He shall, from time to time…~Article II, Section 3, US Constitution
(Every now and then I will post some brief notes on a particular passage or book. More often than not, these will be observations rather than actual sermons.)
Last evening I spoke briefly about Paul’s “staccato imperatives” found in the last chapter of his first letter to the Thessalonians. The central commands (5:16-18) form what James Denney called the “standing orders of the gospel,” since they are fitting for all times and circumstances.
The statements are front loaded. Most modern English translations begin those verses with verbs, but that is not the case in the Greek text. The words that give us the sense of constancy and consistency are actually in the emphatic position. Reading them most literally would give us something like this:
“Always be rejoicing.”
“Always (without ceasing) be praying.”
“In each and every circumstance be giving thanks.”
It becomes apparent that the verbs in the verses don’t present much difficulty for Christians. We often rejoice. We often pray. We often give thanks. It is those insistent modifiers that give us fits. Always rejoice. Always pray. Always give thanks.
This isn’t easy but it’s absolutely necessary. Consider the alternatives. We would be consigned to despair and anger. We would become disconnected souls who have no communion with our Maker. We would become ingrates who think that we have what we have because of our own ingenuity rather than as the gracious gifts of a benevolent Father. When joy and gratitude are gone, bitterness and idolatry take their place.
After a brief discussion of these verses, I shared with the saints a few reasons to give thanks to God. The list is in no particular order. I chose not to include personal blessings because I wanted the list to apply to all Christians in every circumstance. It is in no way exhaustive. I simply stopped writing because I ran out of time. My people asked that I would share this with you.
Christian, you can be thankful—
- That God is sovereign.
- That nothing happens by chance.
- That God causes all things to work together for good for his children.
- That hard times reveal our weakness, break our pride, and show us our total need for God.
- That God has triumphed over sin and death through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- That God uses the worst that happens to promote our spiritual growth.
- That God is faithful even when we are faithless.
- That God’s Word will be vindicated.
- That God’s promises are true.
- That evil will not reign forever.
- That heaven is real.
- That this life is not all there is.
- That when we are weak, he is strong.
- That his grace is sufficient for every situation.
- That nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
- That our salvation rests on God and not on us.
- That there is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.
- That the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from every sin.
- That God delights to save sinners.
- That the Lord can soften the hardest heart.
- That there are no impossible cases with God.
- That even when we feel alone, we are never alone.
- That the Holy Spirit abides with us always.
- That the Lord Jesus knows and identifies with our pain.
- That the Holy Spirit prays for us when we are too weak to pray for ourselves.
- That the Lord Jesus intercedes for us so that we are finally saved.
- That God uses everything and wastes nothing.
- That our doubts cannot cancel God’s work in us.
- That someday we will be conformed to the image of Christ.
- That God is faithful to finish His work in us.
- That our hardships equip us to minister to others.
- That we are invited to come boldly to the throne of grace.
- That God’s plan far exceeds our puny imagination.
- That weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
- That we are still God’s children even when our faith falters.
- That while we suffer outwardly, we are being renewed inwardly.
- That our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory.