The Relationship That Empowers Thanksgiving
The leaves are changing colors, it’s November, the Thanksgiving Holiday is fast approaching. The question will inevitably be asked: “What are you thankful for?” If we base our thanksgiving on what is happening there may not be much to give thanks for. We want to be happy. Wouldn’t you just like to wake up happy from a good night’s sleep and stay happy all day long laying a happy head on your pillow in anticipation of another good night’s rest and a better day tomorrow? That would make being thankful a lot easier. Unfortunately, happiness doesn’t always happen. Happiness is based on what is happening at the moment. Depending what’s going on at the moment has a huge influence on one feeling happy or not. Base thanksgiving on what’s happening and it really hinders your ability to be thankful. Happenstance can make it really difficult to be thankful, to actually feeling thankful. When what is happening is not to one’s liking there is no thanksgiving.
True, sincere, genuine, heartfelt thanksgiving has joy as its foundation. Joy is often defined in terms of an emotion, something we feel: high spirits, elation, jubilance, exhilaration, delight, bliss, euphoria, delight. That makes you think that joy means feeling good. That definition makes you think joy means being happy all the time. But joy doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. Joy can be a springboard to happiness; it will be easier to choose to be happy when you possess joy, but you can be joyful in less than happy circumstances. It is joy more than happiness from which true thanksgiving comes.
Where do you find joy? Reading Ecclesiastes may help quicken your journey. The writer indulges in everything imaginable under the sun but finds no joy. No lasting joy in accomplishments, in success, in fame, in neither carnal pleasures nor epicurean delights the author says it’s all just chasing after the wind. Joy is elusive because it is found in a very unfamiliar place.
Joy is found in an intimate relationship with God. An intimate relationship with God has certain benefits that no matter what may be happening you can practice the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 (NIV). When you possess joy, you will rejoice, and give thanks. Real joy is something that the circumstances can’t take away from you. Thanksgiving flows from a joyous heart.
Your journey in cultivating a joyous heart begins with your acknowledgment that you do not have an intimate relationship with God. Think of intimacy as “into-me-see.” Intimacy involves a deep and thorough knowing of another that provides an abiding sense of security, an enduring sense of comfort and of course a sense of steadfast love. “I see you,” said Neytiri in James Cameron’s movie Avatar. The statement meant more than perceiving someone’s presence, it meant recognizing another’s soul. You realize that you cannot characterize your relationship with God as intimate.
In your journey to connect intimately with God, you come to believe that Jesus, God the Son, made atonement for you that your estrangement can come to an end. Wanting to be rightly related you commit yourself to being a disciple of Jesus, learning how to build your life with His leading. When you acknowledge, believe and commit, then ask God to accept your faith a right relationship begins. It has never been recorded that once asking for your faith to be accepted God’s answer was no. Never once has the reply been “I don’t accept your faith;” “No you’re too bad;” “No you haven’t worked hard enough for it:” “No you can’t be forgiven:” “No I don’t want you:” The scripture says this instead: “But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves” (John 1:12 (MSG). God accepts the one who faithfully seeks. His welcoming gift is His Spirit, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within your mind and directs you on the path of intimacy. It is in and through a righteous relationship with God that you will find real and lasting joy.
Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart, it is a perspective about life that flows out of a right relationship with God. Joy is a settled assurance, a secure belief; one might say an illogical understanding that in the future everything is going to be alright because of that relationship. Joy is being fully convinced that “every detail in our lives when lived for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:28 (MSG). Faith in the trustworthiness of what the scripture reveals becomes your personal spiritual truth, real facts that inform you in how to live. As you experience God, these encounters move you into a growing intimacy. It is in this growing intimacy, in knowing God and the realization of being already known by God, that joy is to be found.
The Acquittal that Empowers Thanksgiving
As you establish, maintain and develop your relationship with God there certain spiritual facts that are a cause for joy. The scripture reveals that God acquits you of all spiritual crimes, generalized as sin. Instead of being condemned for your conduct joy is found in discovering that you have been acquitted and now have favored status, that you have an inheritance, that you are assured victory and destined for life eternal. Incorporating these spiritual truths into your daily life creates a joy that cannot be taken away and with joy, the ability feel and express thanks.
