Thanking God in all circumstances postures us to be used by God in all circumstances.
Well, good morning. It is wonderful to see you. My name is Michael. I’m so glad that you’re here. If you are someone who doesn’t normally come, we we hope that this is a great experience for you. We hope that this isn’t cringy like pastor Joe talked about last week, but this is a place that you’d feel welcome. So if this is your first time here, if you’re visiting, we’re so glad that you’re here.
We’re starting a new series this week, like pastor Joe said, called Thanks, Help, Wow and Hear! It’s about four essential prayers that if we would pray these prayers consistently, it’d be like rocket fuel for our faith. It would catalyze new growth and new boldness in us if we could just start praying these prayers. As I’ve been praying this first one, as I’ve been preparing for this message, I want to tell you that it has shaped me. It’s changed me and it’s grown my faith as I’ve been praying thanks to God in all circumstances.
So we’re going to start with this message on thanks giving thanks to God. Now, how many of you would like to be more thankful? You think like, “Yeah, that’d actually be good,” because what we all recognize is that it’s not very fun to be ungrateful, is it? It’s not fun to go like, “Oh, I wish I had more.” No one likes that. But if you’ve been thankful lately, you realize that it feeds your soul. It’s so good for you to be thankful. Have you seen the practice of gratitude journals? Yeah. How many of you are gratitude journal people? Woo. All right. The reason why people love that practice so much is because when you start thanking God for what’s in your life, it opens your eyes to all that he’s given you, not just the things that you thank him for. It’s an incredibly powerful practice, so we’re going to be talking about how we can thank God in all circumstances.
We’re going to begin, before we dive into the scriptures, we’re going to begin with the offering. So if the usher would come to receive today’s tithes and offerings. Thank you so much for your generosity. I pray that this would be an act of your Thanksgiving to God. So just a reminder, this is our regular tithe and offering. We’re going to do the special offering for spring of hope at the end of the service. But what you’re doing as you give is you’re partnering with Jesus and building his kingdom in the hearts of people, both here in Spokane and around the world. So thank you so much.
Would you grab the Bible on the end of your own, pass it down so that everyone has the Bible? If not everyone can grab a Bible, why don’t you share with your neighbor next to you? They’ll be thankful, and that’d be good. And we’re going to open to first Thessalonians five. First Thessalonians five, 16 through 18. That’s on page 1020. Page 1020, first Thessalonians five. And as you’re turning there, Paul is concluding his letter to the church in Thessaloniki, and he gives them an incredible encouragement. Now, I love these verses. Can I tell you why? No somebody said. All right, I’m just going to move on.
No, so these verses are actually the verses that I preached my first message on in Bible college when I was in a preaching class. And the verses are fantastic, but that first message was horrible so I’m going to try to redeem it this time. Can I do that? I’m going to try to redeem myself and give another shot at these incredible verses that I love. So it’s first Thessalonians five, starting in verse 16 going through 18. This is what the word of God says.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul tells the church in Thessaloniki and he tells us that we’re to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances because this is God’s will for you in the present moment.
How many of you have ever wondered what is God’s will for me? What does he want me to do? It’s right here. Now, so often we mistake God’s will for what we think what is God’s plan, so we want to know what God wants us to do in the future, the direction that God wants us to go. That’s God’s plan. God’s will is how we exist in the present moment. See, this is God’s will for you right now and in every moment is that you would rejoice always, that you’d pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances.
Now, when the Bible tells us we’re supposed to give thanks in all circumstances, it sounds really nice because we identify, we all want to be more thankful, but it’s not that easy is it? There’s situations in our lives where it’s really hard to give thanks to God in those situations. There’s maybe something in your life right now, maybe something in your heart right now where you’re like, “I don’t know how to give thanks in the middle of this. I don’t know what to do in this situation. How am I supposed to give thanks to God when I’m facing cancer? How am I supposed to give thanks to God when my marriage is in shambles? How am I supposed to give thanks to God when my kids are going all over? How am I supposed to give thanks to God when I’m faced with stress and human frailty and financial difficulties? How am I supposed to give thanks to God in those situations?” Is Paul advocating some spiritual escapism where he just says, “Oh, you know what? Just forget about the things that are in front of you and thank God for who he is. Just forget about these things.” I don’t think that’s what Paul is advocating.
