As it says in Philemon: 1:4-7
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Each year around our Thanksgiving table (as I am sure at a lot of homes) we have a tradition of going around the table and saying something we are thankful for. You always try and jockey for the beginning of the line so YOUR thanks is not a repeat of someone else’s. My dad always wraps it up with a tearful reminder of one more year on this earth that he is thankful God has given him. This same dissertation has been given since his heart attack about 30 years ago…so God has blessed him with years. I mean, that first year made sense…but I wonder IF he knew 30 years from then he’d be giving the same speech would he have been so sincere and appreciative back then. (knowing my dad…yes). But as we go around the table we all share the wonderful things God has done…health…family…jobs…restored marriages…births…etc. We have so much to be thankful for and with good reason!
I was thinking about this round table sharing and I wondered “what if”….what if the question was posed “What BAD things in our life are we thankful for?”. What trial could we sing a praise to God for? What negative thing could we truly say, “THANKS GOD!”? Now granted…I can see how we can be thankful for negative things that TURNED POSITIVE for His glory and our learning. BUT I am saying…right now…in the middle of trouble…with NO end in sight…just WHAT can we be thankful for? Being thankful blindly…not knowing the outcome… not knowing the reason…being thankful in the WHY of it all. Praising in the storm…
I think right now of a family about 10 years ago that our men’s group is trying to minister to. As it stands…there was an accident…a husband, a father to a 2 year old…died. The wife is pregnant with their second child. The family is not a Christian family. Basically their hope is NILL. They are in the middle of a storm. They are angry at God…IF there even is a God. They are in the middle of the biggest WHY of all…death! They are in the middle of this WHY without a WHO to know WHERE their hope is. So standing at the table…if we asked them…WHAT are you thankful for this year??? Silence would fill the room…some eyes would look over…some heads would be hung in wonder…we’d wonder how we would answer that. As Christians we have The Hope…The Answer…but I wonder even with all of that how would we answer the question of being thankful.
As a group we were trying to reach out to the family in our own small ways…we want to show that GOD is there…in the midst of the storm…not just at the outcome. His presence IN the storm with us is worthy of THANKS. We don’t know the outcome yet…how long it will last…BUT He is IN the storm. If we are puzzled by the WHY, HE is the PEACE of the puzzle. This might mean WE need to get into the storm with them…to stand beside them. We might have to become the firefighters jumping into the blaze and helping to put it out, not just the people who are thankful and cheering when the fire is out.
We don’t really know what everyone’s trouble is…BUT it is critical to them…it is an emergency to them. It is NOT something to be thankful for…their WHY that is going on may leave them with nothing to be thankful. It might not be a death in the family…BUT it might be a death of a marriage…a death of a job…a death of their spiritual walk.
IF I can encourage any of you…become God’s hands and feet…walk into a storm…a fire…a trial. You might not even know it when you talk with someone that you just entered their personal fire. God may have placed you there at the right time…the right place…to show them GOD is there in the middle of their problems…that we can THANK Him for being their with us…THROUGH it regardless of the outcome.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
I was struck by these verses from Paul…he encouraged the Christians to be thankful…to show kindness to strangers…to enter their lives with the good news of Jesus Christ. BUT what blows me away is when he says, “For which I am in chains”…HE is praising and thanking God for things IN the storm…in the fire…and from inside those troubles he is encouraging US to live our lives in thankfulness and with purpose. When he could be rambling and cursing over his situation…he is saying to keep conversation full of grace…meaning, giving words of hope…even when seemingly undeserved…”seasoned with salt”…flavorful…tasty…as if repeating the verse in Psalms 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” And THAT brings us back to around your Thanksgiving table…while tasting and eating our meal, LISTEN for those at the table who are struggling and may need you to “dish out some Hope”.
Be Bold, Be Blessed, Be Thankful