"A child of God should be a visible beatitude for joy and a living doxology for gratitude." -- C. H. Spurgeon
The opposite of joy is sadness, which is often brought about by worry. Thankfulness, on the other hand, is often the result of joy and gratitude. Why then would I put these two very distinctive words, “Worry” and “Thanksgiving”, within the same title? It may seem strange to combine these two words within a title. The strangeness, though, does not come from the two words, per se, when they are used individually, but rather comes from the fact that these two words are often seen as opposites, and indeed they are opposites from God’s perspective. So, why would I put such opposite words together as a title for this posting? Well, the answer is quite simple. Rather than focusing on thanksgiving, we all have a tendency to let worry control our lives, when we should actually be daily thanking the Lord for everything that comes our way. Instead of spending our time worrying about what is not happening or about what could be occurring in our lives, we should be thanking the Lord for what is occurring in our lives whether it is something that happens unexpectedly or it is some blessing that we have wished for a long time. Whether the situations are good or bad, there is a blessing that can be seen within both, if we just look for it. Those blessings should come under the heading of Thanksgiving.
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” – (Colossians 3: 17. HCSB).
You are probably thinking that I have lost my mind. For how could I thank the Lord for something terrible or hurtful that has suddenly occurred in my life? But I really haven’t lost my mind. For, it is the Apostle Paul who tells us in one of his epistles that we are to thank the Lord not only for our blessings but also for our trials. Moreover, we are to also thank the Lord for our troubles. In fact, in writing to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “We urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – (I Thessalonians 5: 14, 16-18. NASB). But how can we always rejoice and give thanks when we are in the midst of turmoil or in the middle of a problem for which we can’t seem to find a solution? Well, the Apostle Paul also gives us some answers to that question.
Thankfulness for Admonition and Discipline
The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians within the summation of his instructive letter to them, that in their Christian service to God and in their service to other Christians they are not only responsible for their own personal actions, which includes the encouragement of others, and the helping others, but that they are also responsible for the kind-hearted admonishment of others when they see another Christian doing something against God or they see another Christian doing something that they shouldn’t be doing. In other words, Christians are to step forward to tell the truth to another Christian who might be missing the truth in their behavior.
Certainly, most Christians think that admonishing another Christian can’t possibly be a blessing when we are admonishing them for doing something un-Christian. However, just as we would feel uncomfortable in admonishing someone today, it was also a big worry and uncomfortable for those Thessalonian Christians back then who did not want to get involved in the lives of others either. But Paul understood that after the admonishment, and along with the subsequent change in their behavior because of the admonishment, that the Christian who was admonished would then receive blessings for then behaving as a true Christian. However, if there was no correction received, then that Christian’s faith would be watered down and mean less that it should. Moreover, he or she would be setting a bad example for other Christians.
Today, we have allowed our Christian faith to be watered down by accepting any and almost every behavior from other fellow Christians as long as long as he or she calls him/herself a Christian. Consequently, we have many people today who do not receive the blessings that God wants to bestow on them, because they do what they want, live as they want, and then worry without faith or trust when things don’t go their way. But if these Christians allowed the Holy Spirit to lead them into providing the instruction for living for God or into providing the simple but kind admonishment of others when a person is doing something against the faith, then they and we would also receive many blessings and have subsequent thanksgivings for which to honor the Lord.
“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” – (Colossians 2: 6-7 HCSB).
Patience with Each Other and Learning from Different Experiences
Paul also adds within his letter to the Thessalonians the instruction that Christians are to be patient with everyone. Why are we to be patient with everyone? Well, even though it is sometimes difficult to be patient with our family, friends, and even strangers, we must remember that God is patient with each of us. He expects us to follow in the path of Christ who was patient with His disciples and followers. Sometimes the disciples had to have further explanation in order to understand an event or situation. So, like Christ was patient in teaching the disciples, we are to also become patient with other Christians who like ourselves are still growing and learning from Christ and the Word of God. For becoming mature in our faith and wisdom takes time. In fact, we have to realize that just as our Lord ministers to each of us in different ways because we all learn in different ways and at different times, that we need to minister to other Christians in different ways and at different times and according to their needs too. Therefore, we need to be patient with each other and share our positive and godly experiences as well as our spiritual and earthly knowledge with those who are still growing too.
God can use many different things to help us grow spiritually. Indeed, God can use the tragedies and bad things that happen to us while living in this fallen world as learning experiences that draw us even closer to Him. Remember, God is very patient with us! Indeed, He knows that we all grow and mature at different speeds and at different times. Furthermore, God knows each of us personally, therefore He knows what we each individually need at any moment in time, and He knows exactly what we need in order for us develop a closer walk with Him. So, besides the blessings and love that we receive from God, He knows that we also sometimes need correction or discipline. Yet, it is during those times of discipline that we are to recognize the importance of the discipline and so be thankful to the Lord and joyful for the correction. What a dichotomy! In other words, we should also not only be joyful for our discipline, but joyful in our trials as well, just as we would be joyful if we were receiving special blessings. For in many ways, even if we can’t see it at the time, our trials will actually become a blessing as we grow and learn from the experience.
