Reasons to Rejoice and Give Thanks at All Times

The words of Jesus give us answers, insights into the nature and character of God, while other sayings raise questions about the extent of God’s involvement in the intimate details of our lives. Jesus spoke as One who knew all about God from the inside. No wonder “the common people heard Him gladly,” for He told them things about God they had never known before. He did not speak like the Scribes and Pharisees, who were offering the same old religious fare day after day. Furthermore, He spoke with such authority. It is not surprising that a group of soldiers, who had been sent by the religious leaders to arrest Jesus, returned without Him to give the most amazing reason ever given for non-arrest: “No one ever spoke like this man.” Everyone who heard Jesus speak wondered where He got His authority. He had not attended any of the rabbinical schools of His day. No one was able to account for His intellectual superiority.  

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He knew all about their needs. He told them that their heavenly Father was watching over them, caring for them, just as He cared for the “birds of the air.” He claimed not even a sparrow fell to the ground without God’s notice. He used many such illustrations to emphasize that our Father in heaven is intimately involved in the day to day details of our lives. He said, “and even the hairs of your heads are all counted” (i.e. numbered), to drive this very point home (Matthew 10:30) Just as the psalmist had written long ago, “O Lord, you know when I sit down, and when I rise up; you perceive my thoughts from afar, and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139). It is sometimes difficult to believe this, especially when we see ourselves as being so small and insignificant in this incredibly vast creation. There was a time when King David, who wrote Psalm 139, felt that very way, and wrote Psalm 8: “When I consider the stars, the work of Thy hands, the sun and the moon which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him?”

In my previous blog I referred to the kind of cosmos time we are not able to relate to, for it is time we cannot measure as we measure calendar time. The whole of creation, the incredible distances in space, the unknown number of galaxies, and the fact that we are now being told there are possibly other universes; it all simply boggles the imagination. A short time ago millions of people stood in awe and wonder as they gazed through special spectacles at the spectacular eclipse of the sun by the moon. Right now the moon is speeding around us at nearly 2,300 miles per hour. Our home on planet Earth is spinning around the sun at 66 thousand miles an hour, and we are not even aware of it at any time during the day or night. Today scientists are also telling us that our sun is only one of 200 billion other huge stars, plus trillions of other planets in our own galaxy; and there are at least 100 billion other galaxies beyond our own.

Furthermore, when we consider how small our own planet is compared to most of the others, you and I on Earth seem little more than a grain of sand in the vastness of God’s incredible creation. Our individual lives do indeed seem so very insignificant, that we may find ourselves asking with the psalmist, “Who are we, that God is mindful of us?”. However, we know God loves each of us so much that He sent His only-begotten Son, the Eternal Christ, to this small planet to share our humanity, and to suffer death upon the cross for our salvation. By the miracle of grace through faith, we are able to have an intimate relationship with our Creator, and we have this blessed assurance: God wants to be involved in the daily details of our lives, guiding us, guarding us, helping us, healing us, delivering us, protecting us, providing for us, and working in all things for our good, if we are only willing and seeking to live “according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

In the testing times of life we may find ourselves questioning this amazing truth from time to time, just as David did when he wrote Psalm 8, when he was going through a difficult time in his own life, but ended that psalm by acknowledging that we have been made “just a little lower than God” (the King James version translates the word “angels”, but the Hebrew word is “Elohim,” one of the names given to God) – for God has breathed into every human being the “breath of life,” a part of Himself, creating us in His own likeness as spiritual beings, so we can enjoy an intimate spiritual relationship with Him. Furthermore, as Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” God wants us to know Him, to love Him, to worship Him, and to serve Him. God wants us to be in fellowship with Him and to enjoy Him forever,

