What are you grateful for? I realize most of us have the same basic answers. We are grateful for Jesus, salvation, family, spouses, and children. If we are really honest a few of us will say we are thankful for coffee, warm beds, comfortable chairs, and chocolate.
But, in this day and time perhaps the question should not be “What are you grateful for?” but “How in the world can you be grateful?” With so much change, so much uncertainty, and the whole world being turned upside down how can you be truly grateful for anything?
In our world worry, fear, stress, and anxiety seem more natural than thanksgiving. But, worry and fear are the cancer that destroys thankfulness, and at the same time thanksgiving is the cure for worry and fear. What do we do? Where do we find an anchor to hold us so we can look trouble in the eye and still give thanks?
The short answer is Romans 8: 28-39. The longer answer is the whole counsel of the Word of God.
The fundamental truth behind the ability to give thanks in all circumstances is this
God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him. – Romans 8:28
The simplicity of the statement is a little unnerving.
God causes ALL things…..
All means all. Whatever circumstances you face, God is at work causing those circumstances to work together for your good.
What are you facing? Cancer? Death of a loved one? Financial struggles? Job loss? A child walking in sin before God? Rejection from the one you love? You can trust the Father because all of these things are covered under that little word “all”.
God causes all things to work together for our good.
Did you notice that “things” is plural? All things – each individual thing – are working together for good. The stress and troubles of life are all working in concert together under the direction of the Master Conductor for our good. God is orchestrating the events of life so that they work together for our good!
This happens in such the grand scale of life and it is not necessarily seen in the moment by moment or day to day events. We all know that days, weeks, months, and years can be painful and heart breaking. But, even when I can’t see how God is working I can trust that He is working, and that He is causing all of my pain and suffering to work out for my ultimate good and His glory!
It is important to point out here that Paul did not say all things are good. Clearly not everything that happens to us is good. But, God is at work!
And in this, we can give thanks regardless of what we face.
How do we apply that to our lives?
Paul goes on in Romans 8:31-39 to ask and answer four questions which help us apply the truth.
- If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31-32) It doesn’t matter who stands against us, God is for us.
- Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? (Romans 8:33) It doesn’t matter who because God is the one who justifies. And, as believers we are justified before God.
- Who is the one who condemns? (Romans 8:34) It doesn’t matter, because it is Christ Jesus died for us, was raised from the dead, sits at the right hand of God, and intercedes for us.
- Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:35-39) And this my friend is the point. You and I are loved. This one fact should put all of the troubles in this world into a new perspective.
How can we be thankful regardless of the circumstances? God loves us, and nothing can change that!
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED. But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
Whatever you are facing, you can give thanks with a grateful heart because God is at work causing your circumstances to work together for your good and His glory. Why? Because He loves you.
In 1860 Anna Warner wrote the simple poem “Jesus Loves Me”. It was included in a novel and as a part of the story it was a comfort to a dying child. Why would this song comfort anyone? Because of the truth of Romans 8.
Jesus loves me!
This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak but He is strong.
Jesus loves me!
Loves me still,
Tho I’m very weak and ill,
That I might from sin be free,
Bled and died upon the tree.
Jesus loves me!
He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (KJV)
Wrapping It Up
In this world we will have tribulation, therefore we should never be surprised by it. Trouble is always a part of our lives. How we respond to trouble is what makes us stand out from the world. We will never respond well if we do not believe and embrace the fact that God loves us.
The sovereignty and the steadfast love of God are the foundational truths for thankfulness. Without that foundation we will only occasionally find reasons to be grateful for some things. But, standing on the rock of the love and majesty of God we begin to see His hand at work everywhere around us. And then we can be truly thankful for the circumstances of life.
Not every thing that happens is good. But all things are worked together for my ultimate good by God. This doesn’t mean life is easy, after all in this world we will have tribulation. But it does mean that this life is ultimately working for our good and that through it others will get to see God’s hand at work.
Thankfulness is ultimately only possible when we embrace the love of our Sovereign Creator.
One final note. Can you imagine how frustrating this must be for Satan? Imagine for a moment a chess game between God and Satan in which every well thought out, strategic move of Satan is the perfect set up for God to accomplish His plan. In human terms it would be maddening.
Give thanks with a grateful heart. God loves you and nothing can change that. Satan has already lost, and again, nothing can change that.