We can be joyful because as a disciple of Jesus there is no longer a judgment and condemnation falling upon us because of our sins.
“…There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1 (NLT). There is joy in the heart of the acquitted and from that joy thankfulness that you are no longer be condemned. According to your crime when condemned you may have to: make a public apology; you may have to pay fines or make restitution; you may have to perform community service; you may spend time in jail; you may have to forfeit your life. In the Spiritual reality in which we live sin results in condemnation. Sin is anything that deters, damages or destroys right relationships. The scripture reveals that “the soul who sins is the one who will die…” “…the wages of sin is death…” (Ezekiel 18:20 & Romans 6:23 (NIV). To check if you have sinned you reflect upon your life if you find that there is a relationship that once was good but turned bad you know that you have sinned. The result of having sinned is spiritual death.
Spiritual death means estrangement from God. Estranged you are cut off from the source of life. Now there is a gift from God called common grace that helps even those estranged from God to do life-giving things. There is also the gift of prevenient grace that helps us see our need to reconcile with God. There is also saving grace that brings us spiritual life, reconnecting us to God in a personal and intimate relationship. We begin to know God. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”( John 17:3 (NIV). There is also sanctifying grace that transforms you, changes you, increasing your experiential knowledge of God, deepening your relationship with Him. Finally, there is glorifying grace which will usher you into an eternity with God, the one you have learned to love with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Grace is the desire to be and the power to do received as a gift. Spiritual death results when an individual refuses to receive God’s grace gifts. With the refusal to receive these grace gifts one remains estranged, enslaved to sin, forever separated from God’s love, condemned to death,.
The Apostle John likened this death sentence to being thrown alive in a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Jesus likened this sentence to being thrown out into the outer darkness (Matthew 8:12). If everything rises and falls on relationships spiritual death from a relational perspective is the sentence of estrangement to solitary confinement. Whatever the actual reality of the situation is you don’t want to be condemned.
As a disciple of Jesus, one who is learning to love like He loved, one who is being trained to do the things He did, one who is carrying out the Great Commission, spiritually you are in Him (Colossians 1:27). Being in Him means you are no longer condemned. Your spiritual crimes have been forgiven, their debt paid in full, the record expunged. An awareness of the depths of your own spiritual depravity and then discovering that God has redeemed you from your fate is a reason for joy. In that joy, you can give thanks for being acquitted of your crimes.
Pastor Rollie Miller told this story. I have some good news for you. When you came here today you parked on a hill. Somehow your brakes gave way and your car started rolling down the hill, picking up speed it ran a red light, smashed into the intersection traffic, spun into an old women being helped by a boy scout crossing the street, a young mother with and her baby in the stroller, and a blind man’s seeing eye dog; sending all to the hospital with injuries. On top of numerous fines, the police have put a warrant out for your arrest citing vehicular negligence and unsafe operation of a vehicle. The families of injured pedestrians have already contacted personal injury lawyers. Those with property damage have already contacted your insurance company and discovered that damages exceed the limits of your policy. Most likely you’re going to have to pay for the excess amounts. Your registration also expired 2 days ago. I took care of it for you and these are the keys to your new car.
When God accepts your faith His grace gift to you is pardon for sin. “…Simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us” (Romans 8:4 (MSG). You embrace what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life through obedience. The type of obedience Jesus calls you to: love God by obeying what He has commanded you; love others by showing them respect and when an opportunity arises meeting their need often at the cost of a personal sacrifice; righteously love yourself appropriating the sanctifying grace God so freely gives. No working the legal system, embrace. No bribe, embrace. No negotiating, embrace. No working for it, embrace. In the embrace there is joy and joy makes it possible to give thanks.
