Saturday I sat in a Muskoka chair in Erie, PA. We met a pastoral couple two years ago and they let us borrow their missionary home for the weekend. There was a man-made pond and the church in the backdrop as I sat. I was reading a book by Piper on the iPad and my feet were elevated. He wrote ‘when we rake we only get leaves, but when we dig, we can find diamonds’. I liked that. That was one of the many things that resonated with me that day. I read…I reflected…I repented…and I thanked.
We’re halfway through a series on prayer. We started by seeing the awesomeness of God in adoration. We spent some time in the dirt as we looked at confession. And now we’re going to hang over thanksgiving. If you missed the first two posts, go back and read them. Right now. Yeh, you. Go back, right now because they all go together. Not later, but now. Have you gone back?
How often do you look in the rear view mirror in your life and ponder and thank Him? I forget to do that more than I care to admit. Too often I sound like a Janet Jackson song: ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately?’ when really I should echo the words of James:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3 ESV)
I want to joy in my trials and be thankful and we’ll get there but I want to talk about three broad categories that we need to be thankful for.
Too often in prayer we look down the road where we’re going with our needs and we race to the requests without looking back and being thankful for what we have. There’s a phrase I want you to remember in a little section from Philippians 4.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
You can skate right past two little words but I want us to linger over with thanksgiving. We need to pray with thanksgiving. It increases our faith as we look to the past to see what He has provided and the jams that He got us out of and the grace that carried us through when we didn’t think that we could have lasted another hour without going insane. I don’t say that superficially because times can be really, really hard. So we have three things that I want to mention that we can be thankful for: the temporary, the eternal, and the hard.
The Bible says that [God] richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17b ESV) We have temporary things to enjoy. I regularly dig through the buck bin at used CD shops to find treasures. I enjoy good food and like to try new recipes, from time to time. I love telling people about the bacon burger dog. You wrap a wiener with ground beef and then wrap that with bacon. Five minutes on each side on the barby and you’re good to go…and only the biggest mouths can eat it with a bun! Time with friends and family playing board games. Bonita gave me a game called Ticket to Ride and the two of us went away for a week and she beat me something like forty-nine times out of fifty. A few years ago we taught the girls to play Euchre and we’ve made memories. Food, music, and games…many of the simple things to enjoy with loved ones and thank God for.
We’re also to be thankful for the spiritual. Ephesians 1 reminds us again and again about the believer’s identity in Christ. Let me just do a fly by of the first few verses to remind us to be thankful for the things that are spiritual. Listen to how full the believer’s spiritual pockets are: every spiritual blessing…chosen before the foundation of the world…predestined… adopted…redeemed through Christ’s blood…forgiven…lavished (I love that word) with grace…having the mystery of Christ unlocked for us…a spiritual inheritance….sealed by the Spirit of God. Many of us have heard those truths again and again but allow them to volt your spiritual system like a stun gun. You and I didn’t deserve any of those things! Christ took the paddles to our spiritually dead carcasses and pumped life through our veins. Do we have reason to be thankful for spiritual blessings? That’s a rhetorical question…you don’t answer…you just lift up your hands in praise and shout out ‘thanks be to God!’
James 1:2-3 reminds us also to be thankful for the hard. I don’t know your hard but I know my hard…and you know what? It’s hard. Trials make us rely on God. Trials cause us to come to Him with empty hands and get a better clue on how dependant we are. Trials test our faith and it produces something in us…steadfastness. And as you look in the rear view mirror at the trials of the past you’ll remember ‘Tis grace that brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home’. Thank Him. Thank Him for something as simple as a great meal with friends…for something as heart-stopping as forgiveness…and thank Him for the hard times where you know, you only coped, by His grace.