter, John…). What is happening here?
These men and women have seen something that led them to lay down their lives; they have been eyewitnesses (Peter says) to the majesty and glory of God and they confess “where else could we go/what else could we do” (John 6.68)? We watch Paul and Silas praise God in their jail cell in chains. We listen as the stones strike Stephen’s back, he prays, and sees the Heavens open up to receive him. We celebrate with Lazarus the moment he comes out of the tomb and then cringe when we hear the church leaders plotting to kill him. We get sick to our stomachs when John the Baptist’s head is served up on a platter in Herod’s court. What is going on here? What is driving these people to punish themselves like this?
I do not believe they were hypnotized. I don’t believe Jesus slipped anything in their drinks. I don’t think they were crazy people, chosen to be Christ’s followers because of their inability to survive in normal society on their own. I read about them in the Gospels and see that they were everyday individuals just like me and you. The church court agreed in Acts 4 when they went on record saying “these are unschooled, ordinary men…only they have been with Jesus!” And there lies the key, my friends!
These men and women who have been the heroes of the church for the last 2,000 years were not any more special than the rest of the people who had feet with dust on them in Jesus day or ours. The ONLY thing that set them apart was their time spent with the Savior. That’s it! They put their lives on the line because Jesus put His life on the line. They faced courts without fear because Jesus faced them without fear. They trusted God to provide for them because Jesus trusted. They loved unconditionally because they were loved unconditionally. 100% of their abandonment is sourced in the person of Jesus.
I suggest to you this Thanksgiving season if you have trouble finding reasons to be thankful OR if you discover your gratitude deficiency is selfishly centered around your perceived lack, look again! Friend, you have much to be thankful for! We serve a God who DIED FOR US and invites us to join Him in His death! This is not an invitation to jihad. His invitation to die is rooted in His promise of new life. Again, this is not nirvana. This new life is discovered here, in the flesh; a supernatural occurrence in the natural order of things. A very real part of this new birth is an eye opening experience that allows you to SEE, by faith, that which is invisible to the naked, human eye and WALK, by faith, on the road illuminated by His truth (Hebrews 11…check out the rest of the chapter!). …and suddenly we realize that Thanksgiving is not all about us.
I challenge you to pray a very simple prayer at the outset of this holiday this year. “Lord, put the old man in me to death. Give me new life. May it affect every part of me, beginning with a deep sense of gratitude where previously there has been very little to none.”
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” (12.2). That joy is the knowledge of what is to come. We have much to be thankful for people! Let’s not allow our fear of the unknown trample our worship of the Known. He is so much greater than any reason we could muster for a lack of gratitude. Pray this Thursday and watch Him work!

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