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10 Benefits of Giving Thanks by Charles F. Stanley

“Give Thanks in Everything”

Why this tough but life-giving command can change your entire outlook.

Reading the Bible isn’t always easy.

If you’ve ever thought those words but were embarrassed to speak them, you’re not alone. Sure, there’s plenty within Scripture that we comprehend without much difficulty. But at times we come across a passage that baffles us—or worse, makes us feel angry or annoyed. Sometimes it’s because we simply don’t understand what the Lord is saying through the text. But often the reason for our discomfort is that we don’t like what we’re reading. It’s easier to ignore those verses and move on to more appealing topics than to hash it out with God and do what He says. Reading the Bible is hard because, in the end, it challenges us to change.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of those verses that can really get under your skin: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But what about those difficult and painful situations? Being grateful for suffering seems to make no sense.

If I were writing Scripture, I would say, “In most things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life—a newborn baby, a raise, a new house, or encouraging news from the doctor. But what if you lose your job, discover your child is on drugs, or are told by the doctor that you have only have six months to live? How can God expect you to be grateful then?

I faced this dilemma some time ago when I hurt my shoulder and experienced excruciating pain. I read this verse and told the Lord, “I know You said this, but it’s not reasonable when I’m hurting so badly. I just don’t feel thankful.” But then I noticed that it didn’t say, In everything give thanks when you feel like it. This command has nothing to do with feelings. It’s a choice to do what God says. Whenever He gives us a command in the Bible, it’s for our benefit.

Gratitude impacts every area of our lives.

By giving us the command to always give thanks, God is not rubbing salt in a wound or calling us to set aside reason. He knows that being thankful in all circumstances has a powerful impact on every area of our Christian life. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned:

1. Gratitude keeps us continually aware that the Lord is close by.Even though gratefulness doesn’t come naturally in difficult circumstances, a decision to thank God for walking with us through life makes us more sensitive to His comforting presence.

2. It motivates us to look for His purpose in our circumstance. Knowing that the Lord allows hurt and trouble for His good purposes takes the edge off the pain. Even if we don’t understand why we’re going through suffering, we can thank God because we know that in His time, He’ll work it all for good. In the meantime, we can rest in the knowledge that He’s using every hardship to transform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

3. Thanksgiving helps bring our will into submission to God.When the situation we’re experiencing is the last thing we’d ever want, thanking the Lord is a giant step toward being able to follow Christ’s example and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Gratitude helps us acknowledge that God’s will is best, even if it’s hard; in that way, we are able to release our hold on what we want. Although the circumstances may remain the same, submission changes our heart.

4. It reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord. Pride, adequacy, and independence evaporate whenever we’re trapped in a situation that leaves us helpless and hopeless. If there’s no way out, thanking God for His control over all things reminds us that He alone is our strength.

5. Thankfulness is an essential ingredient for joy.There’s no way to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) without giving thanks in everything (v. 18). That’s why ungrateful people are so grumpy. Joy is an inner sense of contentment, which flows from a deep assurance that all God’s purposes are good and He’s in complete control of every situation. With that kind of supernatural joy, it’s easy to be thankful.

6. A grateful attitude strengthens our witness to unbelievers.The world is filled with people who are angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed with the difficulties of life. But a believer with a grateful attitude is like a light shining in a dark place. The people around you will want to know why you don’t grumble and complain the way everyone else does. Then you can tell them about your amazing Savior.

7. Thanking God focuses our attention on Him rather than our circumstances. The key to a grateful heart begins with understanding the Lord’s character because knowing His awesome attributes motivates trust and gratitude. He knows exactly what you’re going through, loves you unconditionally, and understands you perfectly. When you thank Him in tough times, He gets bigger, and the circumstances become smaller.

8. Gratitude gives us eternal perspective. The apostle Paul is an amazing example of a man who suffered extreme hardship yet remained thankful. That’s because he was able to see life from God’s perspective. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says our present suffering is “momentary light affliction.” If you’re going through a really hard time, those words may sound ridiculous. Maybe you’ve been dealing with pain your entire life, or a difficult trial has dragged on for decades. It hardly seems momentary or light.

But Paul is comparing our situations here on earth with what’s awaiting us in eternity. For him, a 40-year stretch of pain and hardship was no match for the “eternal weight of glory” awaiting him (2 Cor. 4:17). What an amazing thought—your present pain has the potential to produce incomparable glory for you in heaven. Now that’s a big reason to thank God!