Acknowledge, believe, commit, ask, it sounds like a formula but it can’t be. Rather this is an abiding attitude of the heart that results in your acquittal and an expunging of all thoughts and deeds that put you at odds with God and the rest of humanity. You are forgiven, welcomed, accepted and empowered to walk the path of intimacy with God, it is in your relationship that you find joy. When there is joy in your heart, there is thanksgiving on your lips.
The Embrace That Empowers Thanksgiving
We can be joyful because as a follower of Jesus the Holy Spirit resides within you giving you access to the mind of Christ so that you have an internal moral compass, a righteous value system, and start seeing life from an eternal perspective.
When you embrace the Spirit’s convicting and redeeming work He takes up residence within you. “Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God!” (Romans 8:5 (MSG). Embrace when used by the poets can paint a picture of intimacy. God within is about intimacy. Intimacy (into-me-see) is about acceptance and the joy that comes from being fully known and the comfort it brings that in spite of all flaws and failures you are loved. No longer condemned, God’s Spirit brings a grace to redeem what is broken and equip you for life eternal. Realizing this truth, and embracing the Holy Spirit and His work within, is a source of joy.
In the relationship I share with my bride, I love her by considering what she needs before I take care of my own wants. I often decide a course of action based on her approval. I begin to see the world through her eyes. Embracing the Spirit helps you see life through His eyes; to know what is important to Him; to know what choices need to be made to deepen and enhance the relationship. An intimate relationship with another human being changes you.
As your intimacy with God grows and deepens you begin to understand what God values. “…You yourself experience life on God's terms” (Romans 8:10 (MSG). Experiencing life on God’s terms creates an internal moral compass. You intuitively know what is right and what is wrong (Isaiah 30:21). Experiencing life on God’s terms aligns you with God’s value system. You start placing the proper price tags your choices. Experiencing life on God’s terms opens your eyes to what truly is important and worth your effort. You begin to see how things fit together for good or for evil; you can tell up from down, right from wrong. Those experiences set you on a path of living a meaningful and significant life. Living significantly means you matter. Having an internal sense of self-worth is a source of joy. That your life counts, that you make an impact whether great or small, public or private is a reason to be thankful.
You quicken your embrace of the Spirit through your practice of the seven habits of a disciple. These spiritual disciplines are well documented as effective means of inviting an encounter with God. Reading and studying the scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience and contemplation are ways to embrace the Holy Spirit. These practices are not done for their own sake, but rather they serve as vehicles which transcend the discipline leading to an encounter with God. It is in this mutual embrace of encounter that intimacy grows.
The Inheritance that Empowers Thanksgiving
We can be joyful because as a believer God adopts us as a son or daughter, writing us into the family inheritance, nothing can separate you from God’s love. He’s given you favored status, you have access.
The intimate embrace of God that is characteristic of a disciple of Jesus brings with it favored status. “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children” (Romans 8:15-16 (MSG). There’s a picture in the history books of President John F Kennedy sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office. Underneath that desk is his son John at play:
That little guy enjoyed favored access. When you find yourself reconciled to God He convinces you that you have access. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 (NIV). You always have access to your Heavenly Father, who listens to you, who is willing to supply your needs, who will walk through the storms of life with you, and who, on occasion, intervenes supernaturally on your behalf.
You may have difficulty wrapping your heart around this truth because of your experiences with your biological father and various other father figures in your life. You may not feel that you had, or ever will have, favored access. So the Holy Spirit works overtime to convince you that you are really God’s child; that you really do have favored access. For some people accepting God’s confirmation is a struggle. It is an experience that is proven over time. It often takes repeated experiences to convince you of your new status as a privileged child of God. When you begin to know yourself as God has declared you to be, the experience brings joy.
“Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:5 (MSG). The child of God is part of the family of God. When our biological families maintain the fun in dysfunctional they can be a great blessing to us. Protection, nurture, roots, identity, shared stories, encouragement, support, comfort and a safe haven are what good families provide. God calls His children to be a good family to one another. “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that's your job, to bless” (1 Peter 3:8-9 (MSG). When a group of His children is dedicated to living this way it is a source of great blessings. The realization of God’s blessings is always a source of joy for which one can offer thanks.
