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Being Thankful Through Tough Times
Watch on YouTube Channel:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-y0ilS9QOU
It was the day before Thanksgiving, and it was the first one that Andrea and her three children would be spending without their father, who had left them just three months earlier. On top of that, the two oldest children had the flu.
Outside was one of those cool, gray days with a light rain, and Andrea was growing wearier by the moment. When she got low on fluids for her children, she went to her purse and all she found was $2.50, and this was to last the family for another week. Andrea was going through what we might call – A Though Time.
Right then the phone rang, and it was her former church asking her to come by because there was a gift for her and the children. Andrea figured she would quickly drop by the church on her way to the store. When she got to the church there was an envelope for here with two $20.00 gift certificates from a grocery store, and she began to cry.
She drove to the store where she was able to get exactly what the kids needed to get better. The bill was $14.00. She gave the clerk one of the $20.00 coupons. The clerk turned her back on Andrea and stayed that way for some time. Worried that something might be wrong, Andrea said, “The certificate is a real blessing. Our former church gave it to our family, knowing that I’m a single parent trying to make ends meet.”
The clerk turned around with tears streaming down her face and asked if Andrea had enough food for thanksgiving, to which Andrea replied that she didn’t. The clerk then told her to pick out a turkey and the fixings. Andrea began to cry and asked, “Are you sure?” and the clerk replied, “Yes, get whatever you want. And get some Gatorade for the kids.”
When Andrea returned the clerk told her, “Now I can tell you. This morning I prayed that I could help someone today, and you walked through my line.” She reached under the counter and not only paid for the groceries but gave Andrea the change. She then told Andrea, “I’m a Christian and here is my phone number and please call me if I can help you with anything.” She then took Andrea’s face in her hands and kissed her cheek and said, “God bless you honey.”
Andrea was overwhelmed by God’s love being shown to her through His people. Her children were scheduled to spend Thanksgiving with their father, but because of the flu they stayed home where they ate of God’s bounty that Thanksgiving.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, and the meal we celebrate it with, there is little if any thanks given to God. We’re so busy preparing, cooking, entertaining, watching football, and eating that the only thanks God might get will be before the meal, that is, if we remember.
It seems like we’re missing the whole point of the holiday, which is to give thanks to God for what He has given. And such thanks begins by recognizing that everything we have comes from God, and without God we’d have nothing. This was something God’s people realized long ago.
As King David was providing all that his son Solomon needed to build the Temple, in His prayer to the Lord he said that all wealth and honor come from God, and then he said, “O Lord our God, even these materials that we have gathered to build a Temple to honor Your holy name come from You! It all belongs to You.” (1 Chronicles 29:16 NLT)
It all starts with God; therefore, we need to thank God in everything.
In this season where we celebrate Thanksgiving, we need to realize that everyone goes through difficulties, and everyone has to endure tough times. But it’s not enough to just endure tough times, we must learn how to be thankful through them if we are ever going to receive God’s goodness. And this is at the heart of our message today.
On the Holmes Stress Scale that lists the 100 most stressful events, like the death of a loved one, divorce, or being fired; what they discovered is that the single most stressful time in a person’s life is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
It’s during this time that we start worrying about our finances. We also worry about getting together with the relatives that we would never under any other circumstances see, even if we were paid to do so. This is no longer a season to be jolly, rather a season of getting uptight.
It’s also a tough time as some of our loved ones are no longer with us, and our emotions overwhelm us.
Just a couple of verses prior to the two we’re going to be looking at, Paul tells us about our need to have joy no matter what the situation may be, no matter how bad or good it may be.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 NKJV)
How can we rejoice in every trial and circumstance we face? How can we be joyful when our are finances in the toilet? How can we be joyful when our loved ones are no longer with us? How can we be joyful when everything in our lives is out of order?
Basically, how can we be joyful in tough times? Paul gives to us the strategy in Philippians 4:6-7
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)
There are three steps to this strategy given my Paul.
“Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6a NKJV)
This is easier said than done. We can say, “Don’t worry,” and then begin to worry about it and everything else. According to the Smithsonian Institute, we’re in what is known as the “Golden Age of Anxiety.” Not only do we have our own things to worry about, but because of social media we also have now the worries of the world.
Is it any wonder why we get so uptight? We can’t even get out of bed without anxiety. Think about it, we wake up to an alarm clock! We then look at the news, and none of it is good. So is it any wonder why we are so stressed out.
In 2006, Dr. Walter Calvert did a study on worry, and found the following.
This reveals that 70% of those things we worry about are unnecessary. But that still leaves 30%. The survey goes on the say that 12% are worries over unfounded health concerns, and 10% of our worries are about insignificant and petty issues. That leaves us with only 8% of our worries as beings legitimate. That leaves just one thing out of ten that we need to worry about.
But even worrying about legitimate worries isn’t going change anything.
Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34 NKJV)
Did you know that Today is Tomorrow that you Worried about Yesterday!
Further, what’s interesting is that Paul was in prison when wrote this letter to the Philippian church. So, in a really tough situation Paul said, “Don’t worry about a thing.”
Paul then follows this negative admonition with a positive, and that is,
Pray About Everything
“But in everything by prayer and supplication … let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6b NKJV)
People say they don’t have time to pray. But since we’ve reduced our worry time by 92%, we now have a lot more time to pray. Further, when we pray, we have a lot less to worry about.
Also, we’re to pray about everything. Not some things, but all things. Sometimes we think God only hears our prayers when it’s about religious stuff, or about illness and disease, but God is just as interested in the small stuff. He’s just as interested in chapped lips and postnasal drip.
And even though God already knows, He still wants us to talk with Him about it, even the small stuff. This is seen in the wording Paul uses. The word “prayer” means the general stuff, and the word “supplication,” means talking about the specific details.
There is nothing we cannot pray about, and if it’s worth worrying about, then it is worth praying about.
The Apostle Peter said, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7 NKJV)
Peter is telling us to unload it onto the Lord. The word “Casting” means to throw something upon something else. So, we are to throw our cares, anxieties, and worries upon the Lord, and then let the Lord take care of them, because He cares for us.
And here’s a good tip to incorporate in our life and prayers, once we’ve given it over to the Lord, we need to leave it there, rather than picking it back up and worrying about it again. Once we give God our worries, we’re not to go and pick them back up again.
And so, we’re told to stop worrying and start praying.
But there is one more step, and that is …
Thank God in Everything
“But in everything … with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6b NKJV)
To the church in Thessalonica Paul said, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV)
Paul is saying to give thanks “in” everything, not “for” everything. To be thankful “for” everything just doesn’t make sense.
We cannot be thankful for evil. We don’t give thanks for cancer, but we can give thanks knowing God will work everything out to the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
We can also thank God because He will not permit anything to happen to us without providing a way out of it, or providing a way by which we will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
We can give thanks to the Lord because His purpose for our lives is always bigger than the problems we face. Further, God will give us the power to overcome our problems, and the grace to endure them. Therefore, we can give thanks because we serve a God who is bigger than our problems.
But how we can be thankful in what’s been lost? It’s by not looking at what we’ve lost; but rather it’s looking at what we have left. I’ve seen families devastated by focusing on what has been lost rather than what is left, and in the end, they’ve ended up losing even more.
What I’d like to share before we end our time together are two things we can to be thankful for every single day, and that is God’s grace and love.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8 NKJV)
Grace is God’s unmerited favor. Grace is everything God does for us even though we don’t deserve it. Grace is God giving us what we need, that is, forgiveness, and not what we deserve, which is judgment.
Therefore, once our hearts understand God’s great grace, they will overflow with thanksgiving, because we met Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord.
Without Christ we were headed for hell and not heaven, and there isn’t anything we can do to stop it. We can never be good enough. The Bible says that there is no one righteous enough (Romans 3:10). But God, in His grace, came and gave to us His Son, Jesus Christ, and through belief in His sacrifice upon the cross for our sins, and His resurrection, we are saved and delivered.
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10 NKJV)
Therefore, we can be thankful for God’s Great Grace.
The second thing we should be thankful for is …
We need to be thankful for God’s unconditional love that pursues us no matter what.
There is nothing we can do, no place where we can go, where God’s love doesn’t pursue and meet us there. God’s love knows no bounds.
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
The Lord cares about what we do, and while He is deeply hurt when we sin, He still loves us and will always love us. And He demonstrates just how far He will go to pursue us with His love.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
Even when we were His enemy, living apart and separate from God, God loved us.
And He loves us even through the highest highs and the lowest lows, and that’s because nothing can separate us from His love.
And so, we are to be thankful for God’s great grace and love, but we haven’t even scratched the surface of what we need to be thankful for, like God’s purpose and plans for our lives, or His provision, protection, and promises.
Before I end our time together and bring about some conclusions, there is something that I think needs to be said about our need not to give up when times get tough. And that is, we need to not let go and to hold fast.
This is the conclusion brought forth in God’s word. We are told time and again to hold fast, like our need to hold fast to God’s word. Also, we are told to hold fast to our confidence and hope in God’s plan, along with the profession of our faith in Jesus Christ. And to four of the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus tells them and us to hold fast to His name, and to the word of promise and faith that they and we have received.
Why is this a main theme within God’s word, it’s because God knows how weak we truly are, and how easy it is to find the easier way, the quicker solution, and what is more comfortable. And so He tells us to seize, to lay hold of, and to retain what we have and not to let it go.
But it isn’t in our own strength that we can hold fast and not let go. It is in the strength the Lord provides through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord said, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.” (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV)
Now, all of us are reeling from the current economic conditions. It seems like every aspect of our lives are being affected from our finances shriveling, our retirement plans being trashed, and the world being in the throes of a moral chaos.
But this is not a time, nor the time to give up and let go. Rather, it is a time to hold fast, to stand our ground, and not to quit. That is what the enemy wants us to do, so let’s not give him the satisfaction. And, as the old saying goes, it’s always darkest towards the coming of dawn.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2a NKJV)
Therefore, to be thankful in the tough times we find ourselves in, let’s take God’s advice and worry about nothing, pray about everything and thank God in all things, and in the end what we can expect is God’s peace.
“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV)
By saying that it surpasses all understanding, the Lord is promising that our lives will be marked by the supernatural. It’s not something man can explain or explain away. It is beyond the range of human comprehension, and the only way to explain it is that it’s nothing less than Jesus Christ.
This peace is only for those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ, who put their faith and trust in Him. And when we place our faith and trust in Him, God will set a guard over our hearts and minds. The term used by Paul gives an idea of a whole garrison of soldiers standing sentry over a city to keep it safe.
When we come to Jesus Christ, making Him Savior and Lord of our lives, He puts a sentry over our minds and hearts, in other words, over our thoughts and emotions, and will keep us at peace when everything else is falling apart around us. This is why I said that when we follow God’s advice, our lives will be marked by the supernatural, because God’s peace is nothing less than supernatural.
Therefore, worry about nothing, pray about everything, in all things give thanks, then God will give us His peace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27 NKJV)
Therefore, if we want God’s peace to guard and rule over our lives, then we need to give our lives over to Jesus Christ. Because it is through Jesus that all those who believe in Him can have direct access to God’s Throne Room where we can boldly come with our prayers, and casting our cares upon Him because He cares for us.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study