Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Does God Expect Me to Be Thankful for Everything?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

No, God does not expect you to be thankful for all things. Paul wrote that thankfulness should be found in all of life's experiences. It does not mean faithful followers will thank Him for the tragedies in life. It means that their thankfulness continue even though struggles abound.

How can that happen? I'm glad you asked.

James says:

James 4:4 (NIV) 4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Not many people feel that they have earned the title of adulterous. James' caustic attitude toward friendliness with the world makes it justified. He was saying that this world should not replace the love we have for God. It should not be seen as our father nor as our permanent home. It should not be seen as that which provides our every need. We are in the world but we cannot be of the world.

For the past two weeks I have been in the Mediterranean on a cruise. Over three hundred of us followed the second and third missionary journeys of Paul. It was enlightening. However, many of us said that the cruise was best part. Each day we ate what we wanted, were served by others who cooked what we wished, cleaned after us, entertained us and anticipated our wants before we wanted them. Two days of pampering made many of us say, "I could get used to this." And that is the problem with friendliness to the world. We wish to make permanent that which is temporary.

I noticed something totally unexpected on this cruise. Many of the people, though given service like they have never had before, began to complain more and more. Their spirit of thankfulness diminished rather than increased. Their level of expectation increased as the service had increased. Instead of being thankful for the way we were being treated, they were becoming more critical. Friendliness with the world means that there is some expectation that the world owes something to us. Receiving it makes many people forget that this is not our home so that they seek all their fulfillment from the world. But the world simply cannot provide this. Therefore, they feel an emptiness and complain because they, like a drug addict, believe their problem is a deficiency of what has made them feel good.

Understanding that this world is not our home allows us to understand that we are being prepared for something more than this world. Paul wrote:

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV) 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Struggles develop perseverance in those who realize the world is not their home. They realize that nothing comes into their lives without God's knowledge. They know that He will carry them through the struggle if they will walk with Him. Their walk develops their strength. That strength becomes character by which others recognize them. They are seen to be trustworthy toward their Lord because they have not faltered when the "going got rough." Their hope in the resurrection grows. They look forward to the time they will walk with their Lord rather than backwards.

The bodies we are born in wear out. Things fall out, turn other colors, wrinkle up, creak and simply hurt. The body falls apart the longer we live. It diminishes in strength. This is not true for the spirit that has been born again. The spirit who walks with the Lord through the struggles develops more strength, stronger character and steadfast hope. The Christian should be at his strongest at the end of his life. The hope should become a bright beacon for the believer. That hope becomes a source of thankfulness when the struggles arise. It does not make the bad things which are happening good, but it does give them a purpose. A Christian should become more thankful as he matures even during the struggles because he knows that God will make him stronger in hope.

Peter wrote:

1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV) 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
God receives glory when we walk faithfully through struggles. God does so in one of two ways. Either God uses our struggles to perform a miracle which will show His power, glory and love or He walks with us through these things to show His power, glory and love. I can think of two examples.

In John 9 Jesus and His disciples pass by a blind man. Knowing that the man was born blind they ask, "Was it because of his sin or his parents that he was born blind?" Their understanding was that this kind of tragedy must have resulted from sin. Jesus tells them that it wasn't because of the man's sin or the sin of his parents that he was born blind (note that Jesus didn't say that either was sinless) but his blindness was so that the works of God could be displayed in him.

Each struggle that faces us is an opportunity for God to show His work. It may be that God will simply do a miracle that will result in others (and ourselves) giving Him glory and honor because He has miraculously removed the struggle.

On the other hand, this does not mean that every struggle results in God's removal of the problem. Paul records in 2 Corinthians 12 that he has a "thorn in the flesh" which he has asked God repeatedly to remove. Each time God has told him that His grace was sufficient. Paul understands that this thorn was so that he would not be so full of himself. He understands that it is how God is displaying His power through him.. Thus, Paul gives glory to God for his weakness.