As a child of God, a member of God’s family there is an inheritance that you will receive. “And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Romans 8:17-18 (MSG). In his letter to the congregation in Philippi, the Apostle Paul reveals a glimpse of the family inheritance through highlighting what Jesus went through.
Philippians 2:8-11 (MSG)
He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
This is a description of the highest honor that can be bestowed. The family inheritance is being recognized for the glory you bring God.
At first thought that doesn’t seem like a grand inheritance, being recognized by everyone for the glory you have brought God for all eternity. Glory is the physical manifestation of the presence of God. A person gives God glory by displaying the love of God through their actions. This is what Jesus did and what He is honored for, Jesus glorified the Father by what He did. When you love, you are manifesting God’s presence in the world. Your loving deeds are an imitation of Jesus that reveals who God is. Your acts of love make you a God revealer. You become that light in the darkness, that city on a hill, that salt of the earth that Jesus spoke of (Matthew 5:14). You’re the manifestation of God’s glory puts the spotlight on the glory of God; glory glorifies. You are honored for the glory you glorify God by. That honor will be your eternal occasion for joy.
We can be joyful because as a Christian we know that who we are continues after physical death with a promise of a bodily resurrection from the grave.
The future inheritance of the person who is in God, who has God within them is eternal life. “It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself?” (Romans 8:11 (MSG). God brings you alive to Him now in the present that you may live your life to the full and will raise you from physical death in the Last Day into life eternal. Rising from physical death means that you continue on after physical death, your life is not limited to the extent of your breathing policy. Faith includes hope that something will happen when you have no guarantee but a promise that it will. “Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 (NIV).
There is much speculation as to what this eternal life will be like. From the writings of the Apostle Paul, we know that existence will be in a bodily form (1 Corinthians 15: 35-57 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-10). Specifics are not revealed, when this will happen is simply called the Last Day, how this will happen is shrouded in Divine mystery. That it will happen is foretold. When the resurrection does occur we will discover that eternal life defied our wildest imaginations (Ephesians 3:20). The prospect of eternal life is a reason for joy and the subsequent thanksgiving joy enables.
We can be joyful because as God lovers one day we will look back on the stuff we’ve dealt with and consider all the difficulty, pain, suffering, frustration, broken hearts, to truly not matter all that much any longer.
Your family inheritance includes being known and honored as a person who manifests the glory of God. Your family inheritance includes life eternal. Your family inheritance includes the realization in future that God’s blessings are far greater than anything you may have had to endure. “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. 18 There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (MSG). . The situations and circumstances you are struggling through; the events that are causing suffering; the difficulty that seems astronomical; the obstacles that seem insurmountable: Paul says “no comparison.” Hard times here, will be totally overshadowed to the point that you will feel in retrospect that they were relatively insignificant. That one day you will look at the stuff you have gone through, the betrayals, the broken hearts, the anguish, the tears, the anger, the pain, and truly consider them insignificant, that hope is cause for joy and provides a motivation to be full of thanks.
Romans 8:21 (MSG)
Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
True thankfulness is based in joy, not happenings. Joy is found in and through your relationship with God. When you grasp the significance of your relationship with God and the benefits and hope that comes with that relationship, you experience an inner joy that is unaffected by happenstance. When you embrace God’s gift you are no longer condemned, instead, your relationship with God is reconciled. God declares you to be righteous, adopts you as His very own, giving you favored status. You are His beloved, He writes you into the family inheritance. God the Holy Spirit indwells you, puts His DNA in you. You begin to change, empowered to become what God declared you to be. As you seek to deepen your relationship with God you develop Divine insight into the world all around you. God gives you the promise of living life to the full here and now and later a resurrected life, the grave doesn’t have the final say. When you embrace God, God embraces you and the result is joy. When you experience the joy that flows from your relationship with God, then you can truly be thankful.
