Last night we had our community Thanksgiving Service. It’s not terribly well attended, but we had three churches represented, so that’s a good thing. My sermon/meditation was on 1 Thes. 5:16-18, and I thought I would share the basic outline here.
vs. 16: Be joyful always;
Being joyful is easy – we often get it confused with being happy, which is our pleased response to random (HAP) events. But JOY is deeper; joy is the recognition that God has your best interests at heart in the long run. Therefore, joy is an act of trust; trust that God knows what is best, and therefore, we don’t have to worry about what the Lord is doing.
Being joyful is easy, but being joyful ALWAYS is much more difficult. Choosing to trust God when we can’t see the outcome can be tough, but worth it.
vs. 17: pray continually;
Praying is easy – people of every religion pray. But praying continually, and maintaining an ongoing, two-way connection to God in prayer is much more difficult. When we pray, we often launch our desires into the air, and hope that God pays attention to them. But prayer also includes listening, and developing the discipline of listening for the Lord to speak back to us can be tough, but is also worth it.
vs. 18: give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Giving thanks is easy – we are taught as children to say “thank you”. But to do so IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES is much more difficult. It is hard to thank God for a cancer diagnoisis, for news of another terrorist attack, for a child’s broken heart. But when we recognize that we are giving thanks to Someone greater than ourselves, we are forced to recognize that we do not run the universe! We are not God; we do not have sovereign power to make everything come out the way we want.
Therefore, when we thank God, we are practicing a spiritual discipline of humility, of admitting to both God and ourselves that we are not on the Throne. And when we do so in all circumstances, we are reminded once again that God has perspective which we do not – and is uniquely qualified to run the universe for the benefit of ALL its citizens, not just our individual selves.
So, this Thanksgiving, we will do more than pause over a hot shared meal; we will admit that we are receivers of blessings beyond our ability to orchestrate… and we will thank the Conductor of all harmony, our great God.