In this season of focusing on thanks, we can reflect back on being part of a church or family group where we sat in a circle and told the others about those for whom we were thankful. Or perhaps there were other items of thanksgiving shared such as a job, an item or an honor we had received, etc. Many times we heard a lot of repetition as we went around the circle. We certainly do not want to doubt the sincerity of those who participated, but I find that those who have faced adversity in their lives seem to have a better and deeper understanding of true thanksgiving. We hear their testimonies of how God brought them through these adversities and we are moved to a deeper level of thanks for what we have and what God has done for us through His Son.
There are two people in Scripture that stand out to me as those expressing thanks through extreme adversity. In the Old Testament, one who stands out is Job. Most of us cannot even begin to imagine his life. He is a good and prosperous man who loses everything that we all hold dear. These losses include his offspring, his health and his property. God allowed Satan to take these things from him and yet Job said these famous words: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord giveth and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21 Later, God allowed Satan to cover Job’s body with painful sores from head to feet. His wife wanted him to curse God and die! His closest friends dialogued with him and yet Job preached back at them. Read through all 42 chapters and you will see that God blessed Job again by doubling all he had enjoyed before his time of testing. Job is an outstanding example of thankfulness. In the New Testament, I think of the Apostle Paul. Much of the New Testament was written as divinely inspired from God through the pen of Paul. He wrote many of those letters from prison where he was beaten and suffered in chains for his faith and testimony. Yet, Paul continued to praise God and share the Gospel with the churches in different cities where he had planted congregations. After Paul had persecuted Christians, he went through a dramatic conversion and completely turned his life around to win thousands of people to Christ. Paul, like many of the Old Testaments prophets, was not always popular.
He spoke boldly the message of the Cross to those who were his enemies. He also had his mysterious “thorn in the flesh.” Yet, in many of his epistles (letters) Paul offered genuine
thanksgiving to God. You can read his prayers of thanksgiving throughout his letters, including Philippians 1:3-5.
And today, I think of those who are suffering for their faith around the world. So far, we have it pretty easy in the United States as Christians. Then there are those who are suffering physically and especially those who are ravaged from cancer. In my own family, my brother Mark, and his wife Cheri, are both dealing with cancer. Here in our church family, we have many suffering from disease and especially cancer. One of my good friends at Tates Creek was struck by cancer earlier this year at age 29. I have witnessed his testimony of appreciation and thanksgiving for those who have ministered to him through his posts on Facebook.
Now, remember the group where we sat in a circle? If we were to do that today, I would hope that we would be able to sincerely express our thanks in a deeper way. Yes, it is very difficult to be thankful through the hard times. But the hard times can make us stronger and more thankful for the important things. This song, from the pen of Lanny Wolfe, is a great reminder to us.
In Everything Give Thanks
In everything give Him the thanks, all the thanks. In the good times, praise His name, in the bad times do the same; In everything give the King of kings all the thanks! With all the good things that had come his way, It’s no wonder you could hear Job say: ‘The Lord giveth and He taketh away, I’ll give Him thanks;’ But when the tables were all turned around, And Job’s world came crashing down, His faith in God caused Job to say, ‘I’ll still give Him thanks!’ When troubles come, and there’s no one around, Satan tries to tell me that God’s let me down; Through every dark hour the best thing I’ve found Is to give my God thanks; For He has never failed me yet, so why should I start now to worry or fret? In everything I won’t ever forget to give God thanks!
Don Seevers, Worship Minister