Every parent absolutely insists on their small child saying, “thank you.” I have yet to run into ONE set of parents that don’t intuitively know that saying, “thank you,” is (1) not only the polite thing to do, (2) the right thing to do, and (3) even at the most selfish level, saying “thank you” is an imperative for the child’s good and future welfare!
Why is that? Our sinful human nature demands that life revolve around what I need and what I want. It seems a “no-brainer” that if I don’t get what I want I will be unhappy. Au contraire.
In this world, every week, there will be times when you won’t get what you want. If our happiness depends otherwise, we’re sunk!
Happiness is not a commodity “outside” of us. Happiness is an “inside” commodity. God is working to shift our focus away from demanding others make us happy, to finding our deepest happiness (satisfaction, contentment, sense of well-being, peace) in and through Him.
One way that shift takes place is with “thanksgiving.” I don’t mean turkey and yams.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1. What do you think it means to give thanks “in” all circumstances?
2. How would the idea be different if “in” was changed to “for”?
3. Paul uses the word “all” in our verse. How does that strike you?
4. According to this verse, how important is it to give thanks?
5. “…For this is the will of God.” Only three times is this phrase used where the writer spells out exactly what God’s will is. This is one of them. Why do you think giving thanks has such an elevated mandate to it?
6. What would happen if we didn’t give thanks in all circumstances?
7. Giving thanks in “good” circumstances is not hard. Giving thanks in “bad” circumstances is another matter! Why is that so hard for us?
8. What are a few circumstances you can give thanks “in”? Include at least one “bad” one.
When I was eight years old, our family took a vacation. I was fascinated with motels that had a swimming pool. We pulled into one motel that didn’t have a pool and I started crying! My dad was livid (after a long day of, “How long ’til we get there? How many more minutes?” Yada, yada, yada). He opened his car door, slammed it shut, and threw open my car door. I knew I was toast. “Why are you crying?” he yelled, with a hot blast. Quick thinking was needed. With all the acting ability I could muster I blubbered, “I’m crying for joy!”
What do we fear will happen to our kid if they become an ungrateful child? We know they will be miserable. Nothing will be enough.
This is not just a phenomenon with kids. Adults mess this up as well, as we’ll see today.
In Exodus 14, Moses leads the people of God through a dry Red Sea seabed into safety and freedom (!) on the other side. They watch as the entire Egyptian army is destroyed as the Red Sea “seawalls” collapse, drowning every last man. Euphoria erupts! The beginning of Exodus 15 is entitled, “The Song of Moses,” a song written to commemorate the day! But the chapter is not over…
Exodus 15:22-24 For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water…. So the people grumbled against Moses…
1. Granted, water is a necessary commodity, but Moses records that euphoria can very quickly be turned to something else! What is it?
The situation worsens…
Exodus 16:2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
2. At first it was “the people” who grumbled (15:24). Who is grumbling now? (16:2).
3. What does this tell you about grumbling?
4. How does a grumbling attitude compare with yeast?
5. Is there something with which you’ve been “grumbling”? Remember, “confession is good for the soul!” Write down your items and a few thoughts in the space below.
6. Ask God to give you power to address the grumbling “yeast” inside you.
Giving thanks is hard to do when circumstances are “hard.” Giving thanks, then, is not based on the difficulty of our circumstances but is rooted in the character of God. If we did not believe that our God is a Redeemer God, giving thanks would be nothing more than a “psychological crutch,” an attempt to trick ourselves into a more “positive attitude.”
In God’s providence, even the blackest days are not beyond God’s redemptive hand.
In each of the biblical episodes below, jot down any thoughts you have about the character in “dark days” and/or what God did through those dark days…
1a. Joseph was falsely accused of sexual assault and wrongly imprisoned for 13-14 years.
1b. Joseph is released from prison and promoted to #2 in all of Egypt. His plan to deal with drought not only saved Egypt and his own people, but reunited him with his father and brothers.
2a. Ezekiel is told by God not to mourn over the loss of his wife! (That’s not a standard for us to emulate. That’s not a mark of “spiritual maturity.”)
Ezekiel 24:15 The word of the LORD came to me: 16 “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. 17 Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food [of mourners].”
Ezekiel 24:20 So I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me: 21 Say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary–the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. 22 And you will do as I have done. You will not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food [of mourners]. 23 You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. 24 Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.’
3. God is able to take the bleakest of the bleak–imprisonment and even the death of our loved ones, and move redemptively through them. It may not seem like it or feel like it now, but in the long run, we will see the faithfulness of God! Jot down your thoughts from today’s study.
Fear, anxiety, worry–we are well-acquainted with them. How do we “fight” them off? We pray. We read the word. We memorize a new verse or review some old ones–all good things to do. There is another “weapon” we usually leave out of the “fight.” Thanksgiving.
Philippians 4:6-7 Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
1. What does Paul say it is “OK” to be anxious about?
2. He says, “anything.” Really? Does that include times when you’re family is just barely eking by financially? Does it include surviving month to month, waiting for the next paycheck? Does it include the likely loss of your family business? Does God know we are going through this? Does God care? Record your real thoughts below…
3. Would God really allow calamities like this? Read:
Haggai 1:2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.'” 3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
4. Did God know and did He care about the people’s financial calamities?
7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”
5. God, far from not knowing or not caring about their shrinking finances, was actively engaged in the shrinking of their financial resources
What do you think God was trying to do through the loss of financial resources?
a. What did He want them to do?
b. What did He want them to value more?
6. How does today’s study change how you think about finances and/or anxiety?
Before I became a Christian I was a “prisoner” to my circumstances. But the gospel announces that I am “freed” with regard to circumstances. This is not just wishful thinking or “positive mental attitude.” That’s a “dog and pony show.” …cheap parlor tricks.
Our attitude is rooted in the nature and character of God, but it is grown and cultivated by reminding ourselves in the truth of God. One way that occurs is by giving thanks to God.
1. What is the difference between “giving thanks to God” and “being thankful?
2. Let’s use the rest of this study to let the rubber meet the road!
How do I give thanks when my circumstances are so bad?
When the people of God were in captivity, the prophets had them LOOK BACK! He called them to remember better days.
Before David became king he was a wanted man, a man with a large posse after him. He hid in caves and ditches. He traveled at night and slept in the day to avoid detection and capture. They were dim times. Here’s how he dealt with his dark days.
Psalm 42:4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
What things strike you about this verse? Write them below…
When days are dark, sometimes the prophets exhorted the people to LOOK FORWARD!
In this passage the people of God had been taken into captivity. They had lost their homes, businesses and homeland.
Isaiah 51:3 The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
What strikes you about this verse?
What strikes you about either “Reminisce” or “Anticipate?”
Vocalize your thanks to God.