Capturing the Anxious Thought Empowers Thanksgiving
The feelings of happiness are based on what’s happening at the moment. The feelings of joy are based on relationships. Joy is the true foundation for gratitude and thanksgiving. It is in your relationship with God that you find joy and reason to rejoice always. You can be joyful because the “peace of God” which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) convinces you that all problems have a solution. This peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict, rather think of the peace of God as the tranquility of your mind.
When bad things happen, or, you anticipate that bad things will happen, it causes you to stress, to worry, to be disturbed; you lose peace of mind. Have you experienced those sleepless nights, headaches, high blood pressure, bad dreams, upset stomach? Have you felt the agitation, frustration, upset, that comes with the fear of what tomorrow might bring? Those symptoms are often the result of a lack of peace. Your peace of mind has taken a vacation and anxiety has taken up residence.
There is a strong correlation between your choices and whether or not you have peace, the tranquility of mind. It’s a choice to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:2 (NIV). When you face an uncertain tomorrow you need to choose how you will think about it. As a follower of Christ: “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV). You have a choice, you can let your thoughts run wild, thinking about everything that possibly could go wrong and make no plans to confront the situation. Or you can choose to discipline your thoughts, basing your outlook on the faithfulness of God drawing on His wisdom in devising a plan to meet the challenge. You have a choice, you can focus on your problem or you can focus on God’s ability to accompany you through the problem. If you make your thoughts obedient to Christ the result will be the peace of God bringing tranquility to your mind.
You take a thought captive by first identifying the enemy. When you find no peace in heart and mind, try to figure out why. There is a thought behind your trepidation; name it, write it out, “this is what is troubling me,” “this is what I fear.” If you can name the proverbial demon you can cast it out.
Once you have identified the enemy then search the scripture for the truth that overcomes that fear. You may not be that familiar with the Bible, use an internet search engine—Google, Edge, Bing, Yahoo, Firefox, and type in “scripture on ___________” and in the blank enter your identified enemy. There will be a list of websites that will lead you to scripture references concerning your enemy. Ask God the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth (John 16:13). Read the scripture references until you sense that at least one brings you comfort, one that resonates with you.
There was a problem that I was facing and I felt overwhelmed. My response wasn’t fear as much as just plain anger; the kind of anger that can make you wonder if you’re really a Christian or not. Following the above method, I was directed to 2 Chronicles 20:17. The back story is that King Jehoshaphat is facing overwhelming odds. The King sets a time for all his people to pray and ask God for help. A “word” from the Lord comes:
2 Chronicles 20:17 (NIV)
“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
Instead of giving up because of the overwhelming odds against him King Jehoshaphat chooses to make his thoughts obedient to the “word from the Lord.” The account in 2 Chronicles leads on to an overwhelming victory of the King. When I made the choice to trust in God instead of worry about tomorrow I discovered I was no longer troubled, the peace of God had settled into my thinking.
You have identified that troubling thought. You have found scripture that resonates within you. By choosing to believe what God reveals you have taken those wild thoughts captive, made them obedient to Christ, the result is tranquility
of mind. In that peace you discover God’s joy over you, joy begets joy and overflowing with joy, you can give thanks, not for the circumstances but for the relationship.
The Trust That Empowers Thanksgiving
Trusting in the love, the wisdom, and the power of God can bring the peace of God which surpasses all understanding to dwell fully in your heart and mind.
Taking troubling thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ brings inner peace. Another way to overcome unease and allow the peace of God to rule your mind is to reflect on the love of God.
John 3:16 & Romans 8:32 & 1 John 3:1 (NIV)
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
In my time of utter devastation hanging on to the thread that God still loved me calmed my fears. I recalled my experiences in the past, the times I was at wit's end and deliverance came. The circumstances didn’t change, but the decision to trust overcame the fear and doubt. Even when my circumstances caused me to question, to sing my lament, it was recalling God’s love that brought me peace.