Another way to look at this dichotomy is look at the actions of a good father. For example, Christians must remember that along with the provisions and blessings that we receive from the love of a good earthly father, we will also receive discipline and correction from a father who truly loves us. In other words, if our earthly father did not dispense blessings, provisions, and discipline, we would not grow or mature into the well-rounded and morally upright person that our earthly father wants us to become. So, just like a like a good earthly father, who wants the best for his son or daughter, God, our heavenly Father wants what is best for us, and He will bestow upon us His love, provisions, and blessings along with His discipline as well. Indeed, every child needs discipline and correction, because it teaches the child the right way of doing things and the right way of living. Moreover, God is the ultimate good and loving Father, so He, too, will correct or discipline His children when we need it, and we should be grateful.
Thankfulness and Gratitude
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” – Psalm 118: 29. HCSB).
I know that it is hard to thank our earthly father for discipline at the time that it occurs, but later when we look back on the discipline that we received from our earthly father, we realize the importance of him taking the time to discipline us. We also will come to realize that we learned a great deal from the discipline we received at the time, and then we come to appreciate the fact that our father cared enough about us to discipline us, even though at the time when we received the discipline we may have been angry or sad over the consequences of our actions and the resulting discipline.
We must remember, that if our earthly father had not loved us or cared about what we learned in life, then our earthly father would have essentially neglected his responsibility to discipline us or neglected to lay down expectations for our behaviors. In the long run, without discipline for misbehaving, we would not have felt that our earthly father loved us, because his failure to act with discipline would ultimately portray a father who didn’t appear to care or love us. For, a lack of discipline when needed can portray a father who just doesn’t care enough to take the time to set his child right. Certainly, when a person has no discipline or expectations for positive behaviors from their earthly father or mother, they can grow up to be ungrateful, unloving, and possibly even a corrupt individual without morals or values.
But God loves us so very much! So, even though it may be hard to thank our heavenly Father for His discipline, we need to remember that He is disciplining us out of love for us and out of the desire for us to grow in maturity and wisdom with values and morals that lead to righteous behaviors. That is why instead of moaning about the troubles that we are facing or about the situation that we find ourselves in, we need to remember to thank God for the problems that we face, as well as for the discipline, or for the uncomfortable situation we may find ourselves in, because we know that God is teaching us something through the experience. We may have even placed our own self in harm’s way, or the experience or trial that we are facing may be the result of our own actions, but whatever problem we encounter, God can use the situation to teach and grow us if we keep our eyes focused on the Lord.
Thanking the Lord in all Things
With the help of the Holy Spirit and prayer, we can figure out what it is that we are to learn from each problem or situation that we encounter. They say that hindsight is 20/20 and that is certainly the case when we go through trials and tribulations. For, often it is not until we look back on the situation some time later that we see clearly how we benefited or grew in wisdom and stature from having gone through a certain trial. Thus, we need to be thankful for being able to learn from even dire situations. I know that I would not be the person that I am today had I not faced the trials of having to learn how to walk again after being struck by a car in a crosswalk. Nor, would I be the person that I am today if I had not had to deal with constant pain every day. Along the way, though, I learned to thank God for each and every step that I was able to take and that I am still able to take today.
My whole life has been learning to lean upon and trust in the Lord for my next step in life. Moreover, I have received so many blessings along the way by simply leaning upon and trusting in the Lord. Christians need to thank the Lord when we are going through a trial and then also thank the Lord when He brings us through the trial. Above all, Christians are to thank God for the blessings that He bestows upon us daily whether they are seemingly small blessings or the large blessings like being able to walk when doctors have told you that you will probably never walk again. But whether small or large, we need to enumerate all our blessings instead of just accumulating them without thankfulness. This means that we are not to worry about what tomorrow holds, but thank the Lord for His provision and care for us each and every day! Thanking the Lord honors Him and shows our love for Him.
“I will give thanks with all my heart.” -- (Psalm 138: 1 HCSB).
One of the reasons that thanking God in every situation big or small, bad or good, or happy or sad is so important, is that in thanking God in every situation we are acknowledging the importance of having God with us and of having Him at all times within everything in our lives. Saying thank you to God for both the good things and then thanking God for the bad situations from which we can learn means that we can see God working in every area of our lives. In fact, God is with us at all times, and He knows what we need at every moment in time. So, we should be grateful and thankful to Him even when we face trials or difficulties in life. For we know that there is “but one God, the Father from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” -- (I Corinthians 8: 6. NASB). Furthermore, “…we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God who are called according to His purpose.” -- (Romans 8: 28. NASB).