In either case, thankfulness should prevail. Either God will remove the struggle or walk with the believer through the struggle. Both display God's love, power and glory. The mature believer should recognize this and thank God for being used in such a way.

 But these are not the only reasons we should continue in our thankfulness even though we are struggling. Paul also wrote:

Romans 8:28 (NIV) 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

God takes good and bad thing and works it for those who love Him; for those who as believers are called according to His purpose. It does not make bad things good but caused good things to happen from the bad.

Joseph was hated by his brothers. Most of them wanted to kill him but they decided instead to sell him into slavery. He was seventeen at the time. He rose to the top of Potiphar's household only to be wrongly accused by Potiphar's wife. He was sent to prison. In prison he interprets dreams. He is forgotten and looks to live out the rest of his life in prison. Then, Pharoah has a dream that bothers him. One, who has had Joseph interpret a dream in prison, tells Pharoah about Joseph's ability. He is brought out of prison, interprets the dream and is made second in command to Pharoah. Joseph is thirty years old.I imagine that Joseph could not make much sense of his circumstances for the thirteen years he was either in slavery or prison.

Nine to ten years later his family comes because of a great famine. He is able to provide for his family's existence because of his place in before Pharoah. His tragedies have resulted in his whole family's salvation.

After their father dies, Jospeh's brothers are afraid that Joseph will take his revenge on them for what they have done. Instead Joseph replies, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." Joseph couldn't call what his brothers had done as good. It wasn't. Yet, he could see that God had used it for good.

And God always will make it for good. So, the next time you are in the middle of something that is horribly bad you can still remain thankful because you know that God will make something good happen.

In fact, the next time you are in the middle of something bad and you can't see what He will do, say these words to yourself, "God isn't finished yet!" Then give thanks.


Anthony Chia said...

I like this entry of yours; it has many more mature themes in there that many, even older, Christians struggle with.

I have commenced on my monthly Healing Meetings, and in the last 2 meetings, we covered the topics of “Everyone is NOT healed all the time by God, why we still pray for the sick!” and “Sickness good? Nay!” In the latter, we covered Eph 5:20 (NIV) – “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” At times, Christians quoted this verse in support of their saying that sickness is NOT necessarily bad. Their argument is that if Eph 5:20 (purportedly) said to give thanks “FOR” everything, how can sickness be bad! They choose to acquiesce (tacitly agree) with their sickness!

You are right, God does NOT expect us to be thankful FOR all things, and 1 The 5:18 correctly puts it, “give thanks IN all circumstances”. Actually, the common translation and rendering in most of the Bible translations for Eph 5:20 are INcorrect. The Greek word used is “hyper”, and should be more accurately be said to mean “over and above”. So, Eph 5:20 should read as “Over and above all things, give thanks to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”, and it is then consistent with 1 The 5:18 which you have rightly quoted.

I covered the need to call a spade, a spade; meaning what is bad, we should say it is bad, and NOT good. We touched on Romans 8:28 which you also touched on, and indeed, the “all things”, in that Romans verse, included good, neutral and bad things, but it is God will work them for the good of those who love Him, who are …. You gave good illustrations of God worked a bad thing to bring good, from Scriptures, on this. Because what I covered, was on sickness and healing, I talked about the need NOT to confuse God’s chastisement, which is good, and sickness which, per se, is NOT good.

In my next meeting (Dec 2011) I am going to touch on the “Secret to the believer’s well-being”, in which I will cover that secret, as revealed in Ps 91 – love God and obey Him. Bad things (including tragedies, calamities, natural disasters, and all) happen, and they do happen for a number of reasons, including: the world we are living in, is a fallen world – many things can go wrong in the fallen world; the devil is at work to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a), and last but NOT least, as you said it, by quoting James 4:4, we are adulterous; we befriend the world, and in doing that, we subscribe to the ways of the world, instead of the ways of God. In other words, we defer God to the world, and His ways to the ways of the world, ending up we are NOT loving God and obeying Him. As in my comment to your preceding entry, God subjects us to the baptismal of fire or baptismal unto belief (we are still full of refusal to believe in the ways of God).

