Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thess 5:18
So don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 And don't get drunk with wine, which [leads to] reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit: 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music to the Lord in your heart, 20 giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,- Eph. 5:17-20The scriptures tell us to be always thankful, constantly in a state of thanksgiving?!?! How is this possible when we live in such a broken age? On a daily basis nothing goes as smooth as we had hoped, and we never quite reach our full potential, we constantly fall short of what we know deep down we are capable of. How are we to then be thankful?
To start with we must acknowledge our own total depravity. Jesus speaks to His beloved church (those that are saved) and says this...
Because you say, 'I'm rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,' and you don't know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. - Rev. 3:17-19Do we as western Christians have the confession that we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked!!!! These words are so intense! When was the last time in a prayer time you spent time meditating upon the fact that you are wretched? Thank goodness that we know the heart of Jesus ... the one I discipline is the one I love ... He says. Jesus would rather tell us the truth now about our current barrenness to show us our true reality so that we are not deceived in thinking we are something when we are really nothing.
What does this have to do with living a life of thanksgiving?
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. 4 But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, 5made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved!6 He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in [His] kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift- 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are His creation-created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:1-10The reality is that we are all by nature children of wrath and deserve a lake of fire. But God in His great mercy had His own divine Son endure our hell in our place so that we could be forgiven and be reconciled to Himself! I don't know about you but if I really believed that every breath I take on a daily basis is a direct gift of the mercy of God I would be the most thankful man on the planet. If I really understood my depravity that has been forgiven and punished in full in Christ then I would never let a moment of sanity of mind go by without giving God praise for not giving me over to what I really deserve. The more fully we understand the depths of our depravity the more we will see the heights of God's love for us..... and this will lead us into a life of extravagant thankfulness.
In the church I was told to alway have a positive confession otherwise I would "curse" myself.... Anytime I started to mourn over my barrenness I was told... "You only want to speak life brother" Oh how we allow man to talk us out of being poor in spirit and mourning over our lack (Matt 5:3-4 the first two beatitudes which are the foundations of the kingdom of God) .... I totally agree that we need to be extremely careful with out words but we need to agree with Jesus words when he calls wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked? (agreement with God is the definition of humility). But instead of owning these words we write these scriptures off so quickly and say "Oh man what was that church doing that would cause Jesus to talk like that to her?" (As if we are better off now) Ha... If Jesus said that to His church then, He surely in love says it to His church now.
For me the most joyful moments I have ever had in the grace of God are when I am taking communion and by revelation the sufferings of Christ become a little more real, His blood seems a little bit closer, and His resurrection seems that much more tangible. It is in these moments that I can see with just a moment of clarity what I deserve, what He endured, what I have been forgiven, and what I will someday be like.... conformed into the image of Christ at the resurrection. When the Spirit breaths on these things and my blindness is lifted momentarily then I experience a joy like Peter says is "inexpressible and full of glory". Oh to live in that place continually... for this is true bliss!
For me the most miserable existence is when my depraved self nature starts raging and I start to feel entitled to power (anointing), influence (a big ministry), money (ministry support), esteem, etc. When I subtly start to feel like I am being overlooked, or I size myself up against other people and think I could do "that" better.... "why are they in leadership.... I could have preached that sermon better".... etc. When I start giving into those very subtle undertones then I know that I am about to be caught in a world of despair. For pride is a prison of staring in a mirror of a false self conception that makes you seem a little bigger, faster, stronger, brighter, more noble, more loving, more humble, more beautiful than you really are according to the flesh.... For paul said I know that in my flesh nothing good dwells.
The fastest way out of that prison of selfish deceit is to go to the foot of the cross, gaze at what I deserve; gaze at Him taking my place... until I start to believe again that I deserve Hell but have been gloriously forgiven! When I start to believe that I deserve Hell in light of the cross a strange phenomenon comes upon me... I start to feel thankful that I am saved... I start to be thankful... I start to glory in nothing but the cross again. and I start to feel a joy bubble up that transcends the circumstances of this age.
I find that pride, and self sufficiency, are the most deceptive and most miserable of all things... find a miserable person and find a prideful person (those who feel like their life has been unfair; like they deserve better; like they got the short end of the stick). This life will always be a let down to those who are carnally minded. For deep down we all know that our original design was far more capable... far more glorious and we are constantly falling short (though we subconsciously demand that others relate to us based on our original design not our fallen nature) for God's original design still has its fingerprints burned upon our hearts. We know that things just aren't right. But in light of the cross all entitlement must die... and realize that even on our worst day we have received far better than what we deserve. I love the song that Misty Edwards sings.
You own me nothing I deserve Hell, You owe me nothing but you have given me mercy. Praise the Lord oh my soul, praise the Lord!
This should become the anthem of the millennial generation who some say is the most narcissistic people to ever walk the earth.
I believe that if we change our gaze away from our "callings/talents" to the cross we will stop thinking about how overlooked we are and we will see the absolute glory of having our sins forgiven! Our sins being forgiven is not the whole gospel message (for forgiveness is unto the reconciliation of intimate relationship with God). Oh but what a glorious reality that our sins have been forgiven! I think we should camp out there a while until our hearts begin to bubble up with a joy that no one can take from us. This will surely lead us into a life of thanksgiving.