Who are those people that “are called according to His purpose”? Well, they are the authentic Christians, i.e., the individuals who have asked Christ to come into their lives when the Holy Spirit called them, and are those people who have asked for Christ to lead them in all aspects of their lives. These authentic born-again Christians have Christ and the Father supporting and taking care of them. So, when this fallen world dishes out trials and tribulations, these Christians know that they are to rejoice and be thankful, because God will help them grow and learn something from each different situation or trial that they encounter – even though it could be a situation that this fallen world has provoked or a situation or trial that comes from some arrow that the devil shot at them probably hoping that it would turn them from their devotion to God. But, authentic Christians know that God will never forsake us! (See Hebrews 13: 5b).
Authentic Christians also know that if we turn to God and rely on Him in faith and trust, we will come through every trial or tribulation with greater faith and insight, as well as with an even closer relationship with God. Moreover, throughout whatever trial or tribulation that we encounter, while clinging to God and resting in His love, we will find that we will grow deeper in our godly maturity, knowledge, and wisdom when we are thankful and willing to learn. We will also find our specific Christian purpose or service to others when we understand that Christians are called according to God’s purpose for our life. Then we can become thankful in everything! Being thankful in everything also means sharing your thankfulness within some service you have engaged in for the Lord and for others— a service such as Active Relational Christian Mentoring.
Thankfulness can be difficult to achieve, though, when we are constantly worrying about something in our lives or in the lives of others. Constant worrying has a tendency to push all thankfulness to the back of our minds, which brings the worry to the forefront to consume all our time. Obviously, all people are tempted to worry and most people have moments of worry before they can catch themselves and then refocus their minds on God, but many people worry all the time. It is like their entire life is caught in an endless circle of worry. This type of constant worry affects Christians just as much as it does non-Christians. But why is that, because Christians should know better? We do not need to worry, because God is for us and not against us. He will take care of us.
“And my God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – (Philippians 4: 19).
Has worrying ever changed or fixed a single problem or situation? No, because worrying cannot fix anything. But how does a person get transfixed on worrying, or how does this cycle of worrying come about? Well, the phrase, “what if” is usually what gets most people started with their worrying. “What if” involves the imagination. People begin to imagine the worst-case scenario or terrible scenarios and outcomes. Then they wrap themselves up in those scenarios to the point that they actually believe whatever they are imagining could actually happen. For example, what if this happens, what if that cold I have is something worse, what if I can’t make my payments because I am sick or laid off, and the list of “what if’s” just goes on and on. Really good worriers, however, no longer have to include the actual words “what if” within their daily worrying. They just focus on the issue or their imagination and begin to worry about anything and everything to the point that they do not have to include the words “what if” in their thought process. Good or what I call “professional” worriers, which also often includes Christians, usually start and finish their day worrying about something for which they have no control. They forget that God is in control of their lives. Obviously, this is not surprising for non-Christians who do not have Christ to rely on and do not trust in Him or His Father to take care of them, but what does this constant worrying mean for Christians who are supposed to trust in God for all things?
When Christians worry they are actually expressing a lack of trust and faith in Christ and His Father, which is a sin. Indeed, worrying is a sin. We know this because a sin is anything that we do that that goes against our becoming righteous in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. We cannot be righteous in the eyes of God when we question God’s authority or question His ability to take care of us. Nor, can we be sin free when we do not have trust and faith in God’s plan for our lives.
Remember, Abraham? Well, Abraham was called by God to go into foreign land and he obeyed God on faith. “Even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith, -- he was a foreigner, living in a tent.”— (Hebrews 11: 9. NLT). Obviously, Abraham had a lot to worry about, such as how to provide food for his family or how to protect them from bad people, but instead of worrying he put all his trust in God to provide and care for him and his people. As a result, Abraham was made righteous by God. In fact, the Lord told the prophet Habakkuk that “the righteous will live by their faith.” -- (Habakkuk 3: 4. NLT). Certainly, Abraham lived by faith and he was deemed righteous by God. So, as redeemed, i.e. Saved children of God, we are to certainly live by faith and not by distrusting God or worrying about something that we have no control over. For God is in control of everything.
The Bible also tells us that “A man cannot please God unless he has faith. Anyone who comes to God must believe that He is. That one must also know that God gives what is promised to the one who keeps on looking for Him.” -- (Hebrews 11: 6. New Life Version). So, for those authentic Christians who believe that Christ is the living Son of God Who redeemed them from their sins and made them righteous before God, they must also live their lives showing their belief and trust in Christ to the world and at the same time disavow any worry or thought processes that denigrate the power of God in their minds to provide, protect, love, and care for His children. The evangelist, John Hagee, said it best when he described this worrying thought process of faithlessness. Hagee said very succinctly, “Worry is practical Atheism.”