I don’t think that he’s saying that we should just forget about the things in front of us because here’s what I believe. I believe that there is no situation, no moment, no problem that our God is not in. And so if there is something in your life that you’re trying to escape from, you’re trying to escape from God. You’re trying to escape from God in your problem. And so Paul isn’t advocating running away from the God who’s in our moments, in our problems, in our situations. He’s actually advocating that we would enter into the moment with Jesus by thanking God in that moment. When we can thank God in that moment, we identify that he is there with us, that he is our ever present help, and it helps us to actually lean into life rather than run away from life.
So this is what we’re going to do today, we’re going to figure out how we can thank God even in the most difficult circumstances. My goal is to help you thank God in all circumstances because, here’s the reason why, because I believe that thanking God in all circumstances actually postures me to be used by God in all circumstances. It postures me to be used by him.
So can I tell you two stories? So the two stories, one is a good one, one’s a more difficult one. So this week my son had some trouble at preschool and then trouble after preschool and even more trouble with his mom. So she called me and I realized this is a moment where I need to go home during my lunch break and have a talk with my son. Now, he had thrown an all out fit, I mean total meltdown, screaming in the parking lot, laying on the floor, rolling all over and crying and saying, “No, mom, no.” So it was a moment that dad needed to come home and intervene. Has anyone ever done this before?
So I’m going home, I’m driving home, I’m like, “What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to help my son?” And I’m feeling this stress because I’m like, “Am I a bad parent? Have I led him to this point where this is just okay for him to do in public? What am I supposed to do?” And as I’m driving home, I remembered what I’m talking about this weekend, so I started thanking God. I started thanking God that I knew that he was in this moment, that I knew that God was going to bring about good, even from this. I started thanking God that I had the opportunity to talk with my son, that this opportunity was actually going to bring glory to God, that God was going to use this to build my son up.
And so as I thanked God for that, it actually helped me lean into the situation. So when I walked into the room with my son, I didn’t explode like I was planning to. I came in with incredible peace because I’d been thanking God. And that’s the sort of power that thanking God in all circumstances will result in your life.
So the second story is also with my son and this morning at 4:30. So at 4:30, we hear my son crying, and we go down there and check on him and he’s weeping and he says, “My ears hurt, dad. My ears hurt.” And so my wife takes them, starts helping him out, and I get out of bed too, and so we’re trying to help him. And all morning long he is weeping and crying, “My ears hurt. My ears hurt.” And so I’m stressed because I’m like, “What’s wrong with his ears? Probably an ear infection, but we can’t get him in until later.” And then I had to figure out, “Okay, well, how are we going to take the kids? Because I’ve got to preach this morning. Now you’ve got to take [Paxton 00:09:46] to the doctor. So what are we going to do with Capri? Just leave her at home? She’s two, she might survive.”
So I’m feeling this stress of what do I do? And I have to tell you that it was really hard to thank God in that moment, that it wasn’t easy to be like, “All right, thanks God for this. This is awesome.”
So we’re going to experience situations, some are going to be easier to thank God than others. There’s going to be things in your life and this week that as you try to walk this out, as you try to thank God in all circumstances, you’re going to come up against a brick wall at times and be like, “Whoa, this is way harder than I thought”. But I want to encourage you that even in those moments, even when you’re feeling like, what am I supposed to do, when you’re overwhelmed with stress and human frailty, lean into it and start thanking God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. So that’s what we’re going for today.
We’re going to pray before we get into three vignettes about Jesus as he thanks God in incredibly difficult situations. So let’s pray and then we’re going to jump into three stories.
Jesus, we pray that you would speak to us powerfully today. God, we are people who need you. We are desperate for you, Jesus. And God, we thank you that in our desperation and in our weakness and in our moments of failure, you meet us, not with condemnation, but with grace and forgiveness and acceptance and open arms. So Jesus, help us to thank you in each moment. And when we fail to do that, help us to turn to you once again. We pray this in Jesus name. And everyone said, amen.
So we’re going to look at these three stories about Jesus. The first one is in John six. Would you open your Bibles to John six? It’s on page 916. 916. The gospel of John is one of the four stories written about Jesus life as a whole, and we’re going to 916 and John six. And I’ll just set a little context for you as you’re flipping over. In this story, we know that Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist, has just been beheaded and so Jesus learns of this news and he tries to leave the crowd that he’s with, because he was with people when he found out, and obviously he wanted to get away because he’s sorrowful. He’s grieving. So he took his disciples, got in a boat, and they went to the other side of the lake. But when they get to the other side of the lake, the crowd they’d left behind had beaten them there around the lake on foot. And so Jesus all of a sudden sees the crowd there that he was trying to avoid.