COntinue on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

Continue from preceding page

It is NOT that we will NOT die physically, but the well-being of a believer is dependent on his loving God and obeying Him. Ps 91 gave the most beautiful depiction of God’s protection, and yet it was clear that the dwelling under the shelter of the Most High, and the consequent protection and rest promised, are for those who love God and obey Him. It is also clear in that Psalm that troubles could be expected, and God said (in v15) that He would be with us when we are ones who love Him.

I like this saying of yours: “And that is the problem with friendliness to the world. We wish to make permanent that which is temporary.” You have also pointed a common way or attitude of the world: “Why compare with those down below, compare with those right up there!” People with too much of this attitude will look down and oppress those below, and they will NOT be thankful for what they have and which they so casually take for granted, which many (below) struggle just to have a little of it. Haughtiness arises in them, and “I” as in sIn dominates, and “O” as in Others, being pushed aside (No others first, the lament of your previous entry!). The more “I” dominates, the more complaining and murmuring are manifested. What does God say to those who are proud? God says, “I oppose them”. God opposes the proud, actively! When we are NOT well, it is NOT telling the Devil off, and psycho ourselves, saying, “I am well, I am well”. Although the power of words and the tongue is great, and we must recognize that, self-examination must be one of the things we have to do. Examine if we are being unforgiving, if we are being disobedient to God (disobedience is NOT loving God), and if we have been proud, etc, etc.

Concerning “life”, interestingly New Testament Scriptures used 2 different Greek words, and it was NOT randomly used. Eternal life is always being referred to as the zōē (G2222) life. A fallen man’s life is referred to as a psychē (G5590) life. When we entered into salvation, we entered into zōē (G2222) life, we are to cut loose our psychē (G5590) life. Psychē (G5590) life, psychē’s root word is “psychō” (G5594), which has the meaning akin to getting cold as in wax cooling down. You see, when a candle burns, wax results, and at its beginning it is still warm, but it quickly gets cooler and cooler until it is cold, or wax cold. This is what a fallen man’s life is like, since the Fall of Man. Man lost the zōē life, on that Fall. The zōē life is the original intended life God gave (Acts 17:25-26) to Man, Adam, before he fell into sin through disobedience. Zōē life, the Strong’s Lexicon puts it, as the “life with absolute fullness, real and genuine, active and vigorous, devoted to God, and blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection {our resurrection} to be consummated by new accessions (among them a more perfect body), and to last forever”.

Continue on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

Continue from preceding page

Concerning salvation, John 5:24 puts it this way: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” The eternal life referred to is the zōē life, and the “life” at the end of the verse is also zōē life. The “death” as from “death to life”, was the Greek word, thanatos (G2288), which the Strong’s Lexicon said as the widest sense, this: “comprising all the miseries arising from sin, as well physical death, as the loss of a life consecrated to God and blessed in him on earth, to be followed by wretchedness in hell” What is it picturing? The psychē life. In other words, when one accepts the gospel, he crosses over from “life” to “life”, from psychē life, to zōē life. The same thing is also expressed by the Apostle John in 1 John 5:11-12. To God, the psychē life, is “death”.

God’s own life was also accorded in Scripture with zōē (Eph 4:18 – Unregenerate man is alienated from the life of God; the life here was translated from zōē). In exhorting right living, the Apostle Paul in Phil 2:16, said the gospel as the word of life, and the life there is the word, zōē. When Jesus Himself said that He is the truth, the way and the life, the word used for life is also zōē.