What did Hagee mean when he said that “worry is practical atheism”? Well, worrying is not only unbelief in God but unbelief in the power of God to control the universe and everything in it. But, God has a plan for all His children. In fact, God tells us in the book of Jeremiah, “For I know the plans that I have for you… plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” -- (Jeremiah 29: 11-13. NASB). So instead of worrying we are to trust in God and pray to Him for our needs. God will never forsake us!
Worry, is to not only sin, but worry also shows and projects to others unbelief in God. Certainly, we know that those who do not believe in God are called Atheists. Furthermore, by describing worry as “practical atheism”, Hagee is telling us that our worrying actually hurts the heart of God just as God’s heart is hurt by all those people who call themselves Atheists and who do not believe in Him. But I can imagine that God’s heart truly aches when a born-again Christian doesn’t trust enough in God to allow Him to move at His own pace in His will for their lives. Christians are supposed to be His authentic children with full and complete belief in Him and His Son, yet those Christians who constantly worry are actually acting like atheists who did not believe in God. Furthermore, we read in Hebrew 11: 6, that “A man cannot please God unless he has faith.” This means that Christians who worry constantly are being unfaithful to God and are not pleasing God when they worry about things that they have no control over. To please God, we must have faith in Him and believe that He cares about us and that He will take care of us when we can’t take care of ourselves.
Ultimately, worrying means that we are doubting God and His ability to provide and care for us, which also means that we are doubting His ability to provide for our health issues in due time, provide food, lodging, clothing, friends, family, etc. In fact, James, the brother of Jesus, said that “…a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can’t make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do.” -- (James 1: 6, 7. NLT). James is right, for when we worry, we can’t figure out what we can do to make the situation better, so we vacillate between different ideas and outcomes, ultimately not believing that God will be there to guide and provide for us. Instead of worrying, all we need to do is turn the situation, be it a health issue or crisis, over to the Lord. We need to trust in God for His will to be done and then quit worrying.
The Apostle Paul believed God would provide and care for him through all the trials and beatings that he endured. In fact, Paul told the Philippians not to worry about anything and told them: “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – (Philippians 4: 19. NASB). In this verse, Paul was telling the Philippians and us today that we can be confident that God will meet every need in His timing, provided that we obey and trust in Him.
Christians have been given an extra blessing of peace. We just cannot allow the devil and this world to take our peace away by worrying. In fact, Jesus said, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” -- (John 14: 27. NASB). Obviously, worrying produces fear and not peace! Christ our Lord does not want us to either worry or fear. Rather, He wants us to have a peace that passes all understanding. In fact, if we depend on Christ in everything we face, we will find that Christ keeps us from worry and fear, because trusting in Him brings us directly to Him. Indeed, if we trust in Christ and allow His peace to come over us, He will sustain us through every situation. Moreover, Christ will strengthen us and enable us to walk through every situation with victory, because Christ is actually walking beside us.
Finally, Christians are supposed to trust Christ fully. However, when we worry or stress over things that we can do nothing about, we are showing others around us that we do not completely trust in Christ. A better path would be to turn all our worries and anxieties over to God and submit every circumstance, problem, crisis, or health issue over to the Lord. He alone has the power to take care of anything! Moreover, God has our best interest at heart, and He wants to help us. Therefore, we must quit stewing over things for which we have no control and instead lean on God. We can lean on God by praying for strength and faith. For in prayer, our need is immediately connected to God’s supply of strength and faith. God will provide unending love and sustenance. If we obey God, He will provide for all our needs.
I will end with one of my favorite Psalms. It is Psalm 91 which enumerates how God will provide for us in every situation.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may see refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand my fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes and see recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.
Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.”
What a beautiful song of faith and thankfulness. This Psalm teaches us not to worry. Moreover, it tells of the salvation of God. Have you seen the salvation of God? You too can have God’s Salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. All you need to do is believe in the One and only Son of God as the risen Savior who died for your sins and then arose conquering eternal death so that you, i.e. those who believe on Him, can spend eternity with Him and His Father in Heaven. If you repent, i.e. if you ask forgiveness of all your past sins and promise to try not to focus on sinning, Christ will forgive you of your sins. Then if you believe that Christ died on the cross and then arose from death to remove the unrighteousness of human sin from all who will believe on Him and that He is now sitting at the right hand of God in Heaven, you will be saved. For, the Bible says, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus as Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” – (Romans 10: 9-10).
If you are interested in pursuing a service for the Lord such as the service of Active Relational Christian Mentoring, you should check out the book The Three-Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring: Women Mentoring Women with Christ at the Center by Vicky Lynn Thomas. This book is an easy read with lots of examples of the different type of mentoring that a person can engage in. It also contains many mentoring examples from the Bible as well as from present day.