Chris Fabry continues a conversation about Thanksgiving with Adrian Rogers, recorded shortly before his home-going. If you are hurting and need help getting through this season, Dr. Rogers has some words of comfort for you.
Chris: Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing. But in everything through prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God.” Is that kind of constant, vigilant prayer and thanksgiving even possible for us human beings?
Dr. Rogers: Yes! Behind every command of God is the omnipotent power of God to carry it out! By the way, thanksgiving is one of the keys to answered prayer. Why should we ask God for more, Chris, when we’ve not thanked Him for what He’s done? Think about it.
Chris: Praise and thanksgiving—is there a difference between those two?
Dr. Rogers: Yes. Praise is reverencing God for who He is; Thanksgiving is recognizing what He’s done. The two are inextricably interwoven, but they’re not exactly the same. Both are absolutely necessary. The person who is not “praise-ful” will never be thankful. Both are important Christian attributes.
Chris: You’ve said, “Gratitude is what spoils life when it’s left out.” What’s the end result if we don’t learn thanksgiving?
Dr. Rogers: We become self-centered. Then we become unlovable and unloving, living in our own little world, locked up inside ourselves. When we get that way, we make a mighty small package. If a person wants his heart to sing, to be an attractive person to be around, to have his prayers answered, to have strength to endure tribulation, he’d better learn to praise and thank God.
Chris: I’ve never thought about it that way, in the positive. I’ve always thought about how negative it is to see bitter, broken people who’ve never learned to be thankful. But when you’re a thankful person, your eyes are opened and the blinders are taken off. There are so many new vistas out there.
Dr. Rogers: That’s so true. A thankful person is open to God and to others. And let me say something else, Chris. The reason many people are grumbly hateful rather than humbly grateful is that they have this concept: “God is fair.” God is not fair. God is just. Fairness is a human attribute. Fairness carries the idea that God owes us something, and if we don’t get it, God isn’t “fair” to us. Or if somebody gets more than we got, or before we get it, we grumble and pout, “That’s not fair. So-and-so got more than I got.” That has nothing to do with it. Again, God is not fair. God is just…perfectly righteous and holy. God owes us nothing, but He owes His own sense of integrity everything.
So when we see that God is just, we don’t complain, “I didn’t get this or that.” We say, “Lord God, You are a just God, and now I need mercy. Give me what I don’t deserve. Give me mercy, dear Lord, not because I have it coming to me, but because You are loving and kind.” Nobody’s going to cry out for mercy until they see that God is just. When we do, then we cry out to God for mercy.
Chris: I think of circumstances—some people are in difficult straits right now. I always marvel at Paul and Silas, who were able to sing, praise God and give thanks in prison.
Dr. Rogers: A lot of people are suffering….people whose bodies are being devoured by some malady; a lady with children whose husband just walked out, people whose world is upside-down. They need Thanksgiving more than anyone else. But it would be mockery to say, “Oh, cheer up. We’ll just paint the clouds with sunshine. God’s in His heaven; all’s right with the world.” Well, God’s in His heaven, but all’s not right in this world. Many people are hurting. But we need to remember, the Bible says “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” That doesn’t mean give thanks for cancer or a child who’s just been run over and killed. Oh no. But in the midst of this we say, “God, You are greater than all of this. Your providence has either allowed it or brought it to pass. Lord, I’m just trusting You and praising You because You’re all I have. My eyes are on You. And, Lord, I praise You that You will make a way for me.” This is not only an attitude that shows humility, but it shows great faith when we praise God in these circumstances.
Chris: After Lazarus died, Jesus came back to Bethany, and He grieved with those people and shed tears. He was touched by their grief and the effects of sin on all mankind, and yet He knew Whom to be thankful to. He knew the beginning from the end, didn’t He?
Dr. Rogers: Absolutely. I'm so glad Jesus wept there. You know, sometimes we tell people, “Oh, don’t cry.” Well, friend, to say “don’t cry” is to deny your humanity. Jesus, fully human, wept. He’s moved with compassion when we suffer. He is a tender, compassionate Savior.
Nothing comes to us but what He allows it, and He will never, ever, leave us or forsake us. I think perhaps praising God in hard times is the ultimate in faith.