Remember, he’s feeling this grief. He’s feeling this sorrow for the loss of his cousin and he tried to get away, but the crowds are there. And so he sits down and he teaches them. And it becomes late in the evening and they need food. So here’s where we pick it up in verse five, John six verses five through 13. And that was the setup for the story.
“So when Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”
Can we pause right there? There are lots of people and no food. That’s a big problem, right? Lots of people, no food. That’s a big problem. And I love what it says, it says, “Jesus asked this only to test him because he already knew what he was going to do.” Can I pause it? If there is a big problem in your life, God already knows what he’s going to do.
“Phillip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.’ Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here, is a boy with five small barley loaves and two fish, but how far will they go among so many? Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place and they sat down.” About 5,000 men were there, so including women and children, probably over 10,000 people. “Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed to those who receded as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”
So here is Jesus in a high stress moment and we see him thank God. It’s a moment that maybe you’ve experienced before too. Maybe it’s not the sorrow of losing someone, but we’ve all been stressed before, we’ve all been in those moments where we feel pressured from both sides and we’re not sure what to do. And in that moment, Jesus, thanks God for what he has. That first underline that you can fill in there is thank God for what I have. Thank God for what I have. Jesus takes these five barley loaves and these two fish and he gives thanks to God. He thanks God for the simple things that are in his hands.
When was the last time you stopped and thanked God for what you have? This is probably the most basic and simple form of gratitude that we usually think of is just thanking God for the things that are in our lives. And it’s an incredibly powerful practice that Jesus does right here, he thanks God for the things that he has.
When I’m stressed about my kids, I should stop and thank God that I have kids. When I’m stressed about my job, I should stop and thank God that I have a job. See friends, when we get into these situations where we’re stressed, one of the things that helps us enter into it with Jesus is thanking him. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from heaven above.” Everything in your hands is from God above. Life is a gift, but it’s up to you what you make of it. God has put it in your hands. And when you thank him, it opens your eyes to the potential of what is in your hands. See, Jesus had five barley loaves and two fish, but the potential of the five barley loaves and two fish was far greater than it seemed, and so Jesus thing to God that God is able to do far more than what we can imagine with the things that are in our hands. Jesus is able to do that.
In the same moment that he’s thanking God for what he has, Jesus thanks God when he doesn’t have enough. This is the next fill in the blank is thank God when I don’t have enough. Jesus has five barley loaves and two fish, and his own disciples say, how far can this go among 10,000 people? “Jesus, look, this isn’t going to do the trick. I don’t know what you have up your sleeve, but this isn’t going to work, Jesus.” And he in that moment takes what isn’t enough and thanks God for it. He thanks God for the things that won’t satisfy the people around him.
So one of the greatest honors in my life is that I get to follow pastor Joe and follow in his footsteps pastoring this church. It is an incredible honor that I am so grateful for. But can I tell you that I do not have enough wisdom to pastor a church? I just don’t have enough. I don’t have what it takes. I don’t have enough wisdom or patience or grace. I don’t have what it takes. But when I start thanking God, even when I don’t have enough, what I realize is that he has given me a little bit of wisdom, but he’s given me a lot of people around me who have a lot of wisdom to help me.
And friends, what we need to realize is that in the moments in our lives when we don’t have enough, maybe God is hoping that we would lift up our eyes and look at the incredible resources he’s placed around us. We have friends, we have family, we have a church, we have a community who wants to support us, and a God who is with us.
And if we would just look up from our hands when we don’t have enough and thank the God who gives us everything we need for life and godliness, I believe that we would experience more of this multiplication miracle in our lives. When we can thank God when we don’t have enough patience, God’s going to infuse you with patience. When you can thank God even when you don’t have enough creativity or wisdom, God is going to infuse you with those. When we thank God when we don’t have enough, it’s like we turn on this beacon and it attracts God’s generosity and his grace in our life because we’ve postured ourselves in such a way as to receive from him. So can you thank God even when you don’t have enough?
I’ve found this week that my blood pressure has decreased and my faith has increased as I’ve been thanking God in moments of stress. And you will find the same thing this week that your blood pressure will decrease and your faith will be catalyzed, will be inspired, will be brought into flame when you can thank God in moments of stress.
