In Everything Give Thanks?

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Surely when Paul wrote these words he was exaggerating, right? There are some situations and circumstances where we can’t possibly find anything to give thanks for, aren’t there? Consider these words by the great 18th century preacher and scholar Matthew Henry, entered in his diary after he was robbed, “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not someone else.”

         I think in Henry’s words, especially in that last part, we can see the secret to being thankful in everything: it is to be less focused on ourselves and what happens to us and more focused on others and what happens to them. Paul said it like this, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3,4). In Romans 12:15 he wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

         Believers, who, in everything give thanks, see opportunities for serving others instead of focusing on their own problems. They have an “others” focus. They may not have two nickels to rub together but they’ve got a kind word to those who need to hear it. These folks are able to go to bed at night, with thanksgiving in their hearts, because God has blessed them with people to serve.

Brad Fry

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Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 6:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Servants for Life

No doubt you’ve known people whose aim in life apparently was to do as little as they could get by with. Their question is not, “What can I do?” but “What do I have to do?” These are the clock-watchers at work, the Sunday morning pew warmers at church, and the eternal excuse makers for anything that requires a sacrifice of their time, their resources or their effort.

         Then there are those who are constantly working but are also constantly dissatisfied with the good they do because their works are not of the headline grabbing nature, or even if they are, no one seems to be reading the headlines. Pretty soon they burn out and drop out because they don’t feel appreciated. They then become bitter, resentful and generally not very pleasant to be around.

         John Calvin spoke to both of these when he wrote, “Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the smallness of our accomplishments.” The one who does less than he can lives below his privilege and potential. God has blessed him with certain talents to use for the increase of the kingdom. To do less is to incur the wrath of the King (Matthew 25:24-30). The servant who quits because he feels taken for granted makes the sad mistake of doing what he does “to be seen of men.” Jesus warns that such “have their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2). In other words, no appreciation from God.

         Then there is the third. This is the Christian who quietly goes about his or her business doing the work of the Lord. Whether they are teaching, cooking, cleaning, mowing or fixing someone’s car, they do what they do because God is honored by their service (Colossians 3:17). They don’t try to get by with doing just enough to ease their conscience because there’s always more that needs to be done. They don’t throw in the towel when people fail to notice because it is God’s eye they seek to catch, not man’s. These are servants for life. And life certainly needs more of them.

Brad Fry

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Caught

Occasionally when John 8:1-11 is being discussed, it is interesting to note some of the emphases and suppositions many make about the event. This is the record of the woman caught in adultery. Some wonder where the man is with whom the woman was committing adultery and why he isn’t being charged. Others suppose that the woman has been set up and being used as a pawn in this trap to corner Jesus. Still others portray her as an entirely sympathetic character who probably had no choice but to do what she did.

         While there may be some merit to differing degrees to some of these points, I wonder if they have been made so much that we’ve missed God’s point. What we know precisely of this woman from the text is that she was caught committing adultery. She may have been the pitiable character described above. Or, for all we know, she may have been a brazen reprobate with a calloused conscience who was cheating on her husband and neglecting her kids. She may have been a loose living home-wrecker who was having an affair with another woman’s husband. We just don’t know whether she was more deserving of sympathy or scorn. We do know this—she was caught in adultery. Then she stood before Jesus. And Jesus not only disarmed her self-righteous accusers from being able to condemn her, he himself passed over condemning her, even though he was the only one fit to do so.

         Could it be that one of the reasons some want to see the woman less culpable for her situation is that otherwise our standard for forgiveness and justice is turned on its head? If she is to be forgiven, don’t we want her to deserve it? Must not there be some extenuating circumstance that makes the grace shown her more merited? But that’s the thing about grace—it’s never merited. Grace is not just for people who’ve done annoying things. Grace is for people who’ve done abominable things.

         Make no mistake about it. Anyone who remains unrepentant in their sin before God stands condemned. But for some people, there is something that happens when you stand before Jesus and you are vulnerable, helpless and have nowhere to turn. That can strip down pride and prompt true repentance. That can break a hard heart and make it useful for the Master.

         Jesus’ parting words for the woman were, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” When she came she had been caught in adultery. When she left she was caught in grace.

 Brad Fry

Published in: on November 3, 2010 at 11:39 am  Comments (2)  
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