Letters to the Brethren – August 5, 2002

Dear Brethren:
We are warned in 2 Timothy 3:1-2 by the Apostle Paul, wherein he states: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.” Paul goes on in the next five verses to continue to describe the way of this world at the very time we find ourselves in today. This is the world we live in, brethren.
It is a world that is without gratitude for all the tremendous blessings that have come upon us because of the obedience of one man – Abraham. That, of course, is a totally different story. But why is the world ungrateful, unthankful , today? And what about the people of God? Those called to His Way of life? What does God expect of us in the way of thankfulness?
When I think of being thankful, I think of an incident that occurred with my two daughters several years after their mother and I came into the Church. It sets forth the whole concept about which I am writing today. This would have occurred around the winter season of 1966 or early spring of 1967. My eldest daughter was about six. Her sister was 3 years and 10 days younger. We were living in the State of Georgia at the time.
There had been a real downpour, which was typical of that time of year in Georgia. I was driving with my wife and our two daughters who were sitting in the back seat of the car. Suddenly we hit a dip in the road, the dip having been built to carry off water during such a downpour and the car stalled by virtue of the amount of water flowing through the dip. We slowly emerged on the other side of the dip without incident.
About that time as we moved away from the dip in the road and on down that back country road, (effectively a typical Georgia road we traveled each week in our 200 mile trek each way between Albany and Atlanta for Church services) my eldest daughter said to the younger, “Donna we just came through a flood. You ought to thank God!” My youngest, in her innocence, bowed her head and said, “Thank you God for the flood.”
The one daughter was thankful that God had brought us through this trial, while the other actually thanked God for the trial. We all must come to the point where we are able to do both!
The Apostle Paul gives some significant insight into what God expects when it comes to being thankful. He admonishes us in 1Thessalonians to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks”(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Notice, particularly, those last four words. “In everything give thanks.”In EVERYTHING  give thanks! That is a very substantial requirement for each of us who have been called of God! How is one to satisfy such a requirement?
We certainly must be thankful for the knowledge of God, of His Way of life, of His purpose for all of mankind! We must be thankful for His Word and for His Spirit that opens our minds to understand His Word, to be able to see and understand the very Nature of God. We must be thankful that God has called us at this time for a very special purpose, to actually begin putting on that nature in our very lives. But “…in everything give thanks.” Give thanks?
When we think of the difficulties we face in living life at this time; when we think of the adversities we all must address – especially in walking this way – how is it possible to give thanks in everything? How is one to do this?
It is easy to be thankful for our blessings – the food we are given to eat, the roof over our heads, a place to work, the love of those close to us, good health, hope and peace. But what about the difficulties of life – the loss of a loved one, sickness and poor health, the loss of a job, separation from dear friends, family problems in our marriages and with our children, the very problems of the Church at this time?
What does Paul mean when he says we are to give thanks in everything? “Everything” is the critical word here! The problem is we are not as diligent as we ought to be in giving thanks for our blessings. And if we are not thankful in our wonderful blessings then surely we are lacking in thankfulness for the difficulties we face daily. There is much room for reflection and correction here. It is through much tribulation that we enter God’s Kingdom. God allows us these trials so that through them we may develop His Holy Righteous Character. After all, that’s what life is all about! That is why He allows Satan to tempt us – allowing this pressure from Satan which along with the pressures of this world and of our own carnal nature, all effectively help us in developing the spiritual muscle we need in overcoming this world and its ways.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” And Paul says further in 1 Timothy 2:1, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” And in Ephesians 5:20: “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There are no exceptions to this concept noted here.
We read in the book of Ecclesiastes that “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other..” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Job’s wife, after reflecting on all that had come upon him, said to Job that he should just “Curse God, and die!” (Job 2:9). Job responded by saying: “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity [evil]?” (Verse 10). As we continue to read verse 10 we note that, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
We find in the epistle to the Hebrews these words of admonition: “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name ” (Hebrews 13:15). We are the elect of God. We must find a reason for gratitude in everything, as Paul states in I Thessalonians 5:18. We must, therefore, have this firm desire that “…in everything” we learn to “give thanks.”  To be more emphatic, this must be more than a desire on our part. It is for us a privilege! We must never forget, dear brethren, “…this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (verse 18).
We need to remember the calling God has granted us with thankful hearts, that He has called us and revealed to us His great and wonderful master plan. We must continue in fervent prayer, giving thanks to Him without ceasing for the magnificent opportunity to have a part in the glorious future He has promised to all who obey Him.
In Christ’s service,
J. Edwin Pope