Thankfulness is a Choice

 “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I used to wonder about 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “How am I to be thankful for the headaches and heartaches of life?” Then I realized this verse doesn’t say “For everything give thanks…” but it says “in everything give thanks…” I love that! I am to thank God in everything, not for everything. Like Pollyanna’s Glad Game, the easiest way I’ve found to give thanks in everything is by looking for something I can be thankful for regardless of how my day is going.

A Reason to be Glad

No matter my circumstances, God always gives me a reason to be glad. Recently I was suffering big-time from a migraine. Even in the midst of my nauseating pain, I was glad that I don’t get migraines like that very often, and every migraine I’ve ever had always has an end point, so I knew it was only a matter of time when my debilitating headache would go away. Right there I had two great reasons to give thanks in the midst of my migraine. As I thanked the Lord, though in a lot of pain, my heart was glad that these times of suffering were only occasional, and temporary.

Thankfulness is a Choice

David proclaimed in Psalm 34:1 “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Thankfulness is a choice. Warren Wiersbe observed,

“We can’t control the circumstances of life, but we can control how we respond to them. That’s what faith is all about, daring to believe that God is working everything for our good even when we don’t feel like it or see it happening.”

When Paul and Silas were severely beaten and thrown in prison, instead of getting swept up in their terrible circumstances, they chose to give thanks in their circumstances by praying and singing hymns to God. (Acts 16:25)  What an incredible testimony of faith they modeled to the other inmates, and now to us. Likewise, when we choose to give thanks in our discouraging circumstances rather than complain about our circumstances, we are a shining testimony of faith to others.

The Disciple’s Study Bible notes that “God’s will is that we gratefully acknowledge His hand in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.” Though I may not be clear on God’s will in my life regarding a particular situation, I can be certain of God’s will for me regarding my attitude and how I am to respond to the blessings and trials of life. “In everything give thanks—for this is the will of God for you, in Christ Jesus.”

Two Ways to Focus on Gratitude

When I get discouraged by a trial and catch myself complaining, two things help me to turn my focus back onto having an attitude of gratitude.

1. I choose to stop focusing on my problem, and start focusing on the promises of God.

These promises in particular always turn my discouragement into hope, despair into joy, and give me reasons to thank God in the midst of my trial:

  • God’s plans for me are for good—to give me a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • God will not withhold good from me (Psalm 84:11.
  • God is working all things to good (Romans 8:28).
  • God will deliver me—it’s only a matter of when Psalm 34:19.

Additionally, this summer I memorized Psalm 103 and since then if ever I need a little help in finding something to be thankful for while in a difficult time, I just think on the promises of Psalm 103 and find that it gives me plenty of reasons to praise and thank God.

2. I ask myself “What does this allow?” to turn my attention onto the blessings within my trial that I otherwise would have been blind to, had I continued to focus on how my problem is making my life difficult.

In Christ We Can Do It!

At first glance, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 looks like an impossible command. And truth is, in our flesh it is impossible. But in Christ we can do all things! (Philippians 4:13) As we seek to find the blessings in every trial, and habitually thank God in all things, we will experience a supernatural joy apart from our circumstances, like Paul and Silas, and find we always have a reason to give thanks.

Gratitude Journal from my Etsy Shop: Joyful Life Printables

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How to Best Reflect the Love of God to Others

On Halloween night, countless kids will be dressed up in costumes doing their best to imitate their favorite cartoon character, super hero, etc. If they’ve done a good job, we will be able to recognize, at a glance, exactly who they are imitating.

 But Halloween isn’t just for kids. Grown-ups are increasingly dressing up as their favorite TV, movie, and sports personalities—and doing so quite impressively. So when we see a tall, skinny man, dressed in a crushed velvet suit with a top hat and a cane we instantly recognize him as Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Why? The reason he was so recognizable was he devoted himself to learning what Willy Wonka looks like--then went out and got an identical hat, cane, and purple crushed velvet suit, so when people saw him they instantly recognized him as Willy Wonka.

Photo Courtesy of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

It wouldn’t have been enough just to wear any old top hat and suit—and grab any old cane.  The top hat, suit, and cane combo could make us think of a variety of people. We might think of Fred Astaire in Top Hat, Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, or Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka. They all use a top hat, suit, and a cane in their dress, but their characters are so different and imitating them would require careful study to correctly imitate one of those particular characters.

But being imitators is not reserved for people on Halloween or actors in Hollywood. As Christians we are to be imitators of God, by putting on Christ, 365 days of the year. (Rom. 13:14) As people who profess to be Believers, it is so important we correctly represent the Lord Jesus to the people around us. So how do we be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1)? 

While it is good to ask "What would Jesus do?” the best way to imitate God is to devote ourselves to knowing God so we can best represent Him to others, both those who know us and those who don't.

The key way we are going to learn who the Lord is so we can effectively reflect Him to the people around us on a daily basis is by familiarizing ourselves with what the Word reveals about Him. No one can properly imitate someone they are merely "familiar with for the most part". Professional imitators, who imitate celebrities and such,
go to great lengths to study the person they want to imitate to others and do their best to imitate that person. They devote themselves to learning everything they can about the person they are imitating and then they rehearse over and over--always seeking to imitate the person better than before. When we lived in CA, my pastor said "If that is the great lengths a person will go to to imitate another person, how much more ought we to go to such lengths to imitate God?"