Let’s move to the next story. It’s in John 11. Can you turn it over in your Bible with me to John 11? It’s just a couple pages over to the right. John 11. Now again, this is a difficult moment, and Jesus thanks God in this difficult moment. To give you context again, Jesus enters into a little town called Bethany because one of his best friends, Lazarus, has died. He died too young. He died of a sickness. And Lazarus’ family was grieving, his community was grieving, and when Jesus comes in, he sees this community, this household in sorrow because of the loss of their friend and brother, and Jesus feels the same sorrow. It’s one of his best friends who’s died. And he sits in that sorrow with them. In verse 36 it says that Jesus wept. Jesus felt the same thing that you and I do when someone close to us dies. He felt that sorrow, that sense of loss, that sense as if something has been ripped out from inside of you, that’s what Jesus was feeling in this moment.
And yet in the midst of that sorrow, we see this beautiful picture of Jesus thanking his heavenly father. What does Jesus thank God for in one of the darkest moments of his life? And what can you thank God for when you’re facing human frailty, whether it’s cancer, disease, sickness, whether it’s someone who’s died or a marriage that’s been disrupted? What can you thank God for when facing human frailty? Let’s see what Jesus does. Starting in verse 38 of John 11
“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But Lord’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time, there’s a bad odor for he has been in there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'”
When facing the tomb of his friend… And everyone else didn’t know the ending that was coming. When facing death, Jesus thanked God. When facing this human frailty of his friend, Jesus thanked God. What did he thank God for? That first underline under that point is thank God for hearing me. Thank God that he hears me. This is what Jesus says. He says, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I thank you that you see my sorrow, that you hear my sorrow, that you hear us in this moment.” Jesus, thanks God for hearing him in his sorrow. And friends, when we are facing that sorrow, that loss, that grief, we too can thank God for hearing us. The Bible tells us that we have a God who inclines his ear to listen to us, that God is not distant, that God is moving towards you, that he wants to listen to you, and in these moments where we are faced with grief and suffering, the thing that we as humans need most is usually someone just to listen to us and process with us.
When you’ve been in that space, if you haven’t been there before, if you haven’t lost someone who’s close to you, the grief is overwhelming. The immediate grief is just overwhelming. I remember this when my brother died of an accidental overdose of Oxycontin 13 years ago. The grief was just overwhelming. And then as you move through life, people are there in the moment, right when it happens, they’re there to support, you’ve got friends and family members who are there to help you, and they process with you. But then as you move forward in life, the grief is still there, isn’t it? It doesn’t go away like that. And as you’re still processing it, you need people to listen to you, but sometimes we think, “Man, my friends don’t want to hear about this anymore,” because I can imagine that if my friend kept coming to me with their grief and their sorrow and their sadness, it would be overwhelming at some point. It would be like, “Okay, can you please just be happy now?” But friends, we don’t have to put on some face for God. We don’t have to just appear as if we’re happy when we’re going through difficult things. We can come to him just as we are and say, “God, this is what I’m going through” and he will always want to listen.
God will never turn you away and say, “Would you just be happy now? Would you just figure it out?” Because God wants to be with you in the moment and listen to you and help you process. This is how good our God is. We can thank him that he hears us.
Jesus thanks God for hearing us and he’s thanking him for one of God’s promises, that he’ll always hear us. First john 5:14 says, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” He will hear us when we ask according to his will. So Jesus thanks God for this promise. And when worth facing human frailty, we can thank God for his promises. That’s the next underline. Thank God for his promises. You can thank God that he will never leave you nor forsake you. You can thank God that if he started something good in your life, he is going to finish it good in your life. Even if the middle and the mess that you’re in right now look like it is unredeemable, God can make it good and he will because what he started, he will finish.
You can thank God for his promise that his love is never ending and we’ll be with you forever. Psalm 107:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” See, when we can thank God in these dark circumstances, dark situations, it’s because we have an underlying faith that no matter how unpromising the situation, God will redeem it for his glory. I love what he says, Jesus says this to Mary in verse 40, he says, then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” I believe that God wants to redeem your mess. God wants to redeem your hurt for his glory. He wants to help you and heal you. He wants to bandage you and listen to you. This is our God. He will redeem all things and that includes us and our pain. So thank God for his promises.
