Thankful in vs. Thankful for

004853F9-94D8-4CB3-B1D5-D78D2CB97AF8Difference Between In and For

The difference between giving thanks in and giving thanks for is worth pondering.

Recently while discussing this topic with some friends, the question arose on how a person could give thanks for horrific things that had happened to them. It seems totally absurd to give thanks for trauma and abuse.

We rehearsed the verses from I Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20 where we are instructed to give thanks in all circumstances as well as giving thanks always for all things. How do we make sense of giving thanks for all things?

I want to compare the concept of giving thanks in the circumstance compared to giving thanks for the circumstance.

Begin with Giving Thanks IN

“Giving thanks in” is giving thanks for the good things all around your dark reality, points of light in the middle of the storm, though it feels so uncomfortable to do so. Perhaps you can only focus on Scripture’s promise that God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5b). Maybe you can think thanks that this circumstance is helping you remember that life is a vapor and soon it will be gone. There is a purpose for you right now and in your immediate circumstance – you are to please God (2 Cor.5:9).

We trust in the sovereignty of our God. He has promised to not test us above what we are able. He has promised to never leave nor forsake us. We cry out to our Creator God to hold us and comfort us in our distress. He knows all we have gone through and are going through. It’s hard to trust Him though when my heart is so crushed, but we must. And we must begin to think thanks.

Rise to Giving Thanks FOR

“Giving thanks for” is actually thanking God for the dark thing itself, because by it God achieved a greater good. As time passes and you get a better view of how God is shaping things, you often recognize the great void and terrible loss of gospel opportunity there would have been without the trial.  You would have been happier and busy somewhere else, and God’s profound work would have been undone. That’s when you learn to embrace the trial itself.

But that is deep blue hero stuff.  It took a long journey for Joni Eareckson Tada to come to the place where she gave thanks for her horrific accident that changed her life completely. Joni became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident and by it has had the chance to minister to hundreds of thousands around the world. The friend that helped her through the early days of that trial, Steve Estes, said:

“God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”                

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“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of ages.” Charles Spurgeon

What’s Your Grid?

worldviewglasses.jpgThe overall perspective from which you see and interpret the world is called your worldview. Whether you realize it or not, everything you observe filters through your worldview grid for interpretation. Your beliefs about God, the universe, mankind’s history, science, theology, and moral values will shape and color your impressions of people, possessions, and events.

For a believer in Christ, God’s Word should be the foundation for how we interpret life. In fact, most of the adult life of a committed Jesus-follower is spent trying to overwrite wrong ideas about God, myself, others and creation with correct ideas from God’s Word. But such commitment is exceptional.  Barna reported this year that only 17% of professing Christians in America have a biblical worldview.

Looking glass 3My View of the Beginning and the End

Hebrews 11:3 says that through faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. If there is no God, all things are permissible. But if there is a Creator, we belong to Him. If He created us as moral beings, we are answerable to Him. If He created us as relational beings, He desires a relationship with us.

If a believer is convinced of the mystery in Col.1:27 – Christ in you, the hope of glory – convinced that the Spirit of the Creator-God and of His Redeemer-Son is inside him or her, and is the down-payment on a perfect and deathless existence with Him, his or her grid is going to look immensely different from a person that is not at all viewing life with that value.  Speaking with someone from a very different worldview is almost like going to a foreign country and using your own currency.

What is your worldview? Do you really believe that God made the heavens and the earth and that one day there will be a reckoning of all we do here on earth?  Do I really need to be reconciled to my Creator God?  Does the way I live my life really matter? Am I living as though the here and now is all that matters?

A Word-Saturated Worldview

Grid 4Hebrews 4:12 describes the Word of God as living, powerful, and sharp.  It has the ability to discern thoughts and intents of the heart. Do I even know my own heart’s thoughts and intents?  No. Jeremiah said we struggle with clouded and distorted self-perceptions (Jer. 17:9). We need a light, an objective perspective!  Psalm 119:105 volunteers God’s Word as a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.

This morning I received an email from a former student of mine that I taught in 8th grade back in the 80’s. He remembered that in my class we had memorized James chapter 1 together. He went on to say that years later when he “turned control of his life over to Christ” (his words), he began to actively memorize not just verses, but passages, psalms, and whole chapters.  He wrote me today because he had just memorized his tenth book of the New Testament!  I was flabbergasted!  Yes, I did just use that word. 🙂  I am seeking to memorize Ephesians, but it is taking me a long time. I was inspired to work harder at filling my thoughts with the living word.

So what does this have to do with being th(i)nkful?  Quite simply, because God has commands throughout the whole of scripture to be thankful.  That thankfulness is not to be merely sporadic, but pursued obsessively (Eph. 5:4, 20; I Thess. 5:18). When we pursue thinking thanks in every situation that we are in, we filter what we are experiencing through the grid that God is worthy of our worship in this specific situation.  He has created us and given us the air to breathe. He has provided for the complete removal of our sins. He has reconciled the rebels to Himself, not just for a quick hug, but adopting us into His forever family. He has made a home within our earthly bodies making them temples. He has marked us for reward and inheritance and glory. To fix my thinking is to fix my thanking.

Grid 5

  • Thank You, God, for this day that I get to live.
  • Thank You for fruit that you give along the way.
  • Thank You that we have a grid in Your Word of how to interpret our world, our circumstances, and life.
  • Thank You for grace that You pour out as we cry out to You.