May we be like actors, who pour over their scripts to perfect their character, but for us, pour over Scripture meditating on it, memorizing it, praying through it, and studying it so when people see us, rather than us, they will see Jesus. We can better represent and reflect Jesus  if we pour ourselves into knowing Him through His Word. Additionally, we can ask God to reveal Himself to us so we may correctly represent Him to the people He puts in our path so that they, in turn, may be drawn to Christ.  

To be imitators of God, Scripture sums up how to do it this way, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Romans 13:14) To help you get a more specific idea of what it means to put on Jesus, to best imitate the Lord, here is an excellent list of what to put off (the things of the flesh) and what to put on (the things of Jesus). God bless you abundantly!

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First Published October 29, 2020

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The Life-Changing Power of God's Word

Charles Spurgeon declared, "I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than rinse my hand in several chapters."

Though even a quick rinse in God’s Word will not return void, God gives us several motivating reasons to abide in His Word.

Why It's Always Best to Wait on the Lord?

I still remember the morning I woke up at 1:30am with a raging migraine. When I am facing a trial, be it a migraine or something else, I just want deliverance. Anything that potentially could delay that deliverance is something I want to avoid. As a result, at times the idea of waiting on the Lord feels contrary to my desire for deliverance because when I’m suffering, discouraged, frustrated, or hurt I just want it to all go away. The last thing I want to do is wait.

Though Satan would love for me to believe waiting on the Lord will cause me to be stuck in my situation longer than if I just took it upon myself to solve my problem on my own, I know these kind of thoughts only drive me to get ahead of God, take matters into my own hands, and inevitably create problems for myself that I otherwise would have never experienced had I simply rested in the promises of God and waited on the Him. God has proven Himself faithful to me time and again, each time confirming that waiting on Him will always be worth the wait, no matter how long I have to wait.

To be clear, waiting on the Lord does not mean doing nothing. It means to wait for and look to the Lord with eager expectation. It is being fully confident that the Lord will provide for our needs and deliver us.

Oswalt describes waiting on the Lord as, "A complete dependence on God and a willingness to allow Him to decide the terms."

When God told Abraham and Sarah that he would bless them with a child (Genesis 15:4), despite them being well passed the age of child bearing, they believed God would give them a child, but their problem was they failed to wait on the Lord. Instead, Sarah got ahead of God and insanely recommended Abraham impregnate her handmaid, Hagar, so to bear Abraham's promised heir. (Genesis 16:1-2) But this was not God's perfect will for them. God would still be faithful to give Abraham an heir through Sarah, as promised, because when we are faithless, He remains faithful. (2 Timothy 2:13)

While God would bless Abraham and Sarah with a son in their old age, Abraham and Sarah would still have to live with the consequences of not waiting on God. Sarah's relationship with her maidservant. Hagar would forever be strained. (Genesis 16:1-5) There would be hostility between Abraham's son Ishmael, born through Hagar, and Abraham and Sarah's promised son, Isaac (Genesis 16:11-12) But the conflict wouldn't end at these half-brothers. This hostility would extend between their lineages for generations to come.

The prophesied hostility still remains between the Jewish and the Arabic people even to this day, and all because Abraham and Sarah did not wait on the Lord.

 David Guzik notes, "Today’s battle between Jew and Arab is nothing new. Both Jews and Arabs are descended from Abram by two half-brothers: Ishmael and the son to come later from Abram and Sarai, to be named Isaac. The entire conflict can be traced back to Abram’s decision to “help God out” in the flesh, both when he agreed to inseminate Hagar, and when he went to Egypt to begin with. The effects of our sin may reach far beyond what we ever imagined."

While our consequences for not waiting on the Lord may not be as far reaching as Abraham and Sarah's, their story shows just how far the consequences can be when we take matters into our own hands, instead of waiting on God, as well as the fact that the consequences of our sin doesn’t always just touch us, but can potentially negatively impact the lives of others.

Our wait for the Lord will never be in vain. God will always reward our obedience when we wait on Him. Isaiah illustrates the blessings reserved for us when we are obedient to wait on the Lord, “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”(Isaiah 40:31) These blessings are just the tip of the iceberg of blessings God has in store for us when we will trust Him enough to wait on Him for whatever our need might be. God bless you richly as you step out n faith and wait on God to provide exactly what you need. He will be faithful to provide.

Waiting on the Lord will be much easier when we remember the blessings of waiting on the Lord, and the consequences of getting ahead of Him. Spurgeon observes, “We shall not grow weary of waiting upon God if we remember how long and how graciously He once waited for us.”

I want to leave you with one of my favorite songs about waiting on God. It always encourages me, and I pray it encourages you as well. God bless you abundantly!

Question for you: What blessings have you discovered as a result of waiting on God? 

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 Last updated Friday July 3, 2020

Faith: It's a Game Changer!

In pastor Chuck Smith’s book, Faith, he shares that his dad’s faith “was always bigger than his circumstances. On his dad’s desk was a framed two-word motto, “All things” Whenever disappointments came along, his dad would look at those two words and he’d remember the rest of the verse, and the promise God gave within it:
All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. “ (Roman’s 8:28) 

Pastor Chuck declares, “Faith means believing in God ‘s sovereignty. It means trusting He is on the throne, in command of all things, and working through every circumstance that comes our way. When we have that kind of faith, we have peace in the midst of trials. But when we forget God’s sovereignty, troubling circumstances cause us to despair. We survey the landscape with our eyes instead of with our faith.