My grandpa died three years ago, and he was an incredible man. How many of you knew pastor Knoll? Just an incredible Jesus follower. He was so full of love, so full of grace. It was often when I saw my grandpa, I felt like I was close to Jesus. Did anyone else feel that way when you were close to pastor Knoll? Oh my goodness, he was just incredible. And I still grieve over my grandpa. I love him and I miss him. And one of the hardest things for me is that my kids will never know him. My kids will never get to experience him the way that I did. I mean, he lived with me from the time I was four years old. My grandpa lived in our home and so he was like a third parent. And my kids won’t get to experienced him, and that makes me so sad. We’ve talked about grandpa Knoll with Paxton, and Paxton loves talking about grandpa Knoll and constantly references, “Grandpa Knoll told me to do it,” and we’re like, what? Or like, “Grandpa Knoll love this,” but you don’t know that. But when we’re talking about it, sometimes he’ll say, “Dad, grandpa Knoll died up to heaven, didn’t he?” And it’s a very interesting way to talk about death, isn’t it, that grandpa Knoll died up to heaven? Paxton doesn’t see death as the end. He sees it as a move into something new.
And see, we can thank God that death is not the end. We can thank God that in this story death wasn’t at the end and in your story death isn’t the end. That if you are a Jesus follower, death has been… The sting has been taken out of death. So we can thank God when we’re facing the most dark moments, we can actually lean into the moment rather than running away from it because we know that there is hope, that there is light about to burst through the darkness because we know that death isn’t the end, that it’s a move from one thing to the next, from something here to being with Jesus there.
Here’s the last thing, Luke 22, this is the last story of Jesus thanking God in difficult circumstances. Luke 22. It’s on page 906. This is the last night of Jesus’ life and he’s with his disciples, and they’re celebrating the Passover, which is a huge moment of celebration for the people of Israel, for the Jews, because they’re celebrating that God brought them out of the land of Egypt, he brought them out of slavery, and God did it by sending 10 plagues against Egypt and Pharaoh. And Pharaoh wouldn’t respond until finally the 10th plague. That’s when Pharaoh finally said, “I give up. You can let the people go.” And the 10th plague was when the angel of death, God sent an angel of death, and this angel passed over every home in Egypt. But the Israelites were instructed by God to take a lamb and sacrifice it and eat it together, and have some bread with it as well. But then they’d put the blood of the lamb over their doorposts. And the angel of death would not enter the home that had the blood of the lamb on the doorpost. So the angel of death would literally pass over their house. But if the house didn’t have the blood of the lamb on it, then the angel of death would enter and the 10th plague would strike.
It was a horrible thing for the people of Egypt, but it was God’s salvation for the people of Israel. God was bringing them out. And that’s what they’re celebrating here is God’s incredible salvation, his choice of bringing the people of Israel out. So it’s an incredible moment for Jesus and his disciples, they’re celebrating something that they love, but it’s also Jesus’ last night of his life and he’s facing his betrayal and death on a cross. And this is what happens, Jesus takes the bread in verse 19 of Luke 22, at this last supper, and he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it. And gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper, he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” In facing his own death, Jesus thanked God. When we are in this situation, what do we thank God for? How do we thank God when we’re facing death?
I love what Paul says, Paul says in first Corinthians 10, that when we take communion, when we take the bread and the cup, we are participating in a bread of Thanksgiving and a cup of Thanksgiving. Why? We’re participating in a cup of Thanksgiving, a bread of Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, because Jesus has saved us, because Jesus has initiated a new salvation. Now remember, I told you stick with me, this is so good, Jesus was celebrating the Passover with his disciples, but Jesus redefines the Passover meal with them. And what he does in fact is he creates a new Passover. He says, “God is coming to the rescue again for his people.” In Egypt, God brought them out of slavery to the Egyptians, now God, through Jesus, is bringing us out of slavery from sin and death. And so this is a new salvation and Jesus institutes, similar to the Passover, with his body and with his blood. So now instead of the blood being over the doorpost, when we receive this gift from Jesus, when we believe that his blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins, the angel of death passes over us in a sense that we no longer are subject to the sting of sin and death. We’ve been saved.
And so what we get to do is we get to thank God for Jesus. That’s the last thing that you can write in your underline there, thank God for Jesus. See, when you’re facing death or when you’re facing good things, when you’re facing trouble or when you’re facing incredible blessings, we should always thank God for Jesus who has redeemed us from our own sinful state. We should always be thanking God for how good he is, that he so loved us, that he sent his one and only son, that whoever would believe in him should not perish but have eternal life, everlasting life. This is what God has done for us in the person of Jesus. And when we take communion together, we remember that and we give thanks for all that he’s done.