The Apostle Paul exhorted us, in his letter to the Thessalonians, to be thankful. Not just one day each year, but all the time and for all things. "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thes. 5:18). It is easy to be thankful when everything in life is going great. But when trials and tragedies and tears come, let's be honest--being thankful is not our normal human response.
Today, I want to share with you four stories from the Bible of individuals who practiced a spirit of thankfulness even under the most adverse and trying of circumstances. They understood that thanksgiving was not an option, but a command from God. It is not something we do when we "feel" like it, but something we should do when we don't feel like it! Notice with me, therefore, where these four "thanksgiving incidents" took place:
First, in the BEDROOM of a man DOOMED to die!
According to Daniel 6:10, the prisoner of war, Daniel, was in his bedchamber on his knees thanking God in prayer. The king of Babylon had been coerced into signing a hasty decree that anybody in the kingdom caught praying to any deity other than the king himself was to be cast into a den of lions. Scripture says "When Daniel knew the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber (bedroom) toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and GAVE THANKS, as he did aforetime" How could this man, doomed to die, be thankful? I believe he was thankful for God's presence, believing that the same God who had blessed him so many times in the past would be WITH HIM again, even if he was cast into the lion's den! Whatever awful trials may be hovering over your life today, you can count of God's presence through it all. David wrote: "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.
Second, in the BELLY of a whale by a man who SHOULD HAVE died!
The story of Jonah, the runaway prophet, is quite remarkable. Chastened by God's hand for his disobedience, he ends up in the stomach of a "great fish", wrapped in seaweed and surrounded by darkness. And right then and there he prays a prayer to God of both repentance and thanksgiving. What, you ask, was he thankful for? Probably that he was still alive, that God loved him enough to discipline him, and that God had the power to deliver him so that he would have a second chance to show his obedience. Whereas Daniel was thankful for God's presence; Jonah was thankful for God's pardon. If you are a Christian you have a lot to be thankful for even if your life right now is filled with terrible circumstances. You have eternal life, which, when compared to the "light afflictions" of this life, is of far greater consequence. You should thank the Lord, on this Thanksgiving Day, that you are saved by the grace of God. That is what Jonah did.
Third, at the BURIAL TOMB of a man who actually DID die!
Jesus, when he arrived at the tomb of Lazarus, in John 11, not only grieved for His loss, but prayed to His Father a prayer of thanksgiving. "And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me" (Verse 41). Before He ever called Lazarus to come forth from the grave, in verse 43, He thanked God IN ADVANCE, for what God was going to do! He was thankful for God's power. Resurrection power. The kind that dries away the tears from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). Yes, Jesus was able to give thanks for the fact that His Father heard Him, even before the miracle took place!
Fourth, on BOARD of a sinking ship when everybody thought they were GOING to die!
This one is my favorite of all of them. Paul is on board a ship heading for Rome as a prisoner. The vessel is caught in a huge storm at sea, and the lives of all on board were in extreme jeopardy. Right in the midst of all the panic, Paul stands up and gives a speech. "Sirs, you should have hearkened unto me and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now, I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, 'Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God has given thee all them that sail with thee'. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe God!" (Acts 27:21-25). Then Paul does an amazing thing. He instructs them to eat a lot of food to gain strength. "And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and GAVE THANKS TO GOD IN THE PRESENCE OF THEM ALL". Paul is thanking God, in the midst of a storm, on a sinking ship, because he was thankful for God's PROMISES. Unbelievable, isn't it?
And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, let us give thanks for the Lord's Presence; His Pardon; His Power, and His Promises. These are blessing far greater than food or even family. These are the blessings that last forever.
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