Your trusting that God loves you, in the face of great challenge, results in the peace of God within you. The scripture puts it this way
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
That God will make your paths straight means that you can be confident that things are going to end well. To elaborate upon that statement that “things are going to end well:” your faithfulness in the face of catastrophe, heartbreak, martyrdom, cannot separate you from God. Your lament, your protests, complaints, anger, and questions cannot separate you from God. Therefore to say “all things are going to work out well” means that eternal life is waiting for you. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all,” wrote the Apostle Paul to the congregation in Corinth. One day you will consider the insurmountable problem of today as in the grand scheme of things as truly only light and momentary. That paradigm shifting trust allows peace to take up residence in your mind. With tranquility of mind, you sense God’s joy in you, which is your springboard to true thanksgiving.
Intricately related to trusting in God’s love is being confident of God’s wisdom. To overcome unease we must trust in the wisdom of God. Wisdom is the ability to rightly apply knowledge to life’s circumstances. Wisdom reveals the best possible way to achieve a goal.
Romans 11:33 (NIV)
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
That God’s ways are “unsearchable” calls for us to have faith. Faith is trust and confidence in God that moves us to action. Dr. Leonard Sweet would add to that definition of faith by saying: “the essence of faith is the suspension of our knowledge and belief system to trust in Christ…” It is possible to have faith in your knowledge and belief in God but not have faith in God. Unsearchable means that often the way God is working is totally unfathomable. We are not going to understand. It is very possible that you can’t figure things out until the story reaches a conclusion and then you see the wisdom of God. Faith keeps in mind the goal is enjoying fellowship with God throughout eternity.
If wisdom is applying knowledge and experience to create the best possible solution trusting in God’s wisdom means that you believe that God will bring about the best possible results, given the mess you find yourself in.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
To overcome unease you must remember that even though all things aren’t good, God can work well from whatever happens. It should be noted that your definition of good may be different from God’s unfathomable definition of good. Faith enables you to trust God’s wisdom when you can’t understand what is happening. God’s wisdom directs you to what is best. God is wise. God will do the best with what He has to work with. Trusting in God’s wisdom to make the story end well brings a sense of confidence and peace within you. It’s in the tranquility of soul that joy is found. Joy enables thanksgiving.
To allow the peace of God to settle into your life take every troubling thought captive, trust in God’s love for you, trust in God’s wisdom to help you and in God’s power to carry it through. Trusting in the power of God is being confident that God can and will work even the most unbelievable bad circumstance into your deliverance.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
God desires the redemption of His creation. What’s in store for you is beyond your imagination. His power means there is nothing that will detour God from finishing what He has started. As a believer, God’s power also resides in you. The power at work within you is resurrection power. This power works sanctifying grace within you, getting you ready, transforming you daily, so that you are fit for God’s glory. For the man or woman whose intent is to stay faithful God’s power assures eternal life.
You most likely will get sidetracked from the truth of this verse by applying it in such a way that you expect some sort of easy street here and now. “Immeasurably more than all we ask causes one to think God is going to give you health, wealth, prosperity and a long life full of happiness; that your prayers will all be answered; that nothing bad will ever happen. Experience bears out that such thoughts will lead to disappointment and despair. If you understand that “immeasurably more is coming,” you can power on.
God’s power at work within you makes it possible to keep on keeping on in the face of terrible opposition. Its power to deal with the stuff life throws at you. It’s power to stay faithful when the preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise. It’s power to solider on. It’s power to obey and keep on loving. It’s power to forgive those how have hurt you. It’s power to transform enemies into friends. You do more than you imagined possible. It is the power of God within that creates peace in the midst of the storm.
God’s power will be evident when we get to the end of the story. God accomplished what He set out to do, and that the future is unimaginable. Trust in God’s power results in the peace of God. Put to rest your troubling thoughts by trusting that God still loves you; trusting that God’s wisdom can make a masterpiece out of this mess and trust that God’s power will see you through to His desired end.
