In Everything Gives Thanks
by Pastor James Ho, December, 2001
On Sept 16th 2001, it was our church’s 8th year anniversary. When we pondered about the past 8 years in the Sydney ministry, there are certainly a lot of things to give thanks to. That’s why, a couple of months ago prior to our celebration of the anniversary, we chose the theme for the anniversary as ‘A time to give thanks to the Lord’.
On September 11th, a tragic incident happened in the USA. This day, now universally known as ‘911’, changed the whole complexity of the world. In fact, in some countries, when we call for emergency, we dial ‘911’. And truly, that day is a day of emergency, a day of moaning and groaning because at least 6,000 people lost their lives in this day of terror.
I remembered that it was late in the evening on Sept 12th, Australian’s time, my wife and I had just finished reviewing a Christian video about the last days. Though the video was quite fictitious and lack of scriptural support, it gave us a stern warning of the last days: a time of violence, wars and terrorism.
After watching the video, it was about 11:30pm and we switched back to the television channel watching the late news. Lo and behold! We saw the World Trade Center burning like a towering inferno. We thought it was a movie. Then, as we flipped to another channel, the same scene recurred. And in the bottom left corner of the screen, it had the CNN logo. We almost shouted in one voice, “IT’S REAL! THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IS ON FIRE”. We watched in horror the live broadcast news for almost 1½ hours. The tragedy unfolded right before our very eyes. We witnessed the 2 towers collapsed, people jumped from the 100+ story tall building only to dive to their deaths. Kathleen immediately attempted to call her family members in the US. But all the phone connections were jammed. In that moment, there was nothing we could do but to pray. So, we cried out to the Lord in earnest prayer.
For the next few days after the day of terror, every TV channel was broadcasting news about the aftermath of the tragedy. Meanwhile in Sydney, we were busily preparing for our church anniversary as well as attending to some important church matters. By the end of the week, nothing seemed to be smooth and positive. Throughout the whole week after the ‘911’ tragedy, I had been pondering how to give a message of thanksgiving in our church’s 8th year anniversary when it seemed that ‘All hell broke lose’. But ironically at that time, the Lord gave me a passage on 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which read, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I was struggling to come to grip with the passage. I couldn’t even convince myself whether I could give thanks at all times especially at such time of crisis and disaster. I cried out to the Lord to enlighten me so that I could preach forth the message with conviction. As usual, the Lord works in mysterious ways. As Isaiah 55:8-9 said, ‘”For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts....’. And the Lord gave me a message of thanksgiving....
If we are to look for a prime example to learn a life of thanksgiving, certainly we have to look into the life of our Master and Lord Jesus. It amazes me in discovering the vast difference between the way we generally give thanks and that of Christ. I discover that most people give thanks when they see the results of their prayers fulfilled or their dreams turned to reality. In other words, we give thanks after the fact. If the result is not according to our expectation, especially when thing turns soar, very few people would still give thanks with joy and peace in heart. We admire those who can despite receiving an adverse outcome.
Let’s see in what situations did the Lord give thanks to:
1. The feeding of the 4,000: Matthew 15:29-38 There was a multitude of about 4,000 flocking to Jesus. Many of them were lame, crippled, blind, dumb etc. Jesus healed them all. But they lingered on. Jesus had compassion on them. He didn’t want to send them away hungry. His disciples told Him that they only had 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. What did He do? In verse 36, it said that he gave thanks. The astonishing thing is that He gave thanks before the miracle of multiplication was performed. When we take our meals, we would give thanks too. But that is because we have food on the table. Can you imagine yourself giving thanks before a meal with no food on the table? Only a few godly men did that and that took a lot of faith to give thanks to things not seen. We have to learn as what the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:7 said, “ What by faith, not by sight...’.
