In All Circumstances
We can be thankful in all things, both the blessings and the difficult circumstances.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Doing alright today? Well, I trust so.
This is a special day for some folks I know. Somebody’s got a birthday, somebody has a wedding anniversary, and somebody is remembering that a loved one slipped away on this day. Life is made up of a lot of different memories, isn’t it? Well, the genius, the genius of the Christian life is that God sanctifies all of those components so you could look at them without wincing or without being unduly either exalted or depressed. You’re in His care. Your memories are sanctified by Jesus when you’re His. Aren’t you glad that’s so?
That’s what comes to me as I look at 1 Thessalonians 1:2, “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Christ, and in the sight of God and our Father.” He says, “We give thanks to God always for you all.” We tend to be selective in our feelings about people. There’s some folk, when they arrive, we say, “Thank God you’ve come!” And there are other folk, who when they leave, are the object of a – if not verbalized, at least mental – statement, “Thank God he’s gone!”
Now, the… See, we’re dealing with the Christian faith, and the Christian faith is more than a religious point of view – it’s a continuing miracle. Here’s one of them: to be able to look at any person or group of people and be truly thankful. “We thank God, give thanks to God always for you all.” Now, the essence of it is thanksgiving. The timing is always, the object is everybody. The reason is given then, in verse 3: “Remembering your work of faith, labor of love, and patience, and hope.” “We give thanks to God.”
You see, you go over to Romans 1, and the prime reason why God is against the godless is because that when they knew God, “they glorified Him not as God, neither were…” What’s the next word, do you remember? “Neither were thankful.” Ingratitude is at the basis of the unsaved heart’s quarrel against God. Ingratitude. I’ve had people growl and say, “Well, God hasn’t done much for me lately!” For shame. How much He’s done for every one of us actually, but we give thanks.
So the first thing I want to stop on today is just to ask myself and to ask you, beloved, “How grateful are we about anything?” I tend, when I come to God, to see Him on my needs, don’t you? I found myself doing that this morning, because I pray earnestly before I approach these microphones. I have to get in touch with God or else there, there isn’t anything that’s going to help you. I know that. But I found myself praying, “Lord help me with this and that and the other.”
And it certainly occurred to me quite apart from my consideration of the text. It, just, the Spirit of God whispered to my heart: “You’d better thank God for what He has done for you,” and I did. I’m thankful that He gave me a praying mother who prayed for me during the months she was with two other women; every day prayed for that child that she carried under her heart whom she was going to name Robert Andrew Cook. Thankful for her praying father. The faithful sister who took up the task of rearing a motherless child – she herself only a little over 11 years old when our mother died. And so she took up that task of helping take care of the baby. Teaching a little boy how to find words in his mother’s Bible that he could identify… “It” and “at,” and “he” and “she,” and “can” and “do,” and so on, and finally I was reading out of my mother’s Bible.
Grateful for a Christian upbringing. Grateful for the Moody Bible Institute, where I found two things were important above all else. One is, master what the Bible says. “You’ll have no difficulty,” as Dr. Grey used to say, “You’ll have no difficulty with what it means if you master what it says.” And the other thing I learned was that the prime task of the Church is the evangelization of the world, and it begins with personal soul-winning; the number-one job of the Christian is to win other people to Jesus Christ. Those two things were just inserted into my life’s makeup in those early days.
Grateful for Wheaton College, and for seminary at Eastern Baptist, and for the kindness of God in leading me from one church to another. And for the thrill of many years spent in leading Youth for Christ, and for the constant challenge and sweet blessing of dealing with growing young people in the college over nearly quarter of a century. Thankful, beloved, for you. God dropped you into my life so that we could share together the Word of God. I’m thankful and I found myself thanking Him today for those things and for many others. He said, “We give thanks to God.” How thankful are you?
Now, thankfulness is not something that is spontaneous, or sometimes it is. Sometimes it is. Someone surprises you with the bouquet of flowers or a necktie, or whatever it may be, the gift maybe, and you said, “Oh, thank you!” and you’re delighted and you are grateful. But thankfulness is not always spontaneous. Gratitude and thankfulness and the habit of saying “thank you” is something that needs to be learned, and depends upon volition. I will be thankful. “Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name,” the Bible says.
“I will praise thee,” you find the Psalmist is saying. It’s an act of volition as well as a reaction to circumstances, and the point I’m making, then, is that the circumstances are not always the kind that would elicit thankfulness. You have to make a trip to the dentist because you must have a root canal procedure done on a tooth that has decayed sufficiently to need that, and I don’t hear you saying, “Oh, I have to have a root canal! Goodie, goodie, I’m so thankful!” No. And yet, you stop to think about it – God has provided that technician, that medical person who is able to do that root canal and do it right so that you don’t lose the tooth, and because you’re Christian, God is sending you into that man’s office to be a blessing. A man or a woman… They’ve got lady dentists too, haven’t we?
God is sending you into that office to be a blessing; to bring the very presence of God into that dental office. You don’t know… Maybe the receptionist has got a broken heart and you need to say a loving word that would ease the pain. Maybe the dentist himself needs some encouragement or needs to be brought to know the Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t know.
See, thankfulness doesn’t depend necessarily upon circumstances. Thankfulness depends upon your relationship to God, Who never makes a mistake and Who places you in life, in line with His eternal purposes. We give thanks. “Oh, make my heart thankful,” I pray. Not just grabbing what God gives me and then running away, but truly thankful. Not only for the pleasant circumstances and relationships, then, but thankful for all the other things.
I think so often of a businessman, a friend of mine who lost, well, just nearly lost the whole business in the World War II days. He had a huge government contract that had come in, and he had bought materials and added personnel and bought equipment – he had “tooled up the plant,” in other words – to take care of this multi-million dollar contract, and then it was canceled. Well, that just about ruined him. He did, as a matter of fact, go into receivership, and the business was technically managed by those who were authorities in the financial world. He prayed his way on through that experience and came out smelling like a rose. He paid off his debts, and his business today is doing very well. But oh, the pressures, and oh, the tremendous disappointment, and having something like that happen!
Well, I spoke with him years later. He was actually having lunch at the college. He stopped by to see me and said, “Hello, Bob. I want to say hello.” “Well,” I say, “Come on have lunch.” So we went down into what was known as the President’s Dining Room. It was little and there was a plastered clothes closet, sort of. A little room down in just off the main dining room. We sat and had lunch there together, had a sandwich together, and we were talking about all of this. And he said, “You know, Bob,” he said, “I wouldn’t want to go through that again,” and he said it with profound sincerity, I noticed. He said, “I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but,” he said, “I want to tell you something. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” He said, “I literally prayed my way through that experience. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” And his face was just shining, at that point, with real love for God.
Thankful. We give thanks. What are you thankful for today, really? It’s easier to give thanks for the things that I enjoy and for the blessings that are obviously showered upon us. “He daily loadeth us with benefits,” the Psalmist says. Easy to give thanks for those things. Are you thankful for any of the hurts, thankful for any of the heartaches, thankful for any of the trials? Hard to do that, isn’t it?
Well, I want to tell you something. Every time I have looked up – sometimes through my tears, even – and said, “Oh, God, I don’t like it, but thank You for whatever You have in mind for me. I know You love me.” Every time I’ve done that, I’ve come out a better man. Think about it.
Holy Father, make us thankful for all that Thou has been to us today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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