“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20
What is the hardest thing in life to do? It might be trying to climb a fence that’s leaning toward you…or to kiss a girl who’s leaning away from you. But really, the most difficult thing in life might be to “give thanks always for all things.”
If Paul had simply said “Give thanks always,” we might get by. But what bothers us is the next phrase, “for all things.”
We are coming upon the Thanksgiving season. Thankfulness is on our minds. Yet many hearts are subdued because of tribulation and anguish. How can we come to the place where we give thanks “always in all things”?
Most of us are on one of these four levels:
- The Constant Complainer. These people brighten up a room when they leave it.
- The Simply Ungrateful. They fail to thank God for obvious blessings. God has been so good, and yet they can’t seem to find anything to praise God for.
- The Grateful for Obvious Blessings.
- The Grateful for All Things at All Times.
This last level is a problem. Am I to be grateful for the death of a child? For a numbing disease? For the carnage of war? For a prodigal child who’s breaking my heart? For losing my job? Am I to say, “Well, glory to God, hallelujah”?
Watch carefully. When the Bible says we’re to be thankful “for all things at all times,” that does not mean all things are good. But God is good at all times, no matter what. He is “…the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning” (James 1:17). There is never a time when God is not good. As we say, “God is good — all the time!”
“If God is good all the time,” you ask, “then why all the tragedies of life?”
We Live in Hostile Territory
And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. 1 John 5:19
God is good, but we live in a wicked world filled with all kinds of evil.
Did God Create This?
Every college freshman has heard this argument: “If God made all things, and evil is something, then God created evil. So God is the author of evil and wickedness because God made all things.”
That is faulty logic. When God made all things, He made all things perfect. And He gave man freedom — perfect freedom. He made an angel, Lucifer, and gave that angel freedom, including freedom to rebel. God did not create evil. God created perfection. He created the perfection of perfect freedom.
That raises still another question.
Why Doesn’t God Just Destroy the Evil and Allow Only the Good?
When man makes a mistake, why doesn’t God just overrule? Why didn’t God make man where man could not choose evil, so we wouldn’t have to live in an evil world?
On the surface, this sounds good. But If God were to make man where he could not choose evil, that act itself would be evil. Think a moment. What is the highest good? It is found in the Great Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Matthew 22:37-38). The highest good is to love God — there is nothing higher than that. But if God did not give you a choice, you could not choose to love God.
An inanimate object has no choice. It can’t love me. I can’t have any fellowship with it. In order for us to love God, we must have the choice to love God. And in order to choose to love Him, we must have the freedom to choose not to love Him. If God were to take away our ability to choose, then He would destroy the highest good, and that in itself would be evil. And God cannot do evil. God is not the author of evil. He is the author of perfection, and part of that perfection is man’s free will…that we might attain the highest good and choose willingly to know and love God.
When extremely difficult situations arise, we have real questions. It’s all right to ask questions — as long as we do not question the goodness of God or His knowledge or judgment. Remember, God never makes a mistake.
As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: He is a buckler [shield] to all those who trust Him. Psalm 18:30
No matter what happens to you, when the Bible says we’re to give thanks always for all things, you have to arch the rainbow of Romans 8:28 over it all.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
It does not say “all things are good,” but that “God works all things together for good.”
What Thanking God Will Do in Your Life
Thanking God “always in all things” — even thanking Him for trouble — is going to do something in your life.
Trouble may bring a correcting ministry.
Hebrews 12:6 tells us, “Whom the Father loves He chastens.” Why does He do that? Because after chastening comes “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).
Chastisement doesn’t come because God doesn’t love us. It comes because He does. David admitted, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray” (Psalm 119:67). If trouble has a correcting ministry in your life, then you can thank God for it.
Trouble brings a deepening dependency.
When do you lean on the Lord the most…when everything’s going fine or when you have trouble? Without trouble, we tend to stray. God wants you to depend upon Him. The apostle Paul said, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…” Given! The thorn in the flesh was actually a gift from God. Paul sought the Lord in three long, extended times of prayer, asking that the thorn be removed. Here is God’s answer:
“And He [God] said unto me [Paul], ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“…Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Would you choose trouble if you knew it could mean greater dependency — therefore, greater power — in your life? Paul had done nothing wrong. But he experienced infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distresses, and he’s giving God thanks for it…a perfect illustration of “giving thanks always for all things,” for, Paul said, “It has caused me to depend upon the Lord.”
Our place of weakness can be our place of greatest strength. Only when we see our weakness do we really know God’s great strength.
Can you get past your anger at circumstances? There are five more benefits “trouble” will bring you if you commit to being thankful for all things. Admittedly, this is a discipline and a level in your life with God only a few believers get to.Coming up in Part 2 — more benefits awaiting you and the way that lies before you to experience them.
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