2018-11-23 - Thanks
Originally Published 2013-11-29
Editor's Note: I know that you guys and we staff miss Adam's writing every week! But God has been keeping Adam very busy with many church-related activities, and I know that God is planting many seeds of devotional ideas for him, when things settle down a bit! Meanwhile, here is a poignant encore of his from five years ago.
Author’s Note: This devotional is based on a message preached to my church's youth group on November 20, 2013, the last Wednesday before the Thanksgiving break. I hope it will help you, as you celebrate Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday season. Adam Cain
For what are we thankful? When I asked this question, I got several responses. People were thankful for clothes, friends, family, and being well-fed. Overall, it was one blessing after another.
Then came the next question. Do we share that with others? Crickets began chirping in the silence. It seems we are thankful for many blessings, but we don't tell others about the blessings we have from God.
I would like us to look at thankfulness in a new light, so let me share a few things for which I am genuinely thankful to God. I’m thankful for the time I had with Dad. I’m thankful he is dead now, too, though. God is good, and he healed him in the best way possible. For me, to wish that he was still here would be selfish.
I am thankful for the crazy amount of work I currently have at work. God led me there, and he will lead me through it.
I’m also thankful my starter went bad last week. Had it held on for two more weeks, we’d have been in much worse shape, so I can see God in control there even. There's been a lot going on in my life, this year - both good and bad - but I am most thankful for the bad. I've learned to be thankful in those times, even though it has not been easy.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) - 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
These sound an awful lot like commands don't they? They are commands, so pay attention. Rejoice when? Pray when? Give thanks when? Always, without ceasing, and in everything. Now I don't run around, jumping pews and shouting “GLORY!” all day long, but I should have a rejoicing spirit inside, all day. I cannot bow my head and close my eyes to pray, 24/7. But I can slip in and out of prayer, in my mind, throughout the day, so as to be in a perpetual state of prayer. And even in the worst parts of the day - when I'm facing a meeting to discuss a meeting on why we have so many meetings - I can still have a thankful heart.
This has been a crazy year for me, and for some of you. Back in December of last year, my dad had an obstruction in his intestines. In February, the doctors determined it needed to be resolved. In March or April, it was cancer, but they got it all. Then my dad faced setback after setback. Finally, after a few months in the hospital, everything was going well - and Dad was finally coming home. They were sending him to rehab for a couple of weeks, to get his strength up, but then my dad would be home, and all would be normal in the universe again. That's when the cancer came again, and he was eaten up with it. Two weeks later, he was gone. In the midst of all this, the crazy pace of my career as a DBA manager was taking its toll, and I was working massive amounts of overtime, and still getting further behind in a project that was constantly changing.
In all of this, verses like those in 1 Thessalonians cried out to me and haunted me. This year was an opportunity to not just share what I believed, but live it out before others. If the word of God is true and worth giving my life over to it, then I had to give thanks in these times. Luckily, a friend at work gave me a small piece of advice, and it changed so much. He encouraged me to pray often with my parents, when I'd visit. That was some of the best advice I was ever given. I didn't know what to pray. At first, I prayed for Dad to get better. Then my prayers asked God to just have his will. And then, I prayed for him to be glorified in the circumstances. So I prayed that God would be in control, and that he would be glorified in it. That took the worry away from me, and placed it on God.
Worry and thankfulness are bundled together in another verse.
Philippians 4:6 (NIrV) - Don’t worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him.
Here is a verse that defies logic. Don’t worry about anything - my career, my dad, nothing, but instead, give thanks for it. Whoa - what was that, again? Worry and thanks sit as opposing bookends on this verse. Worrisome situations exist, and they will come. But when they do, don't worry; instead, tell God. The cool thing is that God already knows about them, but he longs to hear them from you, so that you can give them to him so he can be glorified in them. Tell him, then ask him to deal with it. And that brings us to the other end where we give thanks to him.
A man I met through the chaotic work project once told me about a book he read that talked about getting rid of monkeys – you know, those pesky ones that get on your back and beat at you. This term emerged in the late 1800s, to describe someone who was bothered and in a bad mood by something that wouldn't go away. The man I know told me it was best to offload those monkeys as fast as you can. And he joked that his office was a monkey-free zone, but the desk of an employee of his was crawling with them. He offloaded them on her. Well I have a monkey-free zone, too. With every monkey that comes, I grab it and toss it to God. His back is far bigger than mine, and I know he can take them. But I don't just throw the monkeys to him, I give him thanks for taking each one, too. Don’t worry - Give thanks.
We have already looked at a passage about thanks, by itself, as well as one about giving thanks, so now let's look at a quote from Jesus on the subject of worry.
Matthew 6:25-34 (NASB) - 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
People spend their energy, their time, their lives worrying about so many things. What if this? What if that? Jesus says clearly, here, not to worry. It is a command, obviously an important one, as it appears three times in this short passage, and he tells us how to do it. Put God first, and then the other things will fall into place. If you know you're putting God first, you won't need to worry about the other stuff. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Those who are called according to his purpose are those who are putting him first, so while I may not understand everything, I can trust that everything will work for good. I can trust him and thank him. I may not understand this until eternity, but I know it will be the case.
This is what has gotten me through the year. Putting God first has allowed me to endure all of life's problems, and not fall apart. God’s will was before my own with my dad. God’s glory is above my own in my work. And with his will, way, and glory getting preeminence in my life, the rest of the stuff is falling into place. I don’t have to worry.
So now’s your chance to thank God for what he is doing in your life. Whether you have school issues, pet issues, family issues, BFF issues, boy/girlfriend issues or some kind of other tissue issue that keeps you crying, can you give thanks to God during it? If not, is it because you don’t really trust him? Can you give thanks to God for letting you be right where you are in your life? Just say thanks for letting me go through this thing, and help me to learn whatever I am to learn, and to be whatever you want me to be - right here, right now.
All scripture references from King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise noted