Unless as a believer, we love God and obey Him, and thereby subscribing to His ways, we are NOT engaging, in portion even, the zōē life, which Jesus has ransomed back for us, with His blood and life. The zōē life is NOT of the (fallen) world, and you cannot find true fulfillment in the ways and the offerings of the world. The emptiness or void we, even as believers, sometimes, feel cannot be filled by the offerings of the (fallen) world. A zōē life-man can only achieve fulfillment in God and God’s ways. Whenever Scripture mentioned about “wanting to gain your life, you will be ending up losing it”, the “life” there is always referring to psychē life, a waning life, the life of the fallen man, NOT regenerate man. Bible said, if you want (back) that life, psychē life, which the (fallen) world is offering, and which you were once with, entirely, you will lose it; that “it” I venture to tell you, it is referring to “life” alright, it is the zōē life, the life of absolute fullness (you must understand like the Strong’s Lexicon puts it, in this world, in portion), and blessedness. Yes, it is in portion, but our faith must remain steadfast, that when we transit out of here (this temporal abode), with consummation, fullness thereof, of the zōē life is ours to have, for all eternity. The ways of the (fallen) world and the ways of God are after-all different, so why should we be surprised that while we are here, we will face many trials? Embrace what the Apostle James said, instead:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-4, 12)

And, of course, the “life” in James 1:12 is the zōē life.

Continue on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

Continue from preceding page

We have to get into the zōē life, engage it (don’t just say, “I have it, I have it”), cut loose the psychē life, the life of the wide gate and wide road, journey through the narrow gate and on the narrow road that leads to life, zōē life (Matt 7:13-14). 1 Tim 6:12 said to fight the good fight of faith; to lay hold on the eternal life, the zōē life, to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. How does one lay hold on a life? Or maybe I ask another question, “How do you lay hold on a promise?” One goes and does the thing of the promise, and goes to make claim of the promise. With this said, maybe it is easier to see that to lay hold on a life is to engage in that life.

When we engage in the zōē life, there is a certain attitude that we inculcate in us, and this was given to us in Col 2:20, 3:1 & 3, and 2 Cor 4:10-11: That we have died with Christ (identified with Jesus in His death) to the ways (basic principles) of the world (Col 2:20), and we have been raised with Christ (identified with Jesus in His resurrection) our hearts must be set on the things above (NOT earthly things) (Col 3:1); our lives are now hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). We are always to carry around in our body the death of Jesus (identified with His death), so that the life (zōē life) of Jesus (resurrected Jesus; we identified with that too) may also be revealed in our body. We who are alive (until we pass on) are always to being given over to death for Jesus’ sake {in other words, make sacrifice when it is called for}, so that his life (Jesus’ zōē life) may be revealed in our mortal body.

When we engage in the zōē life with that right attitude, we can function as a priest, NOT by virtue of any ancestry linkage to Aaron or any other man-priest {or by men’s appointment} (see, here is how come we are a royal priesthood), by virtue our identification and availing of ourselves to the power of Permanent High Priest (Jesus)’s indestructible zōē life working through us (Heb 7:16); and we can be expectant of God’s mercy and grace, and His working of all things for our good; and we can be effective in fruit-bearing, for we are abiding in Jesus and He in us (John 15:4-5). When one has understood there is a right attitude required of our part, one would NOT dare to be so offending as to interpret Phil 2:13 (“for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”) as indicating it is all God’s part, and pushes all blame back to God for any of our failures, be it to live right or to bear fruit.

If you are a child of God, He is right there with you {in fact, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Life (Rom 8:2) (zōē), indwells you}, even though you do NOT feel Him; the crucial question is what life are you engaging in, His kinda of life, zōē life, or the life of the (fallen) world, psychē life. Don’t expect God to partake in the kind of life incongruent with Him, just as we do NOT expect God to sin along with us! Gal 6:8 presents a guide: The one who sows to please his sinful nature {symbolic of psychē life}, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit {symbolic of zōē life}, from the Spirit {of zōē life} will reap eternal life {zōē life}.