Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thank You Theology

Is it possible to give thanks and to rejoice no matter what circumstance you find yourself in?  It is if you know the true character of God.

One of the simplest commands given to Christians in the New Testament is I Thessalonians 5:18:  “Give thanks in all circumstances” (NIV).  Five simple, easy-to-obey command is this:  “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4).  Rejoice! Give thanks!  That’s easy to do when things are going well.  But how about when we’ve just lost our job?  Or when we’re laid up with the flue for weeks?  Worse yet, what if we learn that cancer is ravaging our body?  Or a close relative—perhaps our spouse—dies?  Rejoice? Give thanks?  You’ve got to be kidding!

No, the Apostle Paul wasn’t kidding.  He meant every word, for he knew the God revealed in the Bible.

The Old Heidelberg Catechism from the Reformation says that God will take all evil and turn it “to my good, for He is able to do it, being almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful Father.”

God is able and willing.
The Psalmist said that God “determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit”  (Ps. 147:4,5).  The Prophet Isaiah declared about God: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.  I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster;  I, the Lord, do all these things”  (Isa. 45:6,7).

 Since God has set the stars in place, since He has formed light and darkness, surely He can take each one of us through every adversity and use it for our good.  He is able to do it, being Almighty God.

Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”  (Matt. 10:29,30).

Our God is involved with every detail of our lives.  He has numbered the hairs of our head and has promised to provide for our daily needs (6:31-33).  Certainly He wants to work good out of every evil.  He is willing to do it, being a faithful Father.

Paul knew that God is able and willing.  This is why he wrote those familiar words of Romans 8:28.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  God works all things to our good.  Therefore, we can rejoice, no matter what the adversity.  We can give thanks, no matter what our present burden.

But how and for what should we give thanks?  The Bible first of all tells us to thank God:
“Sacrifice thank offerings to God” (Ps. 50:14).
“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name.  O Most High” (92:1).
“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High” (92:1).
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name”  (105:1).
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Co. 4:2).
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13: 15).

The very heart of our spirit of thankfulness is our praise to the God who is able and willing.
The Bible also notes many specifics for which we should thank God.  We should thank Him because He created the world (Ps. 136:1-9), because He provides us with our daily food and drink (104:1,14,15), and because of His faithfulness (89:1,2)  We should especially thank Him because He has saved us from our sin and misery.

The Psalmist declared, “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us should aloud to the Rock of our salvation” (95:1).  In the New Testament, Paul concluded his discourse on salvation by grace through faith with this wonderful doxology:
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?  Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever!”  (Rom. 11:34-36).

When we consider the totally undeserved salvation we have received from God at the cost of His own dear Son, can we do less than praise His name?  can we do anything other than offer our songs of thanksgiving, no matter what our present situation?

Not only are we to thank God for your eternal salvation, but we are also to praise Him for temporal deliverance.  Again, we see this exemplified time after time on the pages of inspired Scripture.

Psalm 30 is an example.  David praised God for deliverance from his enemies (v.1), sickness (v2) and sorrow (v.5).  The Psalm culminated with these wonderful words of praise “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (vv.11,12).  We can rejoice and give thanks, even when our present situation seems bleak.

 Knowing how to give thanks is also important.  First, we’re to praise God with our lips.  The Bible is full of examples of both Old and New Testament saints offering their praises to God.  We are to be like them, to “sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in [our] hearts to God” (col. 3”16).

This praise is to be specific—not just a general “Thank You, Lord, for everything.” 
We’re to praise God for specific items of food and clothing, for your homes, our families, our trials, deliverance from our enemies, recovery from sickness, the healing balm He places on our souls to turn our sorrow into joy.

But if our praise is only on our lips and does not come from our hearts, it is futile.  We’re to have “gratitude in our hearts.”  Heartfelt praise is manifested by the way we live.  After praising God for our salvation through Jesus Christ, Paul immediately exhorted us “in view of God’s mercy, to offer [our] bodies as living scarifies, holy and pleasing to God”  (Rom. 12:1).  Being a living sacrifice means not being conformed “any longer to be pattern of this world” but being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v.2).  Heartfelt praise means doing God’s will.

We can praise God with our lips all we want.  We can praise Him for our food drink and shelter.    We can than Him for Christ’s death at Calvary.  We can even outwardly rejoice in times of adversity and thank Him profusely in spite of every sickness, sorrow and tragedy.  But if we continue to disobey God’s commands, we have missed the whole point of thankfulness.

Suppose you knew a child who continually spurned his parents’ discipline—always talking back to them,   even cursing them behind their backs.   Suppose that when he grew up, he refused to help them when they became old and frail.  You would have one word for him—ingrate.   No matter how thankful he claimed to be, you wouldn’t believe him.

Is it any different with our Heavenly Father?  If we refuse to honor Him, if w disobey Him, if we curse Him by the way we live, we aren’t thankful.  Our words are hollow.  True thankfulness is more than lip service—it’s life service.

Biblical thanksgiving requires that sort of thankfulness in every situation.  It means being thankful even when things go from bad to worse. And it demands that we express our thanks by an obedient life.  But if we know that God Almighty is also a heavenly Father and the He has poured out His love to us through Jesus Christ, His Son, we will be thankful.

We will know what Paul meant when he told us to give thanks and to rejoice in  everything.   And we will joyfully offer ourselves as living sacrifices of thanksgiving, no matter what the circumstances.  CL
                                                                                       by  D Erlandson

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