2. The raising of Lazarus: John 11:38-44 While Jesus and His disciples were in another village beyond the river Jordan, His good friend Lazarus died. When Jesus and His disciples arrived to Bethany, Lazarus was already dead for 4 days. First He met Martha, Lazarus sister. He comforted her proclaiming that He is the resurrection and the life. Then, He met Mary, another sister. When He saw all the commotion and Mary was weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and wept too. When He approached the tomb where Lazarus was laid, He did the unimaginable thing: He asked the stone to be removed from the tomb entrance. Then He looked up to heaven and GAVE THANKS. It stunned everyone there by His repulsive behavior. First, He was late to come to His friend’s rescue. Then, He was late for the funeral. Now, He demanded the stone to be removed when there would be a stench by this time. And the abhorring part was that He even dared to give thanks before a mourning crowd. Notice that again He gave thanks before a miracle of resurrection was performed. He has such faith in His Father that He proclaimed to everyone to witness the glory of God before the miracle was performed. It put myself to shame when I recalled how many times I failed to glorify God when opportunities arose. When people told me about their problems. Sometimes, I dared not tell them in advance that I would pray for them. But actually I did. But as it turned out, the problems were resolved. I gave thanks after my prayers were confirmed and answered. But these people would not acknowledge that it was prayer answered simply because I didn’t tell them that I prayed for them before the problems were resolved.
We may give ourselves excuse that we can’t compare to our Lord Jesus. Certainly, His faith is far superior than ours because He comes from the Father. However, Lord Jesus challenged us in John 14:12 by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.” No matter how we interpret this verse, the challenge is still there. In fact, God doesn’t expect us to have lots of faith. All He wants is that our faith is as a mustard seed to begin with (Matthew 17:20), He will cause mountain to be removed. Perhaps, in most of the time, our faith is not even amount to the size of a mustard seed. It certainly reflects the state of many Christians today.
3. The Lord’s Last supper: Luke 22:14-20 On the night that He was betrayed, our Lord Jesus institutionalized the Holy sacrament of Communion. He foretold what would happen to Him; that He would be betrayed. The consequence of that betrayal would lead to His crucifixion. It was one of the most painful and agonizing moments of Jesus’ life. At the end of His earthly ministry, having His last meal with His chosen twelve, He must be tormented in spirit. He knew the pitiful spiritual state of His beloved disciples: one would betray Him, one would deny Him 3 times, the rest would flee at the time of His arrest. From the human’s point of view, even looking back at the 3 years of living with His disciples, training and teaching them, there was nothing good to give thanks to. They were just as carnal as before. The competitive spirit was evident. Everyone tried to be greater than the others (Luke 22:24). That was enough to make Jesus wept. Not only that, He knew that He had to be a living sacrifice offered up in order to save the world from the bondage of sin and evil. He also knew that He alone could accomplish this impossible task. But for our salvation’s sake, for the lost souls of mankind, He embraced the cross. In His last supper, He gave thanks as He took the bread and the cup signifying the offering of His Body and His Blood. I just wonder whether I can still give thanks to the Lord when I know that I would die as a martyr.
These are just 3 of the many incidents that demonstrate the complete faith of our Lord Jesus. In order to give thanks in all things, one must have the complete faith in God at all times. The Lord always gives thanks ahead of time. That requires faith. It means a total dependency on God regardless of the outcome. It also reflects how deep is His relationship with the Father. As He honors the Father, so the Father honors Him (1 Samuel 2:30). On the contrary, we give thanks after the fact and only when things go our way. In that case, we don’t need faith to give thanks. In fact, most of the time, we don’t give thanks even when our prayers being answered (Like the 9 lepers in Luke 17:12-17).
I plead to my Lord Jesus to increase our faith in Him, to help us to have a closer walk with Him. He set a living example for us to follow. As His disciples, let us learn this new kind of faith from the Lord: to have complete trust in Him regardless of what will happen, knowing that all things will work out for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). When we practice our faith this way, we can truly identify what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” And our lives will never be the same. May our loving Father forgive our lack of faith in the past and increase our faith in Him so that we can be more like Jesus all the time.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church