Thankfulness for God – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God’s Will For You

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Remember to Rejoice

Rejoicing at all times is not the easiest thing to do.  Pain, misery, and other terrible circumstances can all damper our desire to rejoice.  But we see in the Bible time and time again where God’s people rejoice in times of great difficulty:

Persist in Prayer

Prayer is something that every Christian should be an expert.  We have many examples in scripture to draw upon.  We can openly pour out our hearts to God in praise and petition.  Prayer can be silent or spoken.  The only thing that stops us from praying is ourselves.  We need to take more time to be in the presence of our Almighty God.  As in all things, we need to practice to become good at prayer.  And as we grow, we will notice our prayer life changes from our immediate needs to the needs of others and praise of the One who hears our prayers.

Thoroughly Thankful

Thankfulness is a state of the heart.  It is dependent upon the level of contentment that we experience.  If a person is not content, they will not be inherently thankful.  And when difficulties arise, they will find it even more challenging to be thankful.  It is easy to be content in times of plenty.  Let us practice thankful contentment when we can so that in times of difficulty we can apply ourselves to that difficult task.  Job first set the example:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.

Paul tells us he learned to be content:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I thankfully content, praying continually, with rejoicing?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may my heart be content with my circumstances, and may Your praise be continually on my lips.  Even in my worst circumstances, You are with me, guiding me and providing for me.  Help me to remember that You are constantly involved in my life, regardless of the pain I feel.  Help me to praise Your name, even if it is with tears, for You treasure them.  And when there are terribly long times of difficulty, with no end in sight, give me the strength to continually praise You, pray to You, and be thankful; for this life is very short, no matter how painfully long it feels.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Identity in Christ – John 15:5 (ESV)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Just as a branch needs the sap of nourishment from the tree, so do we need the same from Jesus Christ.  The branch is attached, and attached tightly; it’s not on the ground, or off doing its own thing.  It is bonded (even if grafted in) to the plant itself.  We should be so firmly bonded to Christ and in Christ, that there is no break between Christ and ourselves.

And Jesus shows us the benefit of this: when we are In Christ, we will bear much fruit.  When we go off and do things ourselves, there may be a result, but it is not bearing spiritual fruit in accordance with the Will of God, for the Purposes of God, in the Timing of God, and to the Glory of God.  Jesus also says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

This is a sobering thought.  When we are not in/attached to the vine, receiving nourishment and direction, we may be doing things, but not bearing the correct fruit.  It is as if we were a foreign, invasive species of plant trying to imitate the original plant.  Others may think that we are part of that plant, because we have mimicked the original; however, we have no part in the original plant.  Jesus gives us this direction as well:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 

When we have our identity in Christ – when we solely and ONLY identify with Him – we will bear much fruit, receive nourishment from the vine, and find the small gate with the narrow path.  Once we do that, we, like Christ, will be able to say,

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Our citizenship will be solely in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than in earthly things, like race, ethnicity, nationality, religious denomination, Northerner or Southerner, political affiliation, sports team, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, or any other thing on earth.  For when we identify with Christ, all are ONE in Christ.

So, let’s ask the question:  With whom or what do I identify most?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we thank You for the wonderful opportunity to be reconciled to You through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You love us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us on the cross.  Lord God, we have been set free from sin; but we were made to worship and serve.  I greatly desire to serve You and You alone.  Remove from me any and all identity with earthly things that would hinder my walk with you.  You have shown me the small gate and the narrow path.  Guide my feet, my heart, and my mouth, that as they see to glorify your name in and offer themselves as a living sacrifice to You, that my feet would not slip, and that they would not wander off the path.  Bring revival to Your body, that it would turn away from the draw of temporal blessings and set our hearts on Heaven, so that our treasure may be found there.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?