|Vol. 14 No. 11 November 2012||
As Christians, living a life of thanksgiving should be as natural for us as breathing. We need to be thankful for life itself. Why? God holds our breath in His hand and owns all our ways (Daniel 5:23). We need to be thankful for our health. Why? Any and all measures of health and strength are ours because it is in God that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). We need to be thankful for provision and protection. Why? God gives us richly all things to enjoy, and because of Him, we dwell in safety (1 Timothy 6:17; Psalm 4:8). This perpetual mindset is conveyed in Psalm 140:13. “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence.”
First Thessalonians 5:18 is very direct in expressing why we are to constantly be thankful. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV). Giving thanks in all circumstances is an outgrowth of our faith and trust based on a right relationship with God. Even through the worst times, we give thanks because we understand as long as we live in this fallen, sin-filled and sin-cursed world, “bad” is inevitable. Since “bad” is inevitable, it must be rightly endured. We also give thanks as we realize many circumstances will be bad, but they could get worse!
Through the good times and through the bad times, God is good. David declared, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). His strength becomes our strength when we endure in the obedience of faith with thanksgiving. Personal conviction of always being thankful, no matter what, will resonate in our lives when we truly recognize we are totally dependent on God for everything.
As children of God led by the Spirit and not by the sinful lusts and deeds of the flesh, we are to be the most thankful people on earth. Every spiritual, physical, mental and material blessing is ours because of who God is as our Father. Giving thanks for God’s providential goodness is stated four times in Psalm 107. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (verses 8, 15, 21, 31). Giving of thanks is reiterated so often in the Psalms. Psalm 92:1-2 specifically states when we should be thankful. “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night.”
The title of my article last month was “Trust in the Lord – Always!” Years ago one of our preachers in the brotherhood said, “It is easier to obey God than it is to trust Him because we do not know the duration, the extent, the frequency or the outcome of trusting in God.” Trust in God keeps us thankful. When our hearts overflow with thanksgiving for all that God has done, is doing and will continue to do for us, we experience the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). We can then say as David did in Psalm 86:12, “I give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify Your name forever.”
Before an individual obeys the commands of God to be immersed in water for the remissions of one’s sin (Acts 2:38), that person is a child of the Devil. After one is baptized, the person becomes a child of God (Acts 22:16). When one lives in sin, Satan is happy, and when one obeys God’s commands, God rejoices.
I believe there are times when the Devil is shouting for joy over the actions of people here on earth. Each time a child of the Devil hears the plan of salvation and does not respond to it, the Devil rejoices. God sheds tears of sorrow each time a sinner fails to respond to the saving power of the blood of Christ (2 Peter 3:9).
However, I believe that the Devil has greater joy when a child of God sins. The apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). These words were written to Christians. Satan is roaming the world like a hungry lion searching for his dinner. Peter went on to say in verse nine that we should be strong in our faith, knowing that our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering as are we. The children of the world are already the sons of the Devil, and he rejoices when they continue to walk in the ways of the world. However, he is diligently searching for ways to tempt the child of God to sin, and he is exceedingly glad when God’s children fall into the snares he has laid out for each of us. When we sin, and do not repent of that sin, Satan rejoices all the more.
One of the greatest joys the Devil has is when brothers and sisters in Christ fuss and fight with one another. Satan truly rejoices when we allow our personal wants and needs to overshadow the greater good in the work of the Lord. Matthew 7:12 states, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus clearly taught that we ought to put others before ourselves. He further taught in Mark 12:31 that there is no greater law than to love others as we love ourselves.
John penned, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church” (3 John 9-10). Diotrephes tried to put himself above others in the church, making decisions for the congregation that were not his to make. If John were to visit the congregation as he hoped, he planned to make Diotrephes’ actions known and rebuke him. In verse eleven, John compared Diotrephes’ actions with evil and encouraged Gaius (and us) not to imitate the evil actions of Diotrephes.
The Devil also rejoices when brothers and sisters fuss and fight! However, God also sheds great tears of sorrow when His children cannot get along. Strife within the body of Christ brings the work of the church to a halt; when God’s children are not working, Satan is rejoicing. It is extremely difficult to bring the lost to Christ when God’s children are fighting among themselves. Who wants to be a part of a group of Christians who do not show love for one another? First Corinthians 13:4-5 gives the definition of love, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.” When we love one another, we will be patient, kind and humble. We will not let our pride interfere with the one job Christ gave each Christian – to teach others about the saving power of the blood of Christ (Matthew 28: 18-20).
The Devil is rejoicing because Christians around the world are putting their desires above the greater good of the congregations in which they are members. God is shedding tears of sorrow because brothers and sisters in Christ have stopped working together to spread the Gospel, but instead they are fussing and fighting, demanding that their ideas, methods and desires are more important. Shame on us! Let us follow the words of Paul, “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13-14).