This is the astonishing biblical truth undergirding all that I have been writing for several weeks about the GOD-INCIDENTS in our lives as believers. I only intend to share a few more personal experiences in the next few posts before bringing this particular series to an end, and I hope what I have felt led to write will have helped to convince you that our Creator God is so great that He can become small enough to live in your heart and mine. I have tried to guard against the danger of giving the impression that the Christian life is easy. The fact that God has promised to work in all things for good in the lives of those who trust Him, and are seeking to fit into His plan and purpose for their lives, does not mean that there will be no bad times, no testing times. It means that God is able to work at all those times to accomplish His larger purpose. It means that God is always with us, that God is also for us and not against us, that God is always going before us to prepare the way, to make the rough places plain, and to do for us what no one else can do. It also means many things will happen in our lives that simply cannot be explained apart from God, happenings that we know are more than mere coincidences, confirming the truth of all these biblical truths and God given promises – teaching us we should not let our hearts be troubled (John 14:1).

This is the point I have been trying to make, speaking out of personal experiences that have confirmed this wonderful truth: GOD IS INVOLVED IN THE DAY TO DAY DETAILS OF EVERY BELIEVER’S LIFE – no matter what life brings, we can be confident God will be present in that which is least (i.e. the details of our lives that seem small and less significant, of less importance), as well as in those matters that are greater (i.e. times when we are faced with major decisions, when we are dealing with difficult situations, bearing burdens that are too heavy to bear alone) – we have the overwhelming confidence that Christ will always be there to guide us, to guard us, to garrison our hearts, and to see us through.

It is significant that Jesus did not stop with these words, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33), but added these words, “…be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” That may sound very strange to your ears, that our Lord could speak those words in the same breath, “tribulation and “good cheer.” They sound contradictory, but listen carefully to His concluding words: “For I have overcome the world.” It is our faith in the faithfulness of God, our overwhelming confidence in the promises of Christ our Lord, that enables us to rejoice in both sad times and glad times – yes, to be cheerful, for we have the JOY of the Lord in our hearts, and His joy is our strength – we know the peace of God, because we are at peace with God through Christ. We know Christ will make us overcomers, just as He was able to “overcome the world.”  The challenge is not to escape trouble, to find a way around times of tribulation, but to find a way through the tough times. Jesus said, “I am the way”  (John 14:6).

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A Summation:

Yes, Jesus IS “the way” for all who have put their trust in Him – the way to find a purpose that is worthy of us as persons made in the image of God – the way to find peace in the midst of life’s storms, for the Lord is our safe place, our “refuge and our strength” (Psalm 46:1), as well as the way through the testing times of life (James 1:12-16), and the way to find meaning in all of life’s circumstances – the way to receive the power to become and overcome (i.e. “the power to become children of God” (John 1:12), and the power to overcome as children of God, through Him (i.e. to be “…more than conquerors” through Christ” (Romans 8:39 – i.e…super conquerors – the way to find reasons for rejoicing at all times, the secret of true contentment (Philippians 4:11-13 – knowing that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” us) – knowing God is with us, God is for us and not against us (Romans 8:31-32), and God is always going before us to prepare the way, always working at all times, and in all circumstances, for good (Romans 8:28), in the lives of all those who believe Jesus IS “The way, the truth, and the life” – the way without which there is no going, the truth without which there is no knowing, and the life without which there is no living – the way to an “abundant life” here-and-now, and the way to “ever lasting life” both now and hereafterfor we “…have been born anew to this living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).

Therefore, “Rejoice, and again I say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4). The Apostle Paul was in prison when he wrote these words. He had been beaten. He tells us he had suffered the loss of “all things,” but was still able to rejoice, because the most important thing in life was to “gain Christ,” to be able to identify with Him in His sufferings. Those were indeed tough times for all Christians, in the first century; it was not only difficult, but dangerous, to be a follower of Jesus (Philippians 1:18-26 – compare II Corinthians 11:23-27). Meditate of those words, and you will better understand why believers through the centuries have even been able to “GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” – So, “Do not quench the Spirit…but hold fast to what is good” (i.e. to what you know to be true), and “May the God peace himself sanctify you entirely, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who has called you is faithful, and He will do this” (I Thessalonians 5:19-24). AMEN.

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