9. When we’re wearied by our circumstances, thanksgiving energizes us. Most of us can handle short trials, but if they continue for a long period of time, the emotional and physical strain is exhausting. Should ongoing illness, unresolved relational problems, or continued financial pressures become more than we can bear, it’s time to start thanking God because He has promised to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29). He’ll release His supernatural energy within us so we can patiently endure the trial and come out victorious on the other side.

10. Gratitude transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). I learned this principle through a very difficult experience. When I was feeling anxious about the situation, I discovered that complaining, getting angry, and arguing with God didn’t change my circumstances. Finally, in desperation, I began thanking Him. Only then did I receive His incomprehensible peace. My situation didn’t change for quite a while, but God’s peace guarded my heart all the way through that trying time.

What will you choose?

The choice isn’t always easy. Most of the time, we’d rather get out of difficulties than thank God through them. But have you ever considered that He may actually want you to stay in a painful situation for a time? I know this may not sound like something a loving God would ever do, but remember, His goal is to do what is best for you, not what’s comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable.

The Lord’s purposes for your life extend beyond your days on earth. He’s working for your eternal good. Begin thanking God today, in whatever circumstance you find yourself. After all, what’s the alternative—bitterness, resentment, and grumbling? God made you for something far better: eternal, sustaining joy. The transformation starts with two simple, small words offered from the heart: thank You.

Say them over and over. And then say them again. Your joy will be radiant—a light shining in a dark and desperate world.

 

 

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John Piper on the Question: How Can We Be Thankful In The Midst of Suffering?

Thanksgiving in Suffering

“Since we have a great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has passed through the heavens [or: gone into heaven], let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

I want to present Jesus to you as a sympathetic Go-between for you and God. I want you to understand how Jesus, the Son of God, is alive today, and stands ready to serve you as your advocate with God the Father. I want you to see why you can draw near to the throne of God with Jesus as your Go-between and Advocate, and expect to find mercy and grace to help in times of need. If it’s true that we can always go to God’s throne and find mercy and help in times of need, then there can always be thanksgiving, even in suffering—and that’s my theme, “Thanksgiving in Suffering.”

A Wrong Way to View Jesus as a Go-Between

Now when I call Jesus a “Go-between” for you and God, I realize that I might be creating a false picture in your mind. You might take me to mean that God is the bad guy and we are the victims and Jesus is the good guy, and Jesus comes between us and God the way a level-headed son comes in between a furious father and a helpless child and rescues the child by grabbing the father’s arms and saying, “Cool it! Cool it, dad.”

We Are Not Victims but Sinners

There are three things wrong with that picture. You and I are not victims of God, we are sinners against God. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). Our consciences tell us plainly that we have not even lived up to our own standards, let alone God’s.

Sending Jesus Was God’s Idea

The second thing wrong with that picture is that Jesus did not intrude himself between us and God. He didn’t jump in to wrestle God away from us against God’s will. God put Jesus between us and himself. “For God so love the world that he GAVE his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him might have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Go-between was God’s idea. He took the initiative to make a way for sinners to come to him through Jesus.

God Is Never Impulsive or Rash or Reckless

The third thing wrong with that picture is that God does not lose his cool. He is not impulsive or rash or reckless. He is perfectly righteous and unswervingly just and infinitely holy and pure. He never plays fast and loose with truth or with virtue. He upholds his law with unimpeachable equity and integrity. No shady deals. No bribery. No skeletons in the closet. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

The Right Understanding of Jesus as a Go-Between

That’s why we need a Go-between. The Bible says, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). God is like a blazing fire of light and truth and righteousness, and I am like a broken, dark, dead, dry piece of wood. If I get near him, I will be consumed.

And so God sends a Go-between—his Son. He takes on human nature, he lives a perfect life, he dies to bear the sins of many, and he rises to vindicate the saving power of his death. Now Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the only true Go-between with God. The apostle Peter said, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Only Jesus can bring us to God. The apostle Paul said, “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). Only Jesus can save us from the separation and alienation that cuts us off from the Father. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It’s Jesus or alienation.

He came into the world and took on himself our human nature, our weaknesses, our pain, and our death. He was tested in every way like we are, and yet he didn’t sin. Since he didn’t sin, he can be a perfect High Priest—a Go-between—for us. And since he suffered and was tested and tempted, he can be a sympathetic Go-between.

The Amazing Invitation of Hebrews 4:16

I say all of this just to lay the foundation for the amazing invitation that God gives to us in Hebrews 4:16. He says, “Therefore, let us with confidence [not hesitation, not reluctance, but with confidence let us] draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” When Jesus is your Go-between, the throne of God is a throne of grace, not judgment, and what you find there is mercy and grace to help in time of need.