Th(i)nkful – My Needs Are Met

Redefining “Needs”

Do you ever feel like you need something else to really do the will of God?  If just something was changed a little bit, or if I was able to have access to that, or if I didn’t have this, then I could be free to really be thankful and do God’s will. I Timothy 6:6-8 says:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment, let us be content.”

The Greek word for raiment is skepasma and it means covering. Most people think that is referring to clothing, but it also means any kind of shelter from the elements – a roof over my head, even just for a night.  When I start evaluating my “needs” from the perspective of having food to eat today and clothes to put on my body – like two-thirds of the world struggles to have every day – there is SO much to be th(i)nkful for. Most of our “needs” are just wants, and we must never use them as an excuse to say without them we can’t really do God’s will.

Psalm 136:25-26 states, “He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever.”

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The picture above is from a market in China.  The colors burst forth.  I love just looking at the varied shapes and textures represented. Our God is amazing.

God has provided all I need to do His will

That thought hit me the other day.  My goal in life is to please God, and I have access to everything I need to do that. 2 Corinthians 5:9 says that Paul made it his ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to God.  I want to be like that, too.  I know that God’s goal for me is to be conformed to Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).  He also mentions in that passage that every single thing in my life will work towards the good of making me like Christ.

My job is to discover what His will looks like for me. In some ways that can be a bit tricky, but what I have found over the years is that it usually is not so much that I don’t know what His will is, as that I really don’t want to do what His will is. I want to do my will.  I feel like I know what is best, and if God would just answer my prayers and let me have my will, things would turn out great.

I know one thing that is definitely part of the Lord’s will for my life. I have NO doubt about it.  I Thess. 5:18 states, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I am to express thankfulness all the time.  It is to bubble out of me non-stop.

Water Pouring into BottleHow are you doing at that?  Does it come out of you non-stop throughout your day?  Start with just being thankful that you could take that last breath. You ate today. You are wearing clothes.  You can see with your eyes to read these words.  You have access to the internet and this blog and whatever device you are using.  You have just been able to read truths that will never lose their potency. One of those truths being that godliness with contentment is great gain.

“God has promised to supply our needs. What we don’t have now we don’t need now.” Elisabeth Elliot

Let your eyes peruse the following truths and be th(i)nkful.

  • Luke 12:31 – Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
  • Philippians 4:19 – And my God will fully supply your every need according to his glorious riches in the Messiah Jesus.
  • Psalm 34:10 – The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
  • Psalm 84:11-12 – For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
  • Matthew 7:11 – So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
  • Luke 12:24 – Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest, they don’t have storerooms or barns, but God feeds them. And you are worth much more than birds.
  • Psalm 104:21 – The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.
  • Psalm 145:15-16 – The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
  • Psalm 36:6 – Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD.
  • Psalm 136:25-26 – He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever.

 

Thankful?

Hope in Knysna

On the southern tip of Africa there lies a beautiful bowl-shaped lagoon with the city of Knysna nestled around it.  It is one of the top dream holiday destinations for the country of South Africa.  On June 7, 2017, a fire began to sweep throughout the beautiful dry winter landscape around Knysna. A family died. Thousands of people were evacuated and displaced.  Homes and schools were burned to the ground. People lost all their earthly belongings and even livelihoods.  Life will never be quite the same for those that went through this tragedy. Knysna, South Africa, has gone through a horrendous ordeal.

How can a person begin to think thanks in these kind of circumstances?

At first you feel so numb.  You have to stop the bleeding. People need food and water. Everything seems to take forever.  Things that seemed so important before, somehow have lost their urgency. What really matters?

Coming face to face with tragedies is often the source of people turning their backs on the Lord.  How could a loving God allow it?

Our friends, Dave and Julie Rudolph, are missionaries in Knysna and are forging their way through this devastating time and looking for ways to share the love of Christ in the midst of trial. Here is an update.

Dave Rudolph’s Update from Knysna

You may have your own fire, a hard thing that you have gone through that is difficult to process. It seems impossible to find any sense in it all.  I know I have experienced hard things like that.  I wrote down these 10 things following a talk on why God allows sufferings.  They have been immensely helpful for me personally.  Why does God allow evil and suffering?

  1. God is justly allowing sin’s curse on the earth to take its natural course; the earth is broken and longing for redemption. Romans 8:22
  2. God is jolting me to get me really searching for Him in prayer and in the Bible. Jeremiah 29:13-14.
  3. God is refining me, freeing me from some vice and building virtue in me (the greater good). I Pet. 4:3-4; Job 23
  4. God is equipping me to be a compassionate comfort and strength to others. 2 Cor. 1:4.
  5. God is equipping me for greater service; changing the scope of my influence.
  6. God is freeing me from trust/dependence on things, teaching me that He is the only thing I hold on to.
  7. God is opening a door for me to share my faith and show God’s love.
  8. God wants me to long for a better place. 2 Cor. 4:16-18.
  9. God is privileging us to share in His suffering – reward comes with this.
  10. God is demonstrating that He can sustain and keep His children faithful.

Searching for the things for which we can be th(i)nkful sometimes feels almost irreverent of the incredible pain that we are experiencing.  Formulating thanks through our tears is an act of worship to the Sovereign One that He does not take lightly.  He knows. He sees.  He rewards our effort to download His grace in order to gain His perspective in every circumstance.

purposefully thinking thanks in the midst of tragedy is like beginning to climb a rope out of the hole of despair that you find yourself in.