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
The situation is bad, the outlook grim, thoughts of catastrophe assail you. Fear grows as you cannot figure a way out of your situation. Anxiety steals your sleep, worry preoccupies your mind. It all seems hopeless. You can banish all the negative ideation by making those thoughts obedient to Christ and trusting in God’s love, wisdom and power to bring about your deliverance. The apprehension, the disquiet in your heart is calmed by the peace of God. In that peace there is joy and from that joy, you can raise a cup of thanksgiving.
The Joy That Empowers Thanksgiving
The joy of the Lord is not something you have. The Joy of the Lord is God’s joy in and over you.
Thanksgiving happens when you realize that you are loved, that someone is joyous to be in a relationship with you. The scripture reads: “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength" Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV). God’s joy over you calls forth joy from within yourself.
For 70 years Jerusalem has laid in ruins after being sacked and torn apart by the Babylonians. Now under the protection of Cyrus king of Persia Israelites are returning to the city. Modern day Iran are the descendants of the Persians
Nehemiah the statesman, Ezra the priest, are tasked with rebuilding Jerusalem. It was a daunting task. But with the remnant of Israelites, they managed to rebuild the wall. and when word got out the more Israelites repatriated. It’s September, The Feast of Trumpets is celebrated. Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year is celebrated during the Feast of Trumpets. Ezra the Priest gathers the people and reads the book of the law from dawn till noon to the people.
There is no consensus amongst the scholars as to what exactly the book of the law refers to. Some suggest the entire Pentateuch, those first five books in your Bible-- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Some think it was just one of those books. Other scholars: parts of those books. Regardless of what exactly was read the result was a great conviction falling on the people.
Nehemiah 8:8-9 (NIV)
They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
The Spirit of God sets before the people God the purposes of God for them, where they have come from, God’s expectations of how His people are to conduct themselves; and the penalties for rebellion and the blessings of obedience. The people are struck by how they have missed the mark; they are heartbroken.
Something similar occurs when the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle John come into the presence of God.
Isaiah 6:5 (NIV)
"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."
Isaiah in the light of God’s presence sees how far he is from being the person God desires for him to be. He sees how great a sinner He actually is. All self-deception is torn away, every rationalization for sin melts away, he sees that he is guilty. It shakes him to the core of his being. “Not only am I not worthy,” he says, “I am a dead man.”
When John encounters the glory of the living Christ, he becomes so terrified he passes out.
Revelation 1:17 (NIV)
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
Can you imagine seeing something causes you to pass out? One can understand fear causing one to startle, scream, run, throw a fist, but pass out? How incredibly overwhelming this experience was.
In order to be saved, you need to be fully aware of what you are being saved from. The wrath of God is exclusion. Excluded from God’s specific blessings; excluded from God’s presence; excluded from God’s eternity. The reason for this exclusion is the estrangement that sin has caused between God and yourself.
What is this estrangement like? It eventually is like being thrown alive in a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). It’s like being Left out in the cold, in the darkness where there will be weeping (Matthew 8:12). It’s like finding yourself in a place where the maggots don’t die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:48). Whatever reality estrangement from God ends up being you don’t want to be a part of it.
When you take ownership of the gravity of your behavior it can cause you to break down in fear and trembling, cause you to weep, mourn and wail; it should, like the Israelites, like Isaiah, like John.
James 4:8-10 (MSG)
Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.
Let there be sorrow and deep grief, sadness instead of laughter over your sins. Sin causes estrangement. Sin is your responsibility.
Once you know what you are being saved from and the reason you need saving, then there is joy to be found in what God has done for you. Your right relationship with Him changes everything
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
You don’t approach arrogantly, you don’t approach demanding, you approach in humility, with the realization of how lucky you are to be able to come into the presence of God and find help. That reality is a source of joy.
As Ezra reads the Book of the Law the people they are heartbroken over what they have heard. Through this reading they have experienced the presence of God, the encounter has them mourning, there are grief and sorrow and lots of tears. Even the men are crying. Isaiah is bemoaning his ruin, John is passed out on the ground.
Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NIV)
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve." Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
The sorrow came from knowing that they had sinned, that their behavior had estranged them from God But great joy came when they understood God’s desire to save them just as they are, to reconcile the relationship. The Teachers explained the teaching and told the people to go and celebrate, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. “Go celebrate because of God favor is resting upon you.” “God has saved you from your sins.” “God has once again re-established relationship with you.” “God’s blessings are raining down.” “God is pleased with you.” “God is joyous over you.” The Joy of the Lord is His joy in you.
I remember my first date with Sherri, I asked if we could do this again sometime and she said yes—that felt good. I had met with her approval, at least enough to get a second date. After about a year and a half, I asked her to marry me. Much to my surprise, she said yes. I most definitely had met with her approval and the deficiencies I did have she figured she would help me work through. To know that she approved of me, accepted me, wanted to be with me, to know she delighted in me was a source of joy. When you sense another’s joy over you, it calls forth a joyous response in you.
You like being with the people that like you. You love being with the people that love you. You are joyous being with the people that enjoy you. The joy of the Lord is His joy in you having accepted His invitation to enter into a right relationship with Him. God’s joy in you causes you to rejoice. In a sense, God’s joy empowers you to joy.
John 15:9-11 (NIV)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
God’s joy in you causes you to have joy in your relationship with Him, joy overflows your cup, and from a heart overflowing with joy, thanksgiving comes easily.
"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.” John 15:11 (MSG)
Now how does the joy of the Lord, His joy in you, his joy over you become your strength?
Something horrible happens, and joy sings in the midst of pain and suffering—
Song of Songs 2:4 (NIV)
“…his banner over me is love…”
Nothing is going your way, everything seems to be breaking against you, And joy recites in the midst of difficulty and stress
Romans 8:37-39 (MSG)
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
The task is too great, the challenge too daunting, the obstacles too much and joy claims the promise:
Philippians 4:13 (MSG)
Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.
within you find the strength to keep on keeping on. To overcome, do more, be more than you ever could imagine. There’s your strength to be a lover of enemies, a righter of wrongs, a bringer of justice, a dispenser of healing, one who makes a difference.
Allow the Joy of the Lord, God’s joy in you, to be your joy, it will strengthen you in your journey.
Psalms 28:7 (NIV)
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
When you recall what you have been saved from, that God has forgiven you of your sins, reconciled your relationship with Him ending your estrangement, that is a source of joy. Where there is joy you can find gratitude, and when you have gratitude you can give true thanksgiving.
The joy of the Lord is not something you have, the joy of the Lord is God’s joy in and over you. God is joyous over your relationship with Him, God is joyous over your discipleship. Realizing His joy causes you to experience joy in your relationship with Him. As joy increases, thanksgiving naturally is felt.
In the face of testing, trials, and tribulation your obedience is a joy to God. His joy in you is felt and feeling His joy in you, causes you to rejoice and in rejoicing give thanks.
rest in your relationship with God trusting that together you can face tomorrow. You have decided to counsel God to develop a plan to face the day (Proverbs 16:3).
You put to rest your troubling thoughts by trusting that God still loves you; by trusting that God can make a masterpiece out of this mess.
Love desires only what is best for us. you can do as the Apostle Paul has taught: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 (NIV), Rejoicing means you have joy, and joy is the foundation of gratitude which leads to thanksgiving.
You can replace feelings of unsettledness with a true sense peace resting upon you so that you can feel thankful. It’s impossible to feel thankful when you are worried sick. You can choose to replace an anxious hope with the peace of God. The peace of God brings an assurance that everything is going to end well.
Happiness is the fruit of prosperous conditions. Joy is independent of what is happening around you. Joy is found in the relationship you share with God. It is this relational joy that is the foundation for gratitude and gratitude is from where true thankfulness springs.
The joy of the Lord is derived from your relationship with God and empowers you to do far more than you imagined possible. Everything rise and falls on relationships. The more intimate your relationship with God, the more you experience God. The more you experience God the more you know God, the more you know God the more you trust God. The more you trust God the more confidence you have in God. The more trust and confidence the more faith you have in God. Faith empowers action.