What this means is that when Jesus, the perfect Go-between, has met your need for forgiveness and acceptance with God, he doesn’t take off and say, “You’re on your own now; see you in heaven.” Instead, he stands ready to serve you all the rest of your life.

The Christian life begins with forgiveness and reconciliation with God. It’s like a great homecoming, with tears of repentance and hope and joy and acceptance. For some it’s almost too good to be true. But then the Christian life continues, and it’s a life of ongoing dependence on the grace of God. We don’t escape the pain and stress and disappointments and suffering and calamities and tragedies and frustrations and pressures of life in this world.

In fact, sometimes becoming a Christian and obeying the Word of the Lord increases our troubles rather than lessening them. But the difference now is, first, that the outcome of life is settled—it will be eternal life with infinite happiness (Romans 8:17–18)—and, second, all along the way in this world God helps us in times of need through our Go-between, Jesus. God’s invitation to everyone is, first, come to Jesus for forgiveness and reconciliation with me, and then, second, “Draw near to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The Story of Sandra Tarlen

I want to illustrate this power and willingness of God to help you in time of need by introducing you to one more person who is living evidence that God gives mercy and grace to help in time of need.

This person is Sandra Tarlen. She has been part of our fellowship since early this year. Her story goes like this.

My major crisis started when I was four years old! I was burned in a gasoline fire. A little boy threw a can of gasoline into a fire and I was standing on the other side. The gas went through the fire and into my face and the flames followed. My face suffered 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns. These burns left ugly, disfiguring scars. When I started school it was very difficult. I felt different from the rest of the children and a lot of them were very cruel to me. I didn’t like school much, but I didn’t like summers either, because that always meant I would have to have another surgery on my face.

My father became an alcoholic and the word love or any action of love was not heard or seen in my family that I can ever remember. An old man who lived next door to us was always very nice and would buy or make me things—but there was a price to pay for gifts. He fondled and molested me repeatedly. One night when I was 13 years old, I was walking home from the show, and a gang of young men picked me up and raped me.

Although these things caused me to feel dirty and empty inside, they also gave me the feeling that at least somebody wanted me for something. I began to fill a lot of loneliness with sexual relationships. My heart began to get hard and bitter and full of hate. The hate began to eat at me from the inside out.

I became anorexic, then bulimic. I had chronic migraine headaches, ulcers, a hysterectomy, and other major surgeries. I was in and out of doctor’s offices constantly looking for a remedy. I experimented with alcohol, drugs and a couple of times even suicide! By the time I was 17 I already had two children and by the time I was 25 I had been married four times. Life seemed pretty hopeless.

I knew there had to be more to life than what I was living. In search for that, I went with my best friend Sherry to a Victorious Christian Living Conference. There I heard David Ritzenthaler talk about the Gospel. He explained how much God loved me, enough to send His own Son to die for me and save me from my sins. I knew that this God David was talking about was not the God of my life and I desperately wanted to know Him. Five days after hearing this, I called David. I went to his office and he shared with me the “Four Spiritual Laws.” That night on March 12, 1982, at 7:30 PM, I prayed and confessed I was a sinner in need of a Savior, I invited Jesus into my heart to be Lord of my life. At that very moment God gave me new life.

That was just the beginning of new life for Sandra. We will give her time to tell her story early next year. But there remained 11 more surgeries to bring the total to 32 in her life. She speaks of surgeries and scar tissue on the inside too. Broken relationships and broken dreams being healed. Amazingly Sandra writes,

He gave me new dreams as I continued to seek Him. Today after all those surgeries, I can honestly say with a joyful heart that I am thankful for the experiences I’ve gained as a result of them all. God has used each one to strengthen me and my relationship with Him and when I share my experience, it has helped to strengthen others.

The point of Sandra Tarlen’s story and the point of God’s word in Scripture is that Jesus is a very sympathetic, caring, and powerful Go-between with God. Because he loved us and died for us and rose from the dead, anyone—any one of you—who trusts him can draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need.

Sermon/ Article Above Used by Permission. By Dr. John Piper. © 2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. Thanksgiving in Suffering is a synopisis of John Piper’s sermon in  a Celebration of Thanksgiving at Maranatha Hall on November 18,1990.

About Dr. John Piper

John Piper was pastor for preaching and vision for over thirty years at Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.), and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 40 books and more than 30 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and twelve grandchildren.

 

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