Tuesday of 4 Lent

Thankfulness

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  — 1 Thessalonians 5:18  

“…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  — Colossians 3:14-17  

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  — Philippians 4:6  

“…be filled with the Spirit,addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  — Ephesians 5:18-21  

“Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea,” said Corrie. Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie were sent to a Nazi concentration camp during World War II for hiding a Jewish family in their home. They were able to smuggle a Bible into the camp and had just read the Thessalonians passage quoted above. “‘Give thanks in all circumstances,” Betsie corrected. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” So they stood between the stacks of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. A few weeks later Betsie said, “Well, I’ve found out. The supervisor wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?” Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice as she exclaimed, “Because of the fleas! That’s what the supervisor said: ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

In this troubling year past, have we been “giving thanks always and for everything” as Paul commanded the Church at Ephesus? It is difficult in the midst of a crisis to see the bounty of God, just as Corrie couldn’t at first see the blessing of the fleas. But as Paul reminded the Ephesians, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4). Becoming “holy and blameless” is a process. We may not see the fullness of His blessings in the moment, but in our learning how to live a life of holiness we are called to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The temptation is to make our supplications to the Lord with grumbling about our circumstances. But “in everything…with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Giving thanks to God in difficult situations is contrary to the way of the world. Paul says, in the Colossians passage quoted above that “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” That’s different! We can only do that if we are “filled with the Spirit”. D.L. Moody wrote that “Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to pray Him to empty us.” That is the purifying process. To be remade in the image of Christ our fallen human nature must first be removed. We must be emptied of ourselves, our worldly ways, and open